While the directors’ jobs are filled quickly, casting is tough this pilot season. Because of the increasing competition from cable and most importantly digital platforms like Netflix & Amazon, the talent pool of experienced actors is almost empty. The pressure over channels and talent agencies is higher than ever. So far, catches are not impressive. But most of them have something in common: diversity!
NBC is very high on diversity, something they made pretty clear since their pick-ups of series Telenovela (Eva Longoria) and Shades Of Blue (Jennifer Lopez) and pilots Go, Jerrod Go!, The Curse of the Fuentes women, martial arts Warrior, and Love is a Four Letter Word. They all requires latinos, afro-americans and asian americans in lead roles.
This is how Nadine Velasquez and Cynthia McWilliams have been cast this week in the marriage drama Love is a Four Letter Word which chronicles the collision of race, sexuality and gender roles when three diverse couples put modern marriage to the test. The My Name is Earl alumna will play play Rebecca, a Cuban American who is deeply in love with Julie and very happy with their marriage, but doesn’t realize her wife is actively considering getting back together with her ex, Nick. McWilliams will play Tandi, one half of a happy couple with a young son who is experiencing difficulties fulfilling her dream of having another child. Hot Adan Canto, seen in The Following and Mixology, got the part of the mysterious man who brings the Curse to the Fuentes women in the pilot from Ugly Betty creator Silvio Horta. Natalie Martinez, most recently seen in Under The Dome, will star in Warrior as Kai Forrester, a damaged heroine who works undercover with physical and spiritual guidance from a mysterious martial arts master to bring down an international crime lord. Finally veteran S. Epatha Merkerson from Law & Order is reuniting with producer Dick Wolfe with a lead role in the Chicago Fire and Chicago PD planted spin-off Chicago Med. She will be the head of the hopistal.
In other diversity casting news, Vanessa Williams from Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives will play the bold and unapologetic new boss of Kevin Connolly (Entourage) in comedy pilot Fantasy Life for FOX, where Mitch (Connolly) lands his ultimate dream job hosting a fantasy football show, he’s forced to navigate office politics while becoming the star he never thought he could be. Asian American actor Daniel Henney has joined the Untitled Criminal Minds spin-off with Gary Sinise & Anna Gunn. Last but really not least, Laverne Cox, discovered in Orange is the new black, got the part of a transgender attorney in Reasonable Doubt for CBS. If the show is ordered to series, then she’ll become the first transgender regular character on broadcast TV, which is exciting and groundbreaking.
In other non-diversity news (!), cancelled Perception‘s star Eric McCormack, pursued for different roles, will star in musical drama pilot Studio City for FOX, where he’ll play the songwriter father of a young singer who’s trying to make it big in Hollywood, but the man turns out to be a drug dealer to the stars! Ex-Breaking Bad actress Betsy Brandt wants to prove she can be funny after the Michael J. Fox Show demise, so she accepted one of the female leads in CBS’ Life In Pieces comedy pilot, with Colin Hanks playing one of her siblings. David Lyons (Revolution, The Cape) toplines drama pilot Game Of Silence, which NBC is very high on. Sweet Zach Gildford (Friday Night Lights, Off The Map), coming off Stanistan‘s pilot USA Network sadly just decided not to pick-up to series, lands on ABC in soap pilot Flesh & Blood. Finally, excellent Annie Potts & John Carroll Lynch will play the heroine’s parents in comedy pilot Family Fortune for ABC, where the central character comes out to her family.