Damon Wayans Jr., Lauren Cohan, Kat Dennings, Taran Killam and newly available leading stars are in big demand as casting season heats up.
After pilot pickups were delayed thanks to another slow development season start, the broadcast networks are now entering crunch time when it comes to casting the more than 70 comedies and dramas vying for a slot on the 2018-19 schedule.
The first wave of far-fetched offers is in the books as ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW get down to business as they compete with basic and premium cable networks on top of streaming services for top talent. While short orders, cache and big bucks from cable and streaming outlets are attractive, top stars continue to field multiple offers from the Big Four broadcasters.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Happy Endings favorite Damon Wayans Jr. continues to be among the most in-demand stars. The same is true for Hamilton Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr., Rosario Dawson, Sleepy Hollow alum Nicole Beharie, Sanaa Lathan and New Girl‘s Hannah Simone. (Simone on Monday signed on to star in one of the season’s biggest roles on ABC’s Greatest American Hero reboot.)
Top talent agents have noted that the hardest role to cast this season on the broadcast side is 30-something African-American male and female name stars. To that end, of the few projects that have already cast their leads, many networks have been quick to snap up top talent as inclusive casting remains a top priority. Pitch breakout Kylie Bunbury was attached to star in ABC’s Get Christie Love reboot even before a formal pilot order came in; CBS snapped up The Mayor star Brandon Micheal Hall for its Greg Berlanti-produced dramedy God Friended Me, with the network closing a fast deal with Survivor’s Remorse alum Teyonah Parris for drama Murder; Fox packaged a show around The Carmichael Show favorite Lil Rel Howery; and NBC did the same with its Gabrielle Union-fronted untitled Bad Boys spinoff. Girls Trip‘s Regina Hall had multiple offers from the Big Four and took the female lead in Showtime’s Don Cheadle comedy pilot Ball Street. Of the many pilots that have made inclusive casting a top priority are CBS’ Magnum P.I and Cagney and Lacey reboots, with both seeing nonwhite leads. (And yes, Wayans Jr.’s name came up for the former.)
Elsewhere, The Walking Dead star Lauren Cohan is actively looking for her next role and has been getting offers left and right this pilot season. The actress, who has played Maggie since season two of the zombie drama, does not have a deal in place to return to the AMC series for its recently announced ninth season. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Cohan and her agents are not happy with the offers that have been on the table from AMC. Although Cohan is not seeking salary parity with male leads Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus, her camp and AMC have been engaged in a months-long negotiation that remains far apart. Insiders suggest that Cohan is actively looking for her next job and not trying to use the pilot casting process to force AMC’s hand as the actress’ camp remains frustrated by AMC’s lowball offers.
2 Broke Girls grad Kat Dennings — who has Hulu pilot Dollface still in contention — is also getting a slew of offers but is not expected to take anything. Other leading ladies with multiple offers include Lost alum Evangeline Lilly, Vera Farmiga, Olivia Munn, Leighton Meester, Neve Campbell, Ginnifer Goodwin and Marisa Tomei, among others.
Leading men who are getting multiple calls include New Girl‘s Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield; Saturday Night Live‘s Taran Killam and Jason Sudeikis, Dexter alum Michael C. Hall, Once Upon a Time‘s Colin O’Donoghue, The Strain‘s Corey Stoll, Parenthood‘s Dax Shepard, The Good Wife‘s Josh Charles and The Blacklist‘s Ryan Eggold, among others.
Keep up with all the latest pilot orders, castings and eventual series pickups with THR‘s handy guide.