March 21, 2014 6:05pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Alfre Woodard to Play President in NBC's Katherine Heigl Drama
NBC's Katherine Heigl political drama has found its president in the form of an Oscar and Emmy nominee.
Alfre Woodard has been tapped to play the leader of the free world in the network's drama pilot State of Affairs, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Described as Scandal meets The West Wing, the drama revolves around a maverick CIA officer (Heigl) who was plucked from the field to become the president's daily briefer, assuming responsibility for targeting America's most critical threats while navigating the unique lifestyle that comes with such a high-powered job.
Woodard will play President Roberta Payton, who hired Heigl's perfectionist Charleston "Charlie" Whitney Tucker -- her late son's ex-girlfriend -- to be her legal briefer.
Woodard earned an Oscar nomination in 1984 for her supporting turn in Cross Creek. She's a three-time Golden Globe nominee -- winning in 1998 for Miss Evers' Boys. The prolific actress has accumulated an impressive 17 Emmy nominations and four wins for her work in Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Miss Evers' Boys and The Practice. She was nominated last year for her role in Lifetime's Steel Magnolias reboot. Her credits include St. Elsewhere, True Blood and Homicide: Life on the Street as well as newly minted Oscar best picture winner 12 Years a Slave, Beauty Shop, The Forgotten and the upcoming Annabelle. She's repped by ICM and Circle of Confusion.
The casting brings Woodard back into the NBC fold after her appearances on Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere and short-lived Geena Davis sitcom Sara. Her series regular roles include ABC's Desperate Housewives, TNT's Memphis Beat as well as CBS' Three Rivers.
The Following's Alexi Hawley will pen the script alongside Joe Carnahan. Hawley will exec produce alongside Heigl and her mother-manager Nancy Heigl, Bob Simonds, Sophie Watts, Henry Crumpton, Julia Franz and Rodney Faraon. Carnahan will direct the pilot, which hails from Universal Television, Bob Simonds Co. and Abishag Productions.
Woodard joins a cast that also includes Cliff Chamberlain (The Mob Doctor), who is set as Brett, a CIA analyst on the president's briefing team.
The actress joins a growing roster of African-American leads on pilots this season that includes Viola Davis, Romany Malco, Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Jada Pinkett Smith, among others. Woodard joins high-ranking political characters portrayed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), Kate Burton (Scandal) and Sharon Stone (TNT's pilot Agent X), all of whom play the vice president.