Anna Deavere Smith, Britne Oldford to Star in Shondaland Legal Drama

Ben Rappaport will co-star in the pilot from writer Paul William Davies and exec producers Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers.
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From left: Smith, Oldford and Rappaport

Shondaland has found its next leading ladies.

Nurse Jackie grad Anna Deavere Smith and Hunters alum Britne Oldford have been tapped to star in ABC's untitled Shondaland drama pilot from Scandal writer Paul William Davies, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Additionally, Ben Rappaport (The Good Wife) has nabbed the male lead in the legal drama from exec producers Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers.

Set in the Southern District of New York Federal Court, aka "The Mother Court," the legal drama follows brand new lawyers working on opposite sides — for the defense and the prosecution  as they handle the most high-profile and high-stakes cases in the country, all as their personal lives intersect.

Oldford will topline the drama as Sandra Black, a sensible, not ostentatious, fiercely intelligent, independent woman of integrity who is a new public defender who is driven to the law because of an injustice perpetrated on her family when she was a child. The character still has outrage from that long-ago trauma, but has decided to channel it into action via the law. 

Oldford currently has a recurring role on season two of Hulu's The Path. She previously starred on Syfy's Hunters and counts roles in FX's American Horror Story, MTV's Skins, The Flash and Scandal star Tony Goldwyn's WeTV drama The Divide. The actress also has another connection to Shondaland, having starred opposite How to Get Away With Murder's Matt McGorry in feature How He Fell in Love. She's repped by Gersh as well as Authentic Talent and Literary Management.

Smith, meanwhile, will play Tina Krissman, the tough, intimidating, no-nonsense/force-of-nature court clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The actress-playwright-teacher and author — who in 2012 was awarded the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal by President Obama — is a two-time Tony nominee whose TV credits includes Showtime's Nurse Jackie and a recurring role on ABC's Black-ish as Rainbow's mother Alicia. Repped by Gersh, Judi Farkas Management and Ziffren Brittenham, her credits also include The West Wing.


Rappaport, meanwhile, will portray Seth, the smart and reasonable yet inexperienced recent law school grad who is about to start is career as a prosecutor.

Repped by Gersh, Invictus Entertainment and Stone Genow, his credits include Outourced, Mr. Robot and Younger.

Scandal grad Davies will pen the script and exec produce the drama alongside Rhimes and Beers.

Keep track of the latest news and castings at THR.com/PilotSeason and bookmark THR's handy guide.

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