March 20, 2011 6:44pm PT by Lacey Rose
Benjamin Bratt Joining 'Private Practice' as a Cast Regular (Exclusive)
ABC's doctor drama Private Practice is getting a high-profile addition.
In a bid to lure more viewers to the primetime medical soap, Practice is adding Benjamin Bratt to its cast. Though details about his role are being kept under wraps, he will appear in the season finale, before joining the series as a regular next season.
The news comes nearly two months after cast member Audra McDonald announced that she would be leaving the show at the end of the season "to spend more time with her family in New York." Other changes came earlier in the season, when the show upped Brian Benben (Dr. Sheldon Wallace) and Caterina Scorsone (Dr. Amelia Shepherd) to regular cast members.
Though Practice maintains a loyal female fan base, injecting new life into the Shonda Rhimes series -- one of three Rhimes productions on ABC's schedule -- would seem important. The Grey's Anatomy spinoff, now in its fourth season, has garnered 8.2 million viewers this season, down from a full-season average of 9.3 million last year, according to Nielsen. By comparison, Grey's regularly lures closer to 12 million. (The series was picked up for a fifth season in January.)
While the return of Dancing With the Stars is poised to lift ABC, the network could similarly use a boost. Thus far this season, it is down 4 percent in total viewers, and 10 percent among the advertiser-beloved 18 to 49 demographic, compared to the same period last year. Longer-running series like Grey's, Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters are showing their age, while newcomers The Whole Truth, My Generation and No Ordinary Family have failed to take off. (The first two were quickly canceled; the latter is limping along.)
Bratt, of course, is no stranger to TV audiences, with leading roles in several series, including NBC's Law & Order and A&E's The Cleaner, over the past decade. More recently, he guested on an episode of ABC's Modern Family.The Emmy-nominated actor is repped by WME and Dontanville/Frattaroli Management.