7:00am PT by Kimberly Nordyke
'Drop Dead Diva' Bulks Up on Guest Stars (Exclusive)
Drop Dead Diva continues to expand its guest-star lineup.
Brigid Brannagh and Reiko Aylesworth have signed on for roles on season five of the Lifetime series, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively.
Meanwhile, Josh Stamberg, who played Jay Parker, the boss at the law firm where Jane (Brooke Elliott) works, has departed the series, THR has confirmed. Stamberg's exit comes on the heels of Carter McIntyre's departure; McIntyre, who played Jane's guardian angel, was replaced by Justin Deeley (90210) as a new angel.
Brannagh, best known for her role as Pamela Moran on Lifetime's Army Wives, will appear in the fifth episode of the season. She'll play Molly Hagen, a woman whose deadbeat husband wins a fortune at a casino, only to hide it from her while filing for a quickie divorce. (It's based on a true story.) Sandra Bernhard will guest-star as a judge who sympathizes with Molly's situation.
Aylesworth, who played Michelle Dessler on Fox's 24, appears in episode six as June Frazier, a brilliant graphic designer who enlists Kim Kaswell's (Kate Levering) legal help as she battles to protect her dead boyfriend's legacy from his estranged parents.
John Ratzenberger also is set to guest star in season five, which premieres June 23.
Executive producer Josh Berman praised both Brannagh and Aylesworth in statement exclusive to THR.
"I first worked with Brigid over 10 years ago when she guest starred on a first-season episode of CSI [when he was an executive producer] as an unruly teenager who killed her father with a radioactive garden gnome," he said. "I have followed her career ever since, and I'm thrilled to be reunited with her on Drop Dead Diva. And I'm glad to say that there are no garden gnomes in this episode."
Of Aylesworth, he said: "I've been a huge fan of Reiko since her days on 24, and we developed this part with Reiko in mind. I was thrilled when she read the script and jumped on board! Sometimes, I feel more like a fan than a writer as I just can't wait to see what she does with this role."
The casting news comes as the show is in the midst of shooting its fifth season, which underwent some budget cuts to get a greenlight from the network. The series was canceled in January after talks with studio Sony Pictures Television about cost-cutting options stalled, but a new agreement between the two sides led to its revival a couple months later.
Drop Dead Diva's fifth-season opener, titled "Back From the Dead," picks up from the season four cliffhanger finale in which Old Jane appeared to return to Earth in the body of Owen, New Jane's fiance. Kim also goes public with her pregnancy -- Parker is the father, as revealed in the season four finale -- while Grayson (Jackson Hurst) struggles with his feelings for Jane, whom he kissed moments before the wedding was about to take place (a kiss that Owen witnessed, leading to his heart attack).
Drop Dead Diva returns at 9 p.m. Sunday, June 23, on Lifetime.