Hardin going distance with 'Lights Out'

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Melora Hardin of "The Office" is moving to cable, landing the female lead opposite Holt McCallany on FX's drama pilot "Lights Out."

Elias Koteas and Kevin Conway also have been tapped as leads on the pilot from Fox TV Studios and FX Prods.

Penned by Justin Zackham, "Lights" centers on Patrick "Lights" Leary (McCallany), an aging former heavyweight boxing champion who struggles to find his identity and support his wife (Hardin), a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, and three daughters after his fighting days are over.

That leads him to take a job as a legbreaker, collecting on unpaid gambling debts. He is diagnosed with pugilistic dementia (a neurological disorder that affects boxers who receive multiple blows to the head), so he decides he'll need to make another big payday to support himself and his family before his brain turns to jelly.

Conway will play Leary's father and former trainer, a widower who still runs a gym. Koteas will play Lights' boyhood friend who is his manager/business partner.

Clark Johnson is directing the pilot, which is slated to begin Wednesday in New Jersey. Zackham is exec producing with Phillip Noyce and Ross Fineman.

On "The Office," Hardin has played Jan Levinson, former boss and ex-girlfriend of Michael Scott (Steve Carell). She most recently appeared on the Oct. 16 "Baby Shower" episode in which she brought her newborn baby to the Dunder Mifflin office, creating tension among her, Michael and his new love Holly (Amy Ryan).

Hardin won't appear on the show's remaining episodes this season, on which she is still formally a regular. She is expected to guest star in one or more episodes next season.

Hardin co-stars in the April boxoffice releases "Hannah Montana: The Movie" and "17 Again." She also recurs as the dead wife of Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) on "Monk."

Koteas recently appeared in "The Haunting in Connecticut" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Conway's series credits include "The Black Donnellys," "The Bronx Is Burning" and "Oz." (partialdiff)
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