'Ugly Betty' cast in demand

7:00 PM PST 01/28/2010 by Nellie Andreeva, AP

Nets salivating over actors from canceled, bubble shows

The news of the cancellation of ABC's "Ugly Betty" had barely hit the Internet on Wednesday when the phones of the reps of co-star Eric Mabius started ringing off the hook.

With broadcast casting executives again in the hunt for good-looking thirtysomething leading men for pilots, Mabius' sudden availability made him instantly a hot commodity.

The early cancellation of "Betty" was done mostly to help the dramedy's producers give it a proper ending, but the timing of the announcement also releases into the pilot talent pool a strong cast just as networks are starting to assemble this year's crop of series hopefuls.

"Betty" co-star Becki Newton, also in a sought-after category of beautiful 30-year-old comedic actresses, has additionally been inundated with calls, and Vanessa Williams, Michael Urie and Ana Ortiz also are in demand. It is not clear whether star America Ferrera would be open to another series as she is considering focusing on features full time.

To accommodate the "Betty" cast, which collectively landed two best ensemble SAG nominations , the producers of the show are trying to wrap production before the previously scheduled March 25 date so the actors can do pilots. Broadcast pilots generally film from the beginning of March through the end of April.

The "Betty" cast is among a couple of dozen actors from recently canceled and on-the-fence series that have development executives salivating.

"The networks and casting directors in Hollywood are looking very closely at the casts that have or will become available on shows like 'Dollhouse,' 'Ugly Betty,' 'Nip/Tuck,' 'Three Rivers' and 'Lost' and bubble shows like 'Scrubs' and 'Better Off Ted' to cherry-pick actors," casting executive Marc Hirschfeld said.

Networks often cast actors from bubble shows on pilots in second position, betting that those series won't return.

Expected to be in demand in second position are Jay Harrington, Portia de Rossi and Andrea Anders from "Ted," Eliza Coupe from "Scrubs" and Matt Long from "The Deep End."

Meanwhile, Sarah Chalke of the original "Scrubs" cast already is fielding multiple offers, as are three other lead actors from shows that recently wrapped their runs: Michael Chiklis from "The Shield," Christina Applegate from "Samantha Who?" and "Battlestar Galactica" alumna Katee Sackhoff, who is co-starring this season on Fox's "24."

Speaking of "24," the prospect of the real-time drama coming to an end is intriguing to casting execs.

"I'll put Mary Lynn Rajskub in a comedy in a heartbeat," a casting director said of the cult "24" co-star who recently showed off her comedic side on John Oliver's stand-up series on Comedy Central.

Alex O'Loughlin of the now-defunct "Rivers" is already being courted for new shows. But getting actors from ABC's "Lost," which is ending in the spring, could prove problematic. The hit show doesn't wrap production on its final season until April, making actors largely unavailable for pilots to the disappointment of network executives who would love to get Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway or Terry O'Quinn for a project.
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