Ryan Phillippe Joins ABC's David E. Kelley Drama 'The Big Sky'

Ryan Phillippe attends the MDL Beast Festival on December 19, 2019 - Getty-H 2020
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Ryan Phillippe has joined the cast of The Big Sky, a drama from David E. Kelley that was ordered straight to series at ABC.

The Montana-set thriller centers on private investigator Cassie Dewell, who partners with former police officer Jenny Hoyt on a search for two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway. The pair discovers the girls are not the only ones who have disappeared in the area and must race against time to stop the killer before another is abducted.

Phillippe will play Cody Hoyt, a well-meaning ex-cop turned private investigator in Helena, Montana. Married to but separated from Jenny, his life becomes complicated when he's asked to help find his son's missing girlfriend. Phillippe joins John Carroll Lynch and Dedee Pfeiffer in the cast of The Big Sky.

The series from A+E Studios and Disney's 20th Television has also added director Paul McGuigan (Emergence, Sherlock) and Matthew Gross as executive producers. They join Kelley, his longtime collaborator Ross Fineman and C.J. Box.

The casting marks a return to ABC for Phillippe, who starred in the first season of the network's Secrets and Lies in 2015. His recent credits also include USA's Shooter and a guest spot on NBC's Will & Grace, playing himself. He currently is in production on the rom-com Lady of the Manor, actor Justin Long's feature directing debut, with Judy Greer and Melanie Lynskey. Phillippe is repped by Gersh, MGMT Entertainment and Sloane Offer.

The Big Sky is part of ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke's commitment to make the network the No. 1 broadcaster for women again. The order is also a rare straight-to-series pickup for ABC, which has typically only handed them out to low-cost acquired and international programming largely reserved to air in the summer months.

The significant order should be considered in two ways: first, as a nod to Kelley's incredible track record (he most recently won pretty much every major award for the first season of HBO's Big Little Lies and counts Ally McBeal, The Practice, Picket Fences and L.A. Law among his impressive body of work); and second, as a potential precaution against a Writers Guild of America strike that could allow ABC to get a jump on scripts, casting and hiring other writers and directors before a potential pencils-down moment on May 1 should the guild and the studios fail to come to an agreement. The Big Sky is ABC's first official series order for the 2020-21 broadcast season.

Kelley also has the high-school basketball dramedy Big Shots, starring John Stamos, set up at Disney+ and is adapting Michael Connelly's The Lincoln Lawyer for CBS, which has given the project a series production commitment. Kelley is also developing a limited-series take on Stephen King's The Institute for Spyglass TV, though that project doesn't have an outlet attached yet.