'Smash's' Debra Messing to Star in CBS Comedy Pilot

Debra Messing, Julia

Messing returns to the network home of Will & Grace as Julia Houston, a famed Broadway playwright who with the help of her writing partner, Tom (Christian Borle) pens the script for the Marilyn Monroe musical that's at the heart of Smash. Between the demands of staging a Broadway production, Julia is also looking to expand her family with husband Frank (Brian d'Arcy James) as the couple begins the adoption process.

With Smash relegated to Saturdays, star Debra Messing already has moved on.

The Will & Grace Emmy winner has landed the starring role in CBS' untitled comedy pilot from Julie Rottenberg and Elisa Zuritsky, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Based on an Israeli format, the single-camera effort centers on Shira (Messing), a happily married but harried mother struggling to balance family, life and work. Between her job as a ghost writer for a demanding celebrity chef and having three children -- ranging in age from preschool to 7 -- she feels like the world's worst mother because of her tendency to cut corners.

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Messing, who is the first person cast in the pilot, also will receive a co-executive producer credit on the comedy from CBS Television Studios. Her casting is in second position to Smash, which is not expected to return for a third season on NBC.

Sex and the City and Smash alums Rottenberg and Zuritsky will write and executive produce the pilot. Avi Nir, Ran Telem, Daniella London-Dekel and Dana Eden also will serve as EPs.

The role marks Messing's return to series comedy, following two seasons playing beleaguered playwright Julia Houston on NBC's Smash and starring as Molly Kagan for a season on USA Network's The Starter Wife.

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Messing is a six-time Emmy nominee: five for her role as Grace Adler on NBC's Will & Grace -- including a 2003 win -- and one as lead actress in a miniseries or movie for Starter Wife. She's repped by Gersh, 3 Arts and Stone Meyer.

The casting further cements the demise of Smash, which NBC banished to Saturdays starting April 6. The pricey Broadway drama crashed and burned in its second season. Since opening its sophomore season to a disappointing 1.2 rating in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic, Smash has continued to slide, most recently drawing a measly 0.8.

Messing becomes the latest actor this point season to book an insurance policy in second position. Southland's Ben McKenzie (CBS' The Advocates) and Shawn Hatsoy (CBS' Reckless), Deception's Tate Donovan (CBS' Hostages) and Up All Night's Will Arnett (CBS' unauthorized Greg Garcia comedy), among others, have all booked CBS pilots this season.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit