Toni Collette-Kenya Barris Drama Among ABC Pilot Pickups

Toni Collette  - Getty - H 2017
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ABC is keeping Black-ish creator Kenya Barris busy this pilot season.

The Disney-owned network on Tuesday handed out a pilot order to a drama from Barris and starring Toni Collette. Also scoring a pickup is drama Salamander from the team behind CBS' Zoo.

Barris' Unit Zero is a spy drama that follows Jackie Fink (Collette), a brilliant but unassuming CIA engineer and single mom as she leads a team of desk jockeys into the field as secret agents. Overlooked in the workplace, their invisibility makes them perfect for the CIA's most covert missions. 

The project is based on an original idea from Black-ish supervising producer Lindsey Shockley, who will pen the script and executive produce alongside Barris, David Gordon Green and Collette. Green is on board to direct the pilot. Unit Zero hails from ABC Studios, where Barris is under an overall deal. The drama marks Golden Globe winner Collette's return to series television following CBS' one-and-done Hostages and Showtime's United States of Tara. Unit Zero becomes the latest project with talent attached to score an official pilot order as networks continue to get a jump on the competitive casting crunch by packaging talent during the development stage.

Unit Zero is Barris' second official pilot order of the season and joins ABC's single-camera comedy Libby & Malcolm, starring Felicity Huffman and Courtney B. Vance. Barris will pen the script for that one. Additionally, Barris is developing a Black-ish spinoff that could air as a backdoor pilot later this season. 

Salamander, meanwhile, is based on the 2012 Belgian series and revolves around a brilliant but misanthropic engineer who recruits a skeptical homeland security agent to help him track a mysterious bank robber whose theft of 66 specific safety deposit boxes, belonging to the elite and powerful, sets in motion a series of blackmails that may be linked to a greater conspiracy.

Zoo's Jeff Pinkner, Andre Nemec, Josh Applebaum and Scott Rosenberg will pen the script and exec produce via their Midnight Radio banner. Keshet and Beta Film also will exec produce the ABC Studios project. (Sources tell THR that the Midnight Radio group also were involved on Unit Zero, with their role in the future of that drama still to be determined.)

For ABC, the two additions bring the network's drama pilot orders to 12 — on par with last year's haul. (On the comedy side, ABC has just two, off from 12 a year ago as the network has fewer half-hour holes on its schedule.)

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