James Purefoy circles NBC series

Network execs had been courting 'Rome' star

NBC is closing in on its "Philanthropist," with Brit James Purefoy in negotiations to play the lead in the midseason drama series.

"Philanthropist," from UMS, centers on a renegade billionaire (Purefoy) who uses his wealth, connections and power to help people in need no matter the risks or costs.

NBC brass had courted Purefoy for some time, including flying the "Rome" star from the U.K. to Los Angeles for a meeting.

The casting of the lead comes nearly a year after NBC gave the project a 13-episode series order and three months after the network put it on its 2008-09 schedule.

It also follows the recent change at the helm of "Philanthropist," with David Eick taking over following the departure of original writer/executive producer Tom Fontana and exec producer Barry Levinson.

Peter Horton is set to direct the pilot for the series, which is slated to premiere in the Monday 10 p.m. slot in midseason.

Earlier this year, Purefoy, repped by CAA and Brillstein Entertainment Partners, was attached to "The Saint," an independently produced two-hour backdoor pilot with Levinson on board to direct, but the project didn't go forward.