Patrick Swayze cleared for 'Beast'

Doctors clear actor to work

A&E Network has given a series pickup to "The Beast." Patrick Swayze, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March, is set to star in the series alongside Travis Fimmel.

"Beast," from Sony, centers on an unorthodox but effective FBI veteran (Swayze) who trains a new partner (Fimmel) in his hard-edged and psychologically clever style of agenting while being pursued by a secret Internal Affairs team.

A&E has ordered 13 hourlong episodes to go into production this summer in Chicago, with a tentative premiere set for early 2009.

A&E executive vp and GM Bob DeBitetto praised Swayze and Fimmel, adding that "Beast" is "unique in its combination of emotional storytelling, compelling plotlines and action elements."

In a statement, Swayze did not address his health, but network execs confirmed that his doctors have cleared him to resume work.

"I have searched for quite a long time to find a character that is this mutilayered, unpredictable and downright entertaining as well as a project this current and cutting-edged," he said.

John Romano will serve as showrunner/executive producer on "Beast." Allan Loeb, Steven Pearl and Cory Concoff also are exec producing. The pilot was written by William Rotko and Vincent Angell, who also will co-executive produce, and directed by Michael Dinner.

A&E has been making a push into original scripted series under senior vp drama programming Tana Nugent Jamieson. "Beast" marks A&E's second original scripted drama series in six years, following the Benjamin Bratt starrer "The Cleaner," which debuts July 15.