TV Pilot Season: Rose Byrne, Jason Isaacs Top Network Wish Lists

Rose Byrne Jason Isaacs Split - H 2013
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John Cusack and Jason Clarke also are in the mix as big names weigh potential series commitments.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

With the broadcast networks having ordered about 90 comedy and drama pilots for the 2013-14 season, the race is on to cast hundreds of roles before the end of March. Casting directors now find themselves in the annual scramble to lure stars who are big enough to add cachet to a project but who are both available and -- this is the key qualification -- willing to step into what could be a six-or seven-year commitment to a network series.

NBC’s Awake might not have lived to see a second season, but the dual-universe drama has helped rocket Jason Isaacs to the top of pilot season’s wish list. Isaacs joins perennially in-demand actress Rose Byrne, who for the second year in a row continues to receive offers for both comedy and drama. She passed on everything last year, but sources say she is actively reading material and is more likely to say yes this season.

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“Every year there are pilot darlings, usually one male and one female,” a top manager says. “Everyone wants them because they are actors that feel like a real ‘get’ from the feature world that will now do television or have come off another popular show and are available.”

Last year, Kevin Bacon’s willingness to topline his first TV series, Fox’s The Following, turned that project into a hot commodity. And this season, Anna Faris’ casting as the lead in Chuck Lorre’s single-mother sitcom Mom and Robin Williams’ attachment to CBS’ David E. Kelley comedy Crazy Ones have upped their likelihood of pickups.

Isaacs, meanwhile, has at least four drama offers (including cable). Other actors in high demand include Zero Dark Thirty star Jason Clarke -- Isaacs and Clarke starred together in Showtime's drama Brotherhood -- and The Office’s John Krasinski, though both have film careers and are considered unlikely to jump at a series.

Same goes for Tim Robbins, Paul Giamatti, David Arquette and Ian McShane, the latter of whom has multiple offers for dramas. John Cusack, who has been attracting big-swing drama pitches from established showrunners, is considered more likely to accept an offer, as is Luke Wilson, who is a regular this season on HBO’s Enlightened, and Mike O’Malley.

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On the female side, 30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski is being courted for several comedy projects, as is Desperate HousewivesFelicity Huffman, The Hunger Games co-star Elizabeth Banks, Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson, who is expected to head to a regular small-screen gig after a multiepisode arc on Glee this season. After its cancellation, Ben and Kate’s Lucy Punch is drawing first-round comedy offers. Pitch Perfect’s Anna Kendrick, who like Byrne was hot last season but focused on film instead, is being courted again. Ari Graynor, after a co-starring role in Celeste and Jesse Forever, also is drawing multiple offers for high-profile comedies.

“This year, every network wants to get the hottest stars on their pilots,” one TV agent says, though star vehicles have had mixed ratings results this TV season. Bacon’s Following is a bona fide hit, but new shows with proven stars Matthew Perry (NBC’s Go On) and Connie Britton (ABC’s Nashville) have underperformed.

Still, the agent says, “The network world is changing, and the only way to almost guarantee a series order is to nab that big name for the lead.”