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Mark-Paul Gosselaar is returning to the Fox TV family.
The Pitch star is set to headline the network’s vampire-themed drama pilot The Passage, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Additionally, Saniyya Sidney (Hidden Figures), Genesis Rodriguez (Time After Time), Brianne Howey (Scream Queens), BJ Britt (UnREAL) and Jennifer Ferrin (Hell on Wheels) have signed on for series-regular roles in the project.
Based on Justin Cronin’s 2010 New York Times best-seller, The Passage is described as an “epic, character-driven thriller” that transforms into a post-apocalyptic odyssey.
The story is told in two different timelines. The first being the present, in which life as we know it has changed. One night, a frightened 10-year-old Amy (Sidney) runs out of the darkness, chased by terrifying monsters that once were human but now live on human blood and are known as “virals.” A young couple from an isolated group in Palm Springs rescues Amy, who seems to have special powers that allow her to communicate with the virals.
Through flashbacks, Amy then tells her tale, which is directly tied to the genesis of the virals. When her mother died, Amy was left her alone in the world, making her the perfect target for Project Noah, a secret government-funded medical research facility in Colorado which is testing a drug on 12 former death row inmates that turns them into lethal killing machines. In the war against global terrorism, they could become weapons. But, to the researchers’ horror, the drug also unleashes psychic abilities in these test subjects, who are now manipulating their caretakers.
Project Noah’s administrators decide to experiment on a child — a being whose brain is less fully formed — and send FBI agent Brad Wolgast (Gosselaar) to retrieve a grieving Amy from foster care. Despite a tragedy in Wolgast’s past, he and Amy bond as he escorts her to Project Noah. They eventually flee, almost making it to Canada before being caught.
As the story follows Amy both in Colorado and in California, it becomes clear that this young girl may be the key to saving humanity.
Gosselaar plays Wolgast, a federal agent still reeling from a recent tragedy that has effectively destroyed his marriage. Although he balks at kidnapping Amy, who has been targeted for the unholy government experiment, he then goes on the run with her, with a veritable army of Feds on his heels. For Gosselaar, the role comes after the well-received Fox baseball drama Pitch. The actor, whose other credits include NYPD Blue and Raising the Bar, is repped by CAA and Luber Roklin Entertainment.
Sidney plays Amy, who is described as wise beyond her years. This physically fit, outspoken, smart, self-possessed girl may not ultimately be able to escape her fate, but she is going to save the human race. Sidney’s credits include Oscar-nominated films Hidden Figures and Fences, as well as TV’s American Horror Story. She is repped by Abrams and LA Management.
Rodriguez will play Alicia, Peter’s friend and potential love interest who battles by his side to contain the ramping infection unleashed by Project Noah. The actress, whose other credits include Big Hero 6 and Run All Night, is repped by UTA, DePaz Management and Jackoway Tyerman.
Howey is set as Shauna, a condemned murderer who has escaped death row for the hell of Project Noah. The Scream Queens and Exorcist grad is repped by UTA and Untitled.
Britt steps into the role of Peter, a weary young man who exudes rough authority and determination as he struggles to stem the tide of the infection that threatens mankind — even if it means he has to shoot and kill his own loved ones. The actor, who most recently appeared on Pitch, is repped by Joseph Le Talent and Primary Wave.
Ferrin rounds out the cast as Sarah, a sympathetic and intelligent nurse at the hospital where the infected and dying are being treated. She listens with empathy and horror to Amy’s sad tale about her experiences in Project Noah. Sarah, along with Peter and Alicia, fights to stop the infection that threatens mankind. Ferrin, whose other credits include Cinemax’s The Knick and the upcoming HBO mini Mosaic, is repped by Gersh and Untitled.
Liz Heldens (Friday Night Lights) is writing the pilot, with Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) attached to executive produce alongside Scott Free’s Ridley Scott and David W. Zucker. Reeves’ 6th and Idaho Productions executive vp Adam Kassan is also attached as an exec producer, with Cronin set to co-exec produce. Marcos Siega will direct the pilot and exec produce. 20th Century Fox Television will produce.
The project first landed at Fox with a pilot-production commitment before getting a pilot order in January. However, it was subsequently pushed off-cycle, along with medical drama The Beast from ER grad Neal Baer. Production on the pilot begins shooting this month in Atlanta.
The casting for The Passage comes after Fox picked up two of its other drama pilots to series in May: the genre-friendly Marvel drama The Gifted and the medical drama The Resident, both of which are produced in-house. In the genre department, Fox also has new episodes of The X-Files set to debut in 2018.
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Thomas Brodie Sangster