Magazine article Variety

Troupers Are Easily Trumped When Actors Flood the Market

Magazine article Variety

Troupers Are Easily Trumped When Actors Flood the Market

Article excerpt

The recasting process is merciless when thesps from busted pilots become available

For actors, sweating out TVs development season doesn't end when their pilot gets picked up to series; instead, officially unveiling the fall lineups introduces one final hurdle to the process: Recasting.

The broadcast networks' annual scheduling ritual has always possessed Darwinian elements, as hundreds of pitches give birth to script orders, which are thinned down to pilots before a relative few receive a greenlight to become series.

Actors, however, aren't out of the woods at that stage - a window when studio execs start calculating bonuses and literary agents can slap high fives. That's because the dozens of pilots that didn't make the cut join canceled shows to create a vast pool of performers who hoped to be employed during the coming season and now aren't. Those free-agents allow execs and producers to explore opportunities to possibly "upgrade" their talent, while exhibiting about as much fidelity as lottery winners who realize they might suddenly be eligible for a younger, hotter spouse.

Rejection has always been a part of life in Hollywood, but very little approaches this portion of the pilot game in terms of sheer cruelty - akin to Lucy yanking away the football at the last minute from poor Charlie Brown.

Perhaps no single example captures this ruthlessness more than the tale of Mel Gorham, who in 1997 sold NBC on a pilot loosely based on her life as a Cuban-American actress who leaves Miami to pursue her dreams in Manhattan. Titled Union Square, the show was not only ordered but landed the coveted timeslot between Friends and what turned out to be the final season of Seinfeld - about as choice a piece of real estate as primetime could offer, back when NBC's Thursday lineup boasted the label Must-See TV.

A few weeks later, in the midst of celebrating her coup, Gorham received notice her role was being recast (execs cited poor testing). Constance Marie replaced her, which didn't spare Union Square from first-season cancellation.

Sometimes such changes save the day, but more often they tend to be a zero-sum game, causing one to wonder in hindsight why execs went to all the fuss and expense. …

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