Nellie Andreeva

Jason IsaacsRose ByrneThe annual courtship known as chasing name actors for network pilots is in full force. So far, Rose Byrne, Jason Isaacs, Felicity Huffman, Kyle Chandler and Kevin Kline have proven hard to get, raking up a slew of offers each, though most are zeroing in on pilots and appear ready to commit. They would join other sought after names, including James Wolk, Ellie Kemper, David Walton, Allison Janney, Josh Holloway and Terry Crews, who settled on pilots after fielding multiple offers. Still in play after saying “no” to at least one pilot each are Jessica Alba, John Cusack, Jason Ritter, House star Hugh Laurie, former CSI leading man William Petersen, Law & Order: SVU alum Chris Meloni, Justin Long, Deadwood‘s Ian McShane, Prison Break‘s Dominic Purcell, Minnie Driver, Amanda Peet  and Mike O’Malley.

Several actors from shows that have been cancelled this season are also the object of pilot casting directors’ affection. That includes The Office‘s John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer, Private Practice‘s Kate Walsh and KaDee Strickland, Don’t Trust The B—‘s Krysten Ritter, Last Resort’s Andre Braugher, Animal Practice‘s Justin Kirk, The Goodwin Games‘ Becki Newton and Ben & Kate‘s Echo Kellum, who already booked two pilots, one as a regular (NBC’s Happiness) and one as a guest star (NBC’s The Gates). That pool suddenly expanded on Friday when Christina Applegate exited NBC’s comedy series Up All Night, leaving the future of the series in limbo. I hear her leading man Will Arnett received a flurry of inquiries about availability on Friday.

Besides Kline, Cusack and Alba, other feature actors who are being pursued for pilots this season include Anna Faris — one of the biggest gets so far — who is doing CBS’ Chuck Lorre pilot, Mark Ruffalo, Diane Keaton, Pierce Brosnan, Milla Jovovich, Meg Ryan, Anna Kendrick, Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church who have all been noncommittal.

One thing that pilot producers are lamenting is the large number of actors on the so called “offer only” list — featuring thesps who would not read for a pilot but would only consider a straight offer — which hinders producers’ chance of seeing how an actor would portray a character before being cast. That is especially crucial on projects requiring a chemistry between the two leads. “Agents and managers who insist that an actor is ‘offer only’ and won’t allow them to participate in a chemistry read, informal or otherwise, are not serving their client’s best interests,” one casting executive said. “Much better that we discover early on that an actor is not the right fit than hiring them sight unseen for a role and having to summarily dismiss them after a disappointing network table read. That’s not good for anyone.” Recasting after the table read was on the rise last season, including at the pilot lead level, and so many “offer only” castings may extend the trend this year.

TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.