Southland alumna Regina King is set to recur on FX‘s new drama series The Strain, from Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan and Carlton Cuse. The Strain is a high-concept thriller that tells the story of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the head of the Centers for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City. He and his team are called on to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. King will play Ruby Wain, the smart and accomplished manager of philandering rock star Gabriel Bolivar (Jack Kesy). Also cast as a recurring on the series is Melanie Merkosky as Jim Kent’s (Sean Astin) wife Sylvia, who is suffering from cancer. She is repped by The Characters Talent Agency in Toronto. King, repped by ICM Partners, John Carrabino and Del Shaw, also is starring in Lifetime’s The Gabby Douglas Story.
The UK is already busting at the seams trying to accommodate all of the TV and film productions flocking there. With adjustments to film tax incentives that were announced today, it’s just upped the ante as a desirable place to work. British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivered the Autumn Statement to Parliament this afternoon, outlining new economic policies that will go into effect from April 1, 2014. In an incentive that lowers the barrier to entry, the government plans to reduce from 25% to 10% the minimum UK expenditure required in order to access the coveted film tax relief. From April, the relief will be worth 25% on the first £20M of qualifying production spend, and 20% thereafter. (The rebates are available on the lower of either 80% of total core expenditure or the actual UK core expenditure and there is no cap on the amount that can be claimed.) That last measure will benefit producers of bigger budget films who’ll get an extra £1M on the first £20M. The government said it will seek to clear an increase to 25% for all qualifying expenditure on larger budget films in 2015. That should keep Hollywood tentpoles keen on Britain, especially given the concern over California’s Film/TV Tax Credit program which currently excludes features with budgets over $75M.
Dropping the spend requirement to 10% is going to help the independent sector, too. John Graydon, partner at accounting firm Saffery Champness which specializes in film and TV tax incentives, tells me, “If a producer just wants to do post in the UK, trying to get to that 25% spend was incredibly difficult. So in some cases, they went elsewhere.” Now, those seeking to do just post or VFX in Britain will have a better shot at making the numbers work. There are also changes to come to the cultural test which determines eligibility for tax relief. The test will be modernized to allow for European as well as British elements. It will become a 35 point barometer with a pass mark of 18 and will include an increase in the points available for principal photography/special effects/VFX and projects in the English language.
Overall, the moves are positioned to drive inward investment. In the first three quarters of 2013, it’s already up 28%. That’s partly due to a lucrative TV tax credit that offers a rebate on high-end dramas costing £1M or more to produce per hour. But with soundstages filled to the rafters, many TV productions are already being relegated to converted warehouse space. It’s also because several big budget Hollywood films are camped out at Pinewood and Warner Bros’ Leavesden Studios. But if Pinewood doesn’t get approval for its expansion plans next year, more big ticket pics could be turned away. As I recently reported, Marvel’s Ant Man was forced out of the UK due to space constraints. Graydon doesn’t see the new incentives as necessarily exacerbating the capacity issue since those enticed by the changes won’t always be the kinds of productions that would require soundstages. He does allow, however, “Stage space is an issue. We absolutely want to see that resolved as quickly as possible.”
Robert Wisdom (Nashville) is set to co-star opposite Paul Giamatti in Hoke, FX’s darkly comedic drama pilot based on Charles Willeford’s series of novels. Written by Scott Frank, who will direct and showrun the pilot, Hoke is a story of mid-life crisis and murder that features the hardboiled and possibly insane homicide detective Hoke Moseley (Giamatti) in pre-chic Miami circa 1985. Wisdom, repped by Don Buchwald & Associates and KLWGN, will play Hoke’s boss Major Brownley, the head of the Homicide Squad. He’s known Hoke for a very long time and knows all of Hoke’s strengths, weaknesses, eccentricities and prejudices. Wisdom just shot a guest star/recurring role on Syfy’s 12 Monkeys pilot, based on the Terry Gilliam movie, playing Jeremy, a former CIA operative who’s content to apply his talents in the kitchen. He is filming his fifth episode of NBC’s Chicago PD as Commander Perry and will next be seen in Universal’s The Loft.
EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Rankin (Breaking Bad) and Virginia Kull (The Following) are set to co-star in Fox‘s event series Gracepoint, a U.S. remake of the UK’s Broadchurch. The project, from Shine America and Kudos, centers on Detective Emmett Carver (David Tennant), the lead male investigator on the case of a shocking murder of 11-year-old Danny that puts a small town under scrutiny. Rankin, repped by Abrams and Evolution, will play Paul Coates, Gracepoint’s well-intentioned but inexperienced local minister who becomes the town’s defacto spokesperson in the wake of the tragedy. Kull, repped by Innovative Artists and Sanders Armstrong Caserta, will play Danny’s mother Beth. Anguished by her loss, Beth is hungry to discover the truth behind her son’s untimely death.
McKaley Miller (Hart Of Dixie) and Daniele Watts (Weeds) have been cast as regulars in Braddock & Jackson, FX/Lionsgate’s 10-episode comedy series starring Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence as Chicago lawyers from vastly different backgrounds who develop a partnership after they unexpectedly meet in court on the worst day of their lives. Miller, repped by Management 360 and the Osbrink Agency, will play Grammer’s daughter Lizzie. Watts, repped by Luber Roklin and Abrams Artists, will play Lawrence’s daughter Laura.
FX Networks is making it clear it wants to stay in the Louis CK business. The network already has Louis CK’s acclaimed comedy series Louie, produced by FX Productions. Now FX Prods. has inked an overall deal with Louis CK and his company Pig Newton to develop and produce new series. The agreement is separate from Louie, which this year earned ad-supported cable’s first best comedy series Emmy nomination. It returns for Season 4 in May 2014. The new series under the overall pact, Louis CK’s first, will be created or supervised by Louis CK, who would have the option to write or direct any of them and will executive produce. Blair Breard, an executive producer on Louie, would also serve as a producer or executive producer, with 3 Arts Entertainment attached as producers. Louis CK already is a Renaissance man, writing, directing, editing and starring in his shows. Now he will add a new role — guiding other creators as they get their projects off the ground. “Working with Louis CK has been one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences of my career,” said John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions. “So many incredibly talented artists want to work with Louis and follow down the independent and idiosyncratic creative trail he has blazed. I can’t wait to see who he brings through our door, not to mention any new projects that he wants …
VFX artists and supporters have gathered in Glendale for today’s “Go Green” rally organized around President Obama‘s visit to DreamWorks Animation. (The President is slated to address an audience on the closed DWA campus shortly; look for coverage from Deadline’s Dominic Patten.) Security was in place around DWA as the “Go Green” rally marched down Flower Street:
Inside the DWA event, new L.A. film czar Tom Sherak said of the protesters: “This situation didn’t happen overnight. We have to find a way to entice these companies to stay here.”
EXCLUSIVE: Slavery continues to be in the cultural zeitgeist. FX has joined the trend with The Code, a limited series exploring American slavery from Kelsey Grammer‘s Grammnet NH Prods. It is based on the book Song Yet Sung by The Color Of Water author James McBride, which draws from the life of famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Born a slave, she escaped and, with the help of the hard-bitten white watermen of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, fostered an intricate escape network of secret routes and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad that she used to smuggle more than 300 slaves to the North. The Code centers on Liz, a black woman making a desperate dash to freedom, on the run from a torn white waterman and able slave catcher, who takes on one last job — only to find himself in a war against a notorious female slave stealer. As Liz makes her way through the dark and forbidding swamplands of Maryland’s Eastern Shore using the black codes of the underground, the complexities of slavery play out in full force, pitting slave against slave, white against white, and plantation owner against plantation owner. McBride will adapt his book and co-executive produce with Brian Taylor, with Grammer, Brian Sher and Stella Bulochnikov executive producing.
FX has been interested in tackling the subject of slavery in …
UPDATE: Organizers of the VFX artists’ protest scheduled during President Obama’s visit to DreamWorks Animation on Tuesday say they now plan to march between Griffith Manor Park and the street. The group has also announced the name of its CVD campaign coalition: Association of Digital Artists, Professionals & Technicians (ADAPT).
PREVIOUS, 1:34 PM: Barack Obama’s visit to DreamWorks Animation tomorrow will be matched by a protest by the VFX professionals behind an anti-subsidy tariff campaign, but the organizers say they don’t have the president — or DWA head Jeffrey Katzenberg – in their sights. “We are not trying to embarrass DreamWorks Animation at all,” the industry blogger known as VFX Soldier told Deadline. “This is about raising awareness about what is happening outside the walls of DreamWorks: The absolute collapse of VFX employment.”
Obama is in town today and Tuesday for midterm election fundraisers as well as his DWA appearance. After a studio tour and a meeting with industry leaders, Obama is expected to speak about the economy and the strength of the entertainment industry in his DWA address scheduled for 12:15 PM Tuesday. During his DWA visit VFX supporters will gather just under a mile away at Glendale’s Griffith Manor Park. The VFX activists are aghast that Obama would praise employment at a studio hit by layoffs in the last year to an animation and VFX community that’s struggling to survive. Pink slips delivered by DWA earlier this year were the result of changes in the studio’s production schedule, not outsourcing or similar activities. Sources tell Deadline that many of those let go from DWA have since been rehired as the studio has new films in the pipeline. Still, everyone in VFX feels the instability of the industry. “We’re trying to prevent the embarrassment,” said VFX Soldier. “Why would you go to L.A.? This is ground zero.”
While the president won’t see the protesting VFXers, the White House is clearly sensitive to perception about Obama speaking at the HQ of his biggest donor bundler. “DreamWorks obviously is a thriving business and is creating lots of jobs in Southern California and the fact of the matter is Mr. Katzenberg’s support for the president’s policies has no bearing on our decision to visit there. Rather, it’s an opportunity to highlight the success of one business and the success that they’re having in creating jobs in Southern California,” said White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest today on Air Force One according to pool reports. Similar to the fundraiser last week for Gov. Jerry Brown at Disney Studios boss Alan Horn’s home, a number of other studio chiefs such as Warner Bros’ Kevin Tsujihara and CBS’ Les Moonves are expected to attend Obama’s speech at DWA.
Elizabeth Rohm and J.R. Ramirez have joined the cast of Starz’s drama series Power, about wealthy New York City nightclub owner James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), who wants to build an empire and turn the club into a Fortune 500 business. But there’s just one problem: He is living a double life. When he is not in the club, he is the kingpin of the most lucrative drug network in New York for a very high-level clientele.
FX has found a replacement for one of the key roles in its upcoming drama series The Strain, from Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan and Carlton Cuse, which is based on the best-selling vampire novel trilogy of the same title written by del Toro and Hogan. David Bradley (Game Of Thrones, the Harry Potter franchise) will play Professor Abraham Setrakian. The role was recast after the pilot where it was played by John Hurt. The Strain is a high-concept thriller that tells the story of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the head of the Centers for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City. He and his team are called on to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. Setrakian is a holocaust survivor who immigrated to the United States after World War II and now runs a pawn shop in Spanish Harlem. As the outbreak spreads, he may be the only one with answers – if anyone will listen.
Edi Patterson Cast In FX’s Kelsey Grammer-Martin Lawrence Series; Tongayi Chirisa Re-Joins CBS’ Jim Gaffigan Pilot
Edi Patterson has been cast as a regular in Braddock & Jackson (working title), FX/Lionsgate’s 10-episode comedy series starring Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence as Chicago lawyers from vastly different backgrounds who develop a partnership after they unexpectedly meet in court on the worst day of their lives. Patterson, repped by UTA and Parallel Entertainment, will play Verushka, a sexy Russian woman who co-owns the massage shop next door. She is part of the Groundlings and was a guest writer on SNL last season.
Tongayi Chirisa, who co-starred in CBS’ Jim Gaffigan/Peter Tolan comedy pilot last season, has been recruited for the retooled version. Originally only star Gaffiganwas slated to return; he will now be joined by Chirisa. Co-written by Gaffigan and Tolan, the project, inspired by Gaffigan’s real life, stars the comedian as the happily married and harried NYC father of five as he is in real life. Chirisa, repped by Domain and New Wave, plays Father Nicholas Ngungumbane, a Catholic priest from Zimbabwe, recently relocated to New York and thrilled to be living in the United States, who tries to convince Jim to come to church more often.
While Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse‘s drama The Strain, based on del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire novel trilogy, formally had a pilot order at FX, its series pickup was considered a pure formality. It just came in today. From the onset, when FX landed the project in a bidding war, it hired a full writing staff, with the network committing some $500,000 to creature creation. The Strain now is heading into production on its first season, with the bulk of the scripts already completed and one major casting change. The role of Professor Abraham Setrakian, played in the pilot by John Hurt, is being recast. Filming is slated to begin this month in Toronto for a July premiere. As FX CEO John Landgraf indicated in August, the plan for the series is to run for 39-65 episodes.
EXCLUSIVE: FX has put in development Desperadoes, a six-hour miniseries about one of the most dangerous gangs of the Old West, the Dalton Brothers. Based on the 1979 novel by Ron Hansen, the project is written by Robert Knott, who is executive producing with Josh Maurer and Alixandre Witlin. Desperadoes, produced by Fox TV Studios, chronicles the infamous Dalton Gang’s dangerous crime spree in the 1890s, as seen through the eyes of the youngest brother Emmett Dalton. The gang, which included three Dalton brothers, specialized in bank and train robberies. In Hansen’s book, Emmet Dalton — aged 65 in 1937 — is the sole survivor of the infamous gang and makes a living by selling his outrageous stories of murder, bootlegging and thievery to Hollywood. Actor-writer-producer Knott, who has signed with APA, has appeared in more than three dozen films and has collaborated with actor-director Ed Harris on several projects including Pollock. The two currently are developing Tulsa, a cable project about the early oil boom. Knott also authored the best-selling novel Robert B. Parker’s Ironhorse. His second novel Bull River is scheduled for a January release. He is also repped by Thruline and Allison Binder.
EXCLUSIVE: Another female Chelsea Lately regular is branching out on her own with Chelsea Handler‘s support. In a competitive situation, FX has landed Jen, a half-hour comedy executive produced, written by and starring Jen Kirkman, and executive produced by Handler. Set in Boston, the project centers on newly divorced Jen (Kirkman), a woman in her mid-30s who doesn’t want kids and once always did things the way you were supposed to but is now following her gut. Kirkman is executive producing with Borderline Amazing’s Handler, Tom Brunelle, and Brad Wollack. Kara Baker of Avalon Management serves as producer. Comedian Kirkman, repped by CAA and Avalon Managemrnt, is a writer and regular roundtable guest on Chelsea Lately and one of the stars of spinoff mockumentary show, After Lately. She has a weekly podcast called I Seem Fun: The Diary Of Jen Kirkman and just inked her second book deal with Simon & Schuster, a follow-up to her best-seller I Can Barely Take Care of Myself. Previous comedy projects of Chelsea Lately regulars backed by CAA-repped Borderline Amazing include half-hours with Fortune Feimster and Heather McDonald.
Twenty-four seasons into its run, The Simpsons is finally headed to cable. In a competitive situation with five networks bidding, FXX has landed the exclusive cable as well as VOD/non-linear rights to the longest-running comedy series in TV history. The deal also is set to make TV history as the priciest off-network pact ever, expected to fetch at least $750 million, and the first one to include full digital rights. The enormous size of the deal — which some say could potentially reach $1 billion if the series keeps producing new seasons — stems from the staggering volume of Simpsons episodes available: 530 when the show starts airing on FXX in August 2014 and growing to 574 by September 2015. At the start, FXX will have access to the first 24 seasons, with another season added when it gets off-circulation on Fox, which recently greenlighted a 26th season. For instance, Season 25 will become available on FXX when Season 26 premieres on Fox next September.
Exact terms of the deal have not been disclosed but insiders estimate that FXX would be paying about $1.25 million per week, with the length of the agreement said to be about a decade (at least eight years, possibly 10). “The Simpsons is indisputably one of the greatest shows in television history,” said FX Networks CEO John Landgraf. “This was a very long, hard and complicated negotiation and I credit the relentlessness and diligence of Chuck Saftler for getting it done.” Said FX Networks COO Saftler, “Woo Hoo!” He called the back-and-forth “the longest negotiations that I am aware of for an off-network series” that took a month from the first offer to sealing a “landmark” deal. “This is a historic deal for FXX and FX Networks and I don’t believe there will ever be another one like it,” Saftler said. Besides the sheer volume, unprecedented is the granting of full VOD/non-linear rights to a cable network in conjunction with an off-network agreement, which normally gives nets rolling 5-6 episodes. In this case, FXNOW, the soon-to-be-launched authenticated mobile viewing app of FX Networks, will offer all seasons of The Simpsons that are available on FXX. As for that staggering volume of 574 episodes and counting? While a typical syndicated show that has produced 100 episodes is on a 5-week repeat cycle — meaning that the cable network goes through all of the episodes in 5 weeks after which it starts again from the pilot — it will be months and months before The Simpsons will have to repeat an episode on FXX, giving it a feel of an original run. Saftler expects The Simpsons to expand FXX’s “reach and frequency,” broadening its audience to include everyone from today’s teenagers who watch the show on Fox, to their parents who were teenagers when the show first premiered. Because of the virtual lack of repeats, he expects fans to check back often.
It took two decades, but The Simpsons producer 20th Century Fox TV had pretty good timing when it finally took The Simpsons to the cable marketplace. Several years ago, 21st Century Fox COO Chase Carey suggested that the company could launch a Simpsons cable channel (the volume of the Simpsons library could sustain that). Instead, the longest-running scripted series will serve as a backbone of another upstart Fox cable network, FXX. Given the benefits an asset like The Simpsons provides, FXX went very aggressively after the property in an already competitive marketplace. The network had been considered the frontrunner from the get-go with its vast shelf space that can easily accommodate a 600-episode off-network series and properly run and amortize it, something established cable networks with a full dance card of syndicated fare would find harder to do. That, combined with the financial windfall for 20th TV is making observers call the deal a “win-win” for both sides, and the ideal scenario parent 21 Century Fox had been hoping for. “The Simpsons long ago crossed over from ‘brilliant award-winning comedy series’ to ‘full-fledged cultural phenomenon,’ and this landmark deal is a testament to its enduring power and relevance,” said 20th TV chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden.
EXCLUSIVE: As we mark the 400th anniversary of Russia’s Romanov dynasty this year, FX has put in development an event series about the man closely associated with Romanovs’ final years. Rasputin, from Indian film director Shekhar Kapur, tells the story of the Russian peasant and mystic who became an adviser to the Russian Imperial family. Prison Break creator Paul Scheuring will write the script based on the upcoming book Rasputin: Dark Forces And The Fall of The Romanovs by Douglas Smith. Per FX, the event series centers on “one of the most controversial characters in history who is held responsible for bringing down the Russian Empire and changing the course of the world as we know it” and answers the question, “who was he really beyond the folklore, a true healer or the greatest charlatan the world has known?” Embraced by Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra as a healer for their only son, Tsarevich Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia, Rasputin’s influence with the ill-fated family placed them in the cross-hairs of the rising Bolshevik revolutionary movement, while cementing his own infamy with tales of heresy, black magic, sexual deviancy and immortality. It also earned Rasputin a lot of enemies, who tried to kill him in 1914, finally succeeding in 1916. The improbable story of Rasputin’s murder at the hands of several aristocrats is reminiscent of the repeated attempts on the life of Kevin Kline’s character in Lawrence Kasdan’s dark comedy I Love You To Death. During the course of one night, Rasputin was poisoned, shot three times and beaten with a dumbbell but somehow stayed alive. He was eventually dumped into the icy Neva River. Kapur will direct and executive produce with Scheuring. Smith serves as consultant.
After a two-month rocky run on FXX, the upstart cable network has pulled the plug on its late-night program Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell. Its last original will air tomorrow night. FXX will continue to air repeats of the show for the rest of the week with Sunday’s best of the week “Mixtape” airing to feature new intros from Bell. Even before today’s news, Totally Biased was scheduled to go on hiatus after this week. As I pointed out in my post The Mystery Of ‘Totally Biased’s Vanishing Audience two weeks ago, the show has had a very rough sledding in its transition from FX to FXX, drawing something like 12,000 total viewers, 4,000 adults 18-49, 3,000 adults 18-34 and 0 adults 18-24 at 11 PM on nights where FXX doesn’t have originals in primetime. While a dropoff in moving to FXX, which is carried in 26 million fewer homes than flagship FX, was expected, those public access program-level numbers were puzzling as Totally Biased was a solid and pretty stable ratings performer on FX. Totally Biased performed better on Wednesdays, following original series It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and The League, drawing an average of 110,000 total viewers, 92,000 adults 18-49 and 64,000 adults 18-34. Still, that was less than a third of the show’s audience on FX in the final leg of its …
FX continues to bolster its library of theatrical hits, acquiring the TV rights to Gravity (Warner Bros), Captain Phillips (Sony) and this past weekend’s box-office topper Thor: The Dark World (Disney). It also has locked in Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2, and Prisoners. FX has been very aggressive in acquiring blockbusters, buying virtually every No. 1 movie in the box office for the past couple of years for the main network and FX siblings FXX and FXM. Other previously announced acquisitions include Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, Man of Steel, Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Croods, The Heat, Identity Thief, Grown Ups 2, The Wolverine, The Hangover Part III, and Pacific Rim. The new films will make their premieres on the FX Networks beginning in 2015.
Four episodes into American Horror Story: Coven run, FX has picked up a fourth season of the horror franchise. Star Jessica Lange, who has been the center of the show since first cycle, is set to return as her current contract is through Season 4. She recently suggested publicly that she would likely depart after that. Because of the show’s format, featuring different stories and characters each season, it is unclear yet who else will come back but co-creator Ryan Murphy tends to find new characters for his core group of actors every year. “Put simply, Ryan Murphy is a master television producer,” FX Networks CEO John Landgraf said. “Every year, they create a riveting and brilliant new miniseries. AHS: Coven is the best yet, and I have no doubt that the next installment will be even better.” Four episodes in, Coven has far surpassed the ratings of both of its AHS predecessors, Murder House (2011) and Asylum (2012). Season-to date, AHS: Coven is averaging 7.74 million Total Viewers, 5.46 million Adults 18-49 and 3.14 million Adults 18-34. That is up +77% in Total Viewers, +67% in 18-49 and +60% in 18-34 over Murder House. Coven is outpacing Asylum by +83% in Total Viewers, +71% in 18-49, and +68% in 18-34. Remarkably, Coven, toplined by mature actress Lange, Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett, is easily on pace to set a record as the highest-rated adults 18-34 program in FX history. Episode 5 airs tonight.