CBS‘ new drama series Madam Secretary, in which Tea Leoni plays the Secretary of State, came about because of Hillary Clinton and Benghazi, exec producer Lori McCreary told TV critics today at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2014.
McCreary said she and Morgan Freeman had lunch with CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler about producing a scripted series for the network, after which, McCreary says, they set about “trying to come up with a great character…And then, guess what happened — the Benghazi hearings,” McCreary said. They went back to Tassler with the idea of a series about what it’s like to be the female Secretary of State, “and how it translates overseas when rights for women are not what they are here,” she said. Tassler introduced them to Joan Of Arcadia creator Barbara Hall, who “took that kernel of an idea” and ran with it.
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We’re in the midst of the annual ritual of broadcast casting executives chasing their tails, also known as casting the leads of dozens of network pilots at the same time. As usual, many pilots go after the same names, resulting in a few actors holding a slew of offers thus bringing pilot season to a standstill.
Related: Primetime Pilot Panic Listings
Last year, Damages‘ Rose Byrne was the focus of attention with virtually every pilot vying for her, but she ended up passing on all. Actresses receiving multiple offers early on this season but not yet committing include Jennifer Connelly, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Diane Lane, Maria Bello, Hilary Swank, Octavia Spencer, Felicity Huffman, Kyra Sedgwick, Sarah Chalke and Elizabeth Banks. We already had a very elusive leading lady, Tea Leoni, locked in for a pilot, CBS drama Madam Secretary, with popular pilot targets Jack Davenport, Jennifer Carpenter (both on ABC’s Sea Of Fire) and David Schwimmer (ABC’s Irreversible) also spoken for. Several usual suspects, including Ellie Kemper and Natasha Lyonne, got an early jump by attaching themselves to projects (NBC’s Tina Fey/Robert Carlock series for Kemper, the Amy Poehler pilot for Lyonne).
Related: PILOT SEASON: Walls Of Vertical Integration Fall Down … Read More »
This is a big casting coup right off the bat this pilot casting season. CBS has set Tea Leoni as the lead in drama pilot Madam Secretary, from Joan Of Arcadia creator Barbara Hall and Oscar winner Morgan Freeman. The drama, written by Hall, explores the personal and professional life of a maverick female Secretary of State (Leoni) as she drives international diplomacy, wrangles office politics and balances a complex family life. CBS TV Studios is producing with Freeman’s Revelations Entertainment, with the company’s Freeman, Lori McCreary and Tracy Mercer executive producing alongside Hall. Leoni has stayed away from network television since 1998 when her NBC sitcom The Naked Truth ended its run. She has been constantly approached for pilots ever since, but her only TV gig in the past 15 years was the 2011 HBO pilot Spring/Fall. Last year, CBS also started pilot casting season in a big way, tapping Anna Faris for the Chuck Lorre comedy pilot Mom and Oscar winner Halle Berry for the summer sci-fi series Extant.
EXCLUSIVE: Larry Moss has set Helen Hunt, David Duchovny, Maggie Grace, Joan Chen and John Robinson to star in Relative Insanity, a contemporary Hampons-set adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. Pier 3 Pictures’ Michael Din and Juri Henley-Cohn wrote the script and will produce with their partner Janine Giaime. Moss is an acting coach whose students have included Hunt and Duchovny, as well as Hilary Swank, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Jim Carrey, Michael Clark Duncan, Tea Leoni and Justin Timberlake. After teaching acting for 35 years, Moss is making his feature directorial debut on an adaptation of his favorite play. They’ll start shooting next year and Pier 3 is putting together the funding.
Universal Pictures has released a trailer for the Brett Ratner-directed Tower Heist, a comedy that stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda and Tea Leoni. Alda plays a Bernie Madoff-like financier whose ponzi scheme wipes out the pensions of the staff of a luxury high rise where the swindler lives. They aim to get their money back in a caper film shot completely in Gotham. Is it me, or does Murphy appear to be playing the wisecracking underdog that made him a star in movies like 48 Hours, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop? After walking through a succession of kid-themed comedies that didn’t tax his talents, can Eddie regain his mojo?
RJ Cutler, director of the Anna Wintour documentary The September Issue, has optioned the rights to Rudolph Delson’s 2007 novel Maynard & Jennica, which he will adapt to direct as a feature. Maynard & Jennica is romantic comedy about a Gotham-based filmmaker who meets and has a relationship with a California transplant with stars in her eyes. In the book, the romance is told by 35 first-person narrators, ranging from friends to a macaw to dead ancestors. Cutler is currently executive producing Spring/Fall for HBO, which stars Tea Leoni, Hope Davis, Sigourney Weaver and Stockard Channing and is currently filming its pilot episode in New York. He is also developing as a feature Fabulous Nobodies, an adaptation of the Lee Tulloch novel. Cutler is represented by CAA and Mosaic.
EXCLUSIVE: Hope Davis is set to star opposite Tea Leoni in HBO’s half-hour comedy pilot Spring/Fall. Jake Kasdan has come on board to direct the project, which is set in New York City against the backdrop of the fashion world and centers on the dysfunctional partnership between Margo (Leoni) and Eden (Davis), two women with different approaches to career, family and friendship. Margo is a successful designer and a happily married mother of 5-year-old twins working for famous fashion designer Victor Cross. When he commits suicide, Margo takes over his line and quickly realizes she’s in over her head, so she reaches out to her estranged former best friend and collaborator Eden, a onetime famous fashion designer herself, and convinces her to come work for her. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: HBO has given the green light to Spring/Fall, a half-hour comedy pilot staring Tea Leoni. The project is set in New York City against the backdrop of the fashion world and stars Leoni as half of a dysfunctional partnership between two women with different approaches to career, family and friendship. Kate Robin, who was a writer-producer on HBO’s Six Feet Under, wrote the script. She and Leoni are executive producing with documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler, who explored the NY fashion scene with last year’s documentary The September Issue. Leoni’s manager, Jimmy Miller, also executive produces the project, which had been in the works at HBO for a while. The pilot is slated to shoot in June.
With the exception of a guest spot on her husband David Duchovny’s Fox drama The X-Files in 2000, Leoni, repped by UTA and Mosaic, has not done television since the end of her NBC comedy series The Naked Truth in 1998. Spring/Fall joins another female-centered HBO comedy pilot recently greenlighted by HBO, Armando Iannucci’s Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a female U.S. Vice President. Also recently picked up to pilot at HBO are Aaron Sorkin’s cable news show drama starring Jeff Daniels and Doug Ellin’s comedy 40 toplined by Ed Burns. Leoni and Robin are with UTA.
One of the benefits of shooting a movie in Manhattan is getting access to the town’s stage talent. Matthew Broderick has been set by director Brett Ratner to join the cast of Tower Heist. He joins Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Alan Alda, Tea Leoni, Gabourey Sidibe and Michael Pena in the Universal comedy. Broderick will play Chase Fitzhugh, a Wall Street guy who, like the building staff, had his finances cleaned out by the Bernie Madoff-like character played by Alda, who is under house arrest in the luxury penthouse apartment atop the building. Brian Grazer is producing and Karen Kehela Sherwood and Kim Roth are exec producers. Jeff Nathanson is rewriting Ted Griffin’s draft.
Brett Ratner, who considers The Family Man one of his best films, has reunited with its star, Tea Leoni. She’ll join him for Tower Heist, the Universal Pictures/Imagine Entertainment action comedy. Leoni, a gifted comedienne, plays an FBI agent who sympathizes with Ben Stiller’s overworked manager character, and falls for him. The manager, of course, is planning to heist the Bernie Madoff-like crook under house arrest in the penthouse after he swindled the pensions of the building’s workers. Eddie Murphy, Gabourey Sidibe, Michael Pena and Alan Alda also star.
EXCLUSIVE: HBO is looking to add more estrogen to its current slate of all-guy comedy series: Entourgage, Eastbound & Down, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bored to Death, Hung, The Life and Times of Tim and How to Make it America. A new comedy project staring and produced by Tea Leoni is in serious consideration for a pilot pickup at the pay cable network, whose biggest comedy hit was the female-centered Sex and the City. Like Sex and the City, the Tea Leoni comedy, tentatively titled Spring/Fall, also takes place in New York City. It is set against the backdrop of New York’s fashion world and stars Leoni as half of a dysfunctional partnership between two women with different approaches to career, family, and friendship. Kate Robin who was a writer/producer on HBO’s Six Feet Under, wrote the script. She and Leoni are executive producing Spring/Fall with documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler, who knows a thing or two about fashion having directed The September Issue documentary last year. Read More »