Sullivan Stapleton, seen here in the film Cut Snake, has won a role in a US pilot called Blindspot.
Hollywood’s “pilot season” is barely under way and Australian actors have grabbed many of the roles in the crop of new shows.
US free-to-air and cable channels produce between 70 and 90 pilots every year, from which a few dozen proceed to series. Of those, ultimately only a handful survive.
So far this year – the casting window for pilot season runs between February and March – the process has thrown up a mix of familiar and emerging faces, including Daniel MacPherson, Rachael Taylor, Sullivan Stapleton and Melissa George.
Young Australian actor Ed Oxenbould has been signed to star in the sitcom Chev and Bev. Photo: Getty Images
It is a Darwinian process that has been criticised heavilybut with no better way of developing fresh content, it survives as the largest annual test of new shows in the US market.
The successful pilots are screened to international programmers every May.
George, 38, has built a powerful resume of US work, notably HBO’s In Treatment, Cinemax’s Hunted and NBC’s The Slap, and has been cast in a new medical drama based on the life of a real heart surgeon, Dr Kathy Magliato.
And Stapleton, 37, seen most recently in the Cinemax drama Strike Back, has been cast in a pilot, Blindspot, about an FBI agent who is tasked with the case of a young woman (Jaimie Alexander) who is found with her memory wiped.
According to the US trade publication Deadline, Stapleton and Alexander are “the most heavily pursued actor and actress” this pilot season.
Taylor, 30, whose US credits include the 2011 reboot of Charlie’s Angels, 666 Park Avenue and Crisis, has been cast in a TV series based on the Marvel comic A.K.A. Jessica Jones. The series will star another Australian actor, Eka Darville.
And Damon Herriman, 44, who has become one of the most successful actors working in the US, has signed up for a new series for the HBO-owned Cinemax, set in the 1970s, which tells the story of a marine who returns from Vietnam to find himself caught up in a web of corruption.
Herriman is currently starring in Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan’s new series, Battle Creek.
Not all the projects currently being cast are technically part of pilot season, as they have full season orders from their channels. They include Netflix’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones, WGN’s Outsiders and MTV’s Shannara, which will star MacPherson, 34.
Outsiders stars two Australians, Gillian Alexy, 28, and Thomas M. Wright, 31. The project comes from playwright Peter Mattei and is described as “a tale of struggle for power and control in the hills of Appalachia”.
Meanwhile, one of Australia’s youngest working actors in Hollywood, 13-year-old Ed Oxenbould, has signed to star in the sitcom Chev & Bev, which reunites Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, who starred in the National Lampoon “vacation” films.
Chase and D’Angelo play a couple whose lives are turned upside down when they must raise their grandchildren. Oxenbould, who starred in the film Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, plays one of the kids.
Australian actor Patrick Brammall, 37, has scored a rare coup – he has been cast in the US remake of his ABC2 comedy The Strange Calls, playing the same role he played in the original version.
The remake, titled simply Strange Calls, shifts the setting from a caravan in a coastal town to an old lighthouse in Nantucket. Brammall will reprise the role of the smug police chief Sergeant Neil Lloyd; the US remake is being produced for the network NBC by the show’s Australian producers, Tracey Robertson and Nathan Mayfield.
Not all of Australia’s success is in front of the camera; critically acclaimed Australian director Phillip Noyce has signed on to direct the pilot of Warrior, described as a “magical martial arts drama”.
Noyce is one of Hollywood’s go-to directors for TV pilots. His past credits include the pilots for Crisis, Luck, Revenge and Tru Calling.
Gillian Alexy, Outsiders (WGN): Family drama set in the hills of Appalachia.
Patrick Brammall, Strange Calls (NBC): Remake of the Australian ABC2 comedy of the same name.
Eka Darville, A.K.A. Jessica Jones (Netflix): Action drama based on the Marvel comic of the same name.
Lindsay Farris, Virtuoso (HBO): Period drama set in the musical world of 18th-century Vienna.
Melissa George, Heart Matters (NBC): Medical drama based on a real life doctor, Dr Kathy Magliato.
Damon Herriman, Quarry (Cinemax): Period drama, set in the 1970s, based on a book by Max Allan Collins.
David Lyons, Game of Silence (NBC): Contemporary drama about an attorney whose past might destroy him.
Daniel MacPherson, Shannara (MTV): Fantasy drama based on the book series by Terry Brooks.
Ed Oxenbould, Chev & Bev (ABC): Sitcom starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo.
Sullivan Stapleton, Blindspot (NBC): Contemporary drama about an FBI agent investigating a Jane Doe.
Rachael Taylor, A.K.A. Jessica Jones (Netflix): Action drama based on the Marvel comic of the same name.
Thomas M. Wright, Outsiders (WGN): Family drama set in the hills of Appalachia.