[05/01/14 - 11:28 PM] Development Update: Thursday, May 1 By The Futon Critic Staff (TFC)
LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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BESSIE (HBO, New!) - Queen Latifah is set to play iconic blues singer Bessie Smith in a proposed biopic at the pay channel, which "chronicles how Smith overcame her tempestuous personal life to become one of the most acclaimed performing and recording artists of the 1920s and '30s, earning the nickname Empress of the Blues." Dee Rees (Pariah) wrote and will direct the project, which is based on the biography "Bessie" written by Chris Albertson. Latifah will also executive produce alongside Shakim Compere, Lili Fini Zanuck, Richard Zanuck, Shelby Stone and Randi Michel with Hallie Foote as co-executive producer and Ron Schmidt as producer for Flavor Unit Entertainment and the Zanuck Company. (Deadline.com)DIG (USA/UCP; W: Gideon Raff & Tim Kring; D: S.J. Clarkson) - Regina Taylor and Omar Metwally have both booked roles on the event series, about an FBI agent stationed in Jerusalem (Jason Isaacs) who, while investigating a murder of a young female archeologist, uncovers a conspiracy 2000 years in the making. She'll play Ruth Ridell, "the U.S. ambassador to Israel who has little time for problems that Peter creates for her with the local authorities"; while he's set as Yussef Khalid, "an American who disappeared after being accused of murder." Alison Loren Sudol, Anne Heche and David Costabile also star. (THR.com)HOW AND WHY (FX/FXP; W/D: Charlie Kaufman) - Marcella Plunkett (Dark Touch) has joined the cast of the comedy pilot, the story of a man, Goodman Hesselman (John Hawkes), who can explain how and why a nuclear reactor works, but is clueless about life. She'll play two roles, "Cynthia, a photographer at Goodman's new TV station in Murfreesboro, and Magda, Mendelson's (Michael Cera) secretary, whose day is spent in a cramped, tiny room, not much bigger than her desk." Sally Hawkins and Catherine Keener also star. (Deadline.com)UNSTRUNG (ABC Family; W: Emily Whitesell; D: TBA) - Chanel Celaya and Sofia Mattsson are the first to be cast in the drama pilot, which explores the sexy, cutthroat, and emotional stakes of the professional world tour of tennis as brother and sister Luke and Ellie Holt compete to move up the ranks. Celaya will play the aforementioned Ellie, "an athletic, spunky beauty with great talent but not-so-great discipline"; with Mattsson as Ninotchka Andropov, "a diva ranked 3rd in the world but first in looks." (THR.com)UNTITLED ANDY ST. CLAIR/PAUL O'TOOLE PROJECT (MTV, New!) - Andy St. Clair and Paul O'Toole have scored a cast-contingent pilot order from the network for a new comedy about "22-year-old Andy, who after he catches his girlfriend cheating, accidentally rear-ends a celebrity. Taking pity on Andy, the celebrity takes it upon himself to teach him how to man up." Odenkirk Provissiero's Marc Provissiero will executive produce the project with St. Clair and O'Toole serving as co-executive producers. (THR.com)AND IN OTHER NEWS... - Brian Percival has bowed out of helming the AMC drama pilot "Knifeman" for personal reasons (Deadline.com); "Nashville" executive producer R.J. Cutler has signed a first-look development deal with CBS Television Studios for scripted projects, ending his run at Lionsgate Television (Deadline.com); Kristin Chenoweth has been cast as Maleficent in Disney Channel's "Descendants," "who butts horns with her daughter Mal (Dove Cameron)" (Deadline.com); Nestor Serrano and Brit Morgan will both recur on the new season of "Graceland"(TVLine.com); and Tyler Hilton is bound for the upcoming CBS drama "Extant" as "the chief coder on the Humanichs Project at the center of the story" (THR.com).