Multihyphenate to helm, star in NBC improv laffer

Chi McBride has gone from “Boston Public” principal to SWAT team leader, joining the cast of ABC’s drama pilot “Countdown.”

McBride was just one of several major castings Friday. Rob Reiner, who will exec produce and direct the NBC improv laffer “Everyday Life,” has also stepped in to star in the show, bringing along Mercedes Ruehl.

Also, Marcia Cross (“Everwood”) has been added to ABC’s “Desperate Housewives”; Busy Phillips (“Freaks and Geeks”) has joined NBC’s “Foster Hall”; and former “Saturday Night Live” player Ana Gasteyer will star in the Peacock’s “The Friendlys.”

With “Boston Public” leaving the airwaves, it didn’t take long for McBride to land a new gig. Thesp, who also starred in “The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer,” will play Capt. John Richardson, commander of “Countdown’s” SWAT team.

“Countdown,” from Touchstone TV and FremantleMedia, chronicles the final 43 minutes of a crisis.

Reiner hopped aboard “Everyday Life” after Alan Alda, originally approached for the role, ultimately passed. Universal Network TV-produced laffer, which revolves around a family of psychiatrists, is completely improvised.

Reiner, of course, began his career as Mike Stivic, aka Meathead, on legendary sitcom “All in the Family,” before moving on to a successful directing and producing career.

Tony (“Lost in Yonkers”) and Oscar (“The Fisher King”) winner Ruehl will play Reiner’s wife in the laffer; recent credits include the TNT telepic “Bad Apple.” She received a Tony nom last year for “The Goat or Who Is Sylvia.”

Best known as crazy Kimberly in “Melrose Place,” Cross will play Bree, a Martha Stewart-esque housewife, in the Touchstone drama. Thesp, currently guesting on “Everwood,” will star with Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman and Eva Longoria.

Phillips joins “Foster Hall” as the sister of Macaulay Culkin’s character, Clark Hall.

The actress’ credits also include “Dawson’s Creek.” Sitcom, from NBC Studios and Conan O’Brien’s production company, takes a look at siblings who have been bounced around foster homes all their lives.

Then there’s Gasteyer, who spent six seasons on “SNL” parodying celebs from Martha Stewart to Celine Dion. She’ll star with Dave Foley in “The Friendlys.”

NBC Studios laffer revolves around a family feuding over control of a candy company after the company’s owner dies. Gasteyer will play Bebe, the boozy widow of the candy mogul.

Also in casting news, Ben Feldman has been cast in the WB half-hour pilot “Robbing the Cradle.” Feldman’s credits include “Kissing Jessica Stein.”

“Robbing the Cradle,” from Regency TV and Jamie Kennedy’s production shingle, follows the story of a twentysomething who moves back in with his mom — who’s involved with a man younger than her son.

And Jill Ritchie (“The Pool at Maddy Breaker’s”) has been cast as Chyler Leigh’s best friend in “Lucky Us.” 20th Century Fox TV/Original TV sitcom follows the travails of a couple who go out on a blind date and wind up with a kid.

Ritchie recently guest starred on “Arrested Development.”

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