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Sorkin skein finds a friend

Thesp trio sketch roles in NBC laffer

NBC and Warner Bros. TV are back in business with one of their best “Friends,” signing Matthew Perry to star in the new series from Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme.

No longer called “Studio 7,” the now-untitled hourlong project is set behind the scenes at a “Saturday Night Live”-style sketch comedy show. Steven Weber and D.L. Hughley have also signed on as cast members.

Meanwhile, “Alias” baddie Ron Rifkin has joined the cast of just-greenlit ABC drama pilot “Brothers & Sisters.”

NBC gave a 13-episode commitment to Warner Bros. for the Sorkin/Schlamme project. Sorkin will write the series and exec produce, along with Schlamme, who is directing the pilot (Daily Variety, Oct. 17).

“It’s a demanding show requiring a great ensemble of actors,” Sorkin and Schlamme told Daily Variety. “We’re not casting yet, but you couldn’t ask for a better start than Matthew Perry, Steven Weber and D.L. Hughley.”

Perry will play Matt Albie, a former writer for the show who is asked back when the sketch skein’s Lorne Michael-esque producer quits. To complicate matters, he has recently broken up with the show’s major female cast member.

Sorkin said he created the character with Perry in mind. It’s the first regular TV role for Perry since his Emmy-nominated run as Chandler Bing on “Friends,” which left the airwaves in May 2004.

The casting reunites Perry and Sorkin, who worked together on “The West Wing” when the actor guested in the show’s fourth season as Joe Quincy. He later returned in the role, earning an Emmy nom for guest actor in a drama.

Perry’s upcoming credits include TNT telepic “The Ron Clark Story,” in which he plays a New York inner-city teacher. Longform is set to air in August.

Thesp also recently directed and starred in an episode of “Scrubs” and hosted the ESPY Awards, which earned its best ratings ever under his watch. In 2004 he starred in feature “The Whole Ten Yards,” the sequel to another move in which he starred, “The Whole Nine Yards.”

Also on the Sorkin/Schlamme show, Weber is set to play Jack Rudolph, the head of UBS — the network that airs the sketch show. Rudolph was behind the original termination of Perry’s character.

Hughley will play Simon Stiles, another major cast member on the show-within-a-show.

Weber’s recent credits include the Showtime musical “Reefer Madness” and the skein “Masters of Horror.” The onetime “Wings” star also starred in ABC’s short-lived “The D.A.” and in his own NBC comedy, “The Weber Show.”

Hughley has been hosting the Comedy Central talker “Weekends at the D.L.” The onetime star of “The Hughleys” will next be seen in “Doubting Thomas” and provide a voice for “The Adventures of Brer Rabbit.”

As for Rifkin, thesp will play Uncle Sol, the brother of the family matriarch in the show, which revolves around the interaction of adult siblings. Jon Robin Baitz (“The West Wing”) will write, while Ken Olin (“Alias”) is exec producing and directing (Daily Variety, Jan. 19).

Rifkin will wrap his “Alias” role of Arvin Sloane when the show ends its run later this season. His other credits range from “Sex and the City” and “ER” to “Soap.”

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

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