NBC strikes star Gorham from ‘Union’

Mel Gorham, the star of NBC’s Thursday night sitcom “Union Square,” has been dropped from the show that was developed specifically for her.

NBC is now negotiating with another actress to play the lead role of Mel Suarez in the sitcom that will air in the coveted 8:30 p.m. slot between “Friends” and “Seinfeld” this fall.

Sources at NBC, which confirmed that Gorham is gone, said the parting was “amicable” and that producers were interested in making the show “more of a true ensemble.”

Gorham played a woman —described as “a Latina Lucille Ball” —who moves from Miami to New York to pursue an acting career, and who hangs out with an eclectic group in a diner called Union Square. The show is executive produced by Marco Pennette and Fred Barron of “Caroline in the City,” and it’s directed by James Burrows.

“She was very much the heart of it, and we decided to go in another direction in the interests of the show’s longterm future,” one source at the network said.

The decision to change the show’s lead was probably related in part to negative buzz that emerged from the advertising community following NBC’s upfront presentation in New York. Media buyers predicted the show would get a 23 share, but mainly because of its timeslot. The 23 share is still five share points below the estimate for its “Friends” lead-in.

Still, no other changes are planned. The other cast members, which include Michael Landes, Harriet Sansom Harris, Jim Pirri, Jonathan Slavin, Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter and Christine Burke, are expected to stay.

Gorham’s publicist said “Union Square” was “designed to be a show around Mel.” Now that the actress is no longer involved, she will go back to making indie films. Gorham has previously starred in such Miramax films as “Smoke” and “Blue in the Face,” and the upcoming film “Cop Land.”