Nick nets lil’ stars

Tyke cabler inks deals with rapper, thesp

For the first time, Nickelodeon has opened its doors to talent holding deals, signing 14-year-old comedian-thesp Lil’ JJ and “Spanglish” thesp Shelbie Bruce.

Kids cabler will develop headlining vehicles for each actor, both of whom additionally will be featured in current Nick series.

Network is currently taking pitches from writers and producers for half-hour comedies centered on the kids.

Senior VP of talent Paula Kaplan said the success of Nick’s TEENick block and primetime live-action shows has created a greater need to identify young stars early on.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve really started to pump our live-action production,” Kaplan said. “While we’ll continue to develop around great ideas, we’re also going to call on the creative community to create shows especially for these really talented kids.”

Kaplan said in the best case, Nickelodeon will be able to utilize Lil’ JJ and Bruce in both TV and feature film projects. Exec is already considering several show ideas for Lil’ JJ and has cast him as a recurring character on the sketch show “All That.”

Previously, Nickelodeon had only signed with proven talent from its own stable of shows. “All That” alumni Nick Cannon, Amanda Bynes, Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell and Jamie Lynn Spears all went on to starring vehicles for the channel.

Lil’ JJ next stars in the MGM film “Beauty Shop” opposite Queen Latifah. He was the grand prize winner of BET’s “Coming to the Stage” comedy competition and has been featured on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” BET’s “106 & Park” and “Showtime at the Apollo.”

Bruce most recently appeared in episodes of “Providence” and “ER.” She also starred in the pilot “Mary Lou’s Flip Flop Shop” with Mary Lou Retton.

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