Thesps steer to TV; ‘Friend’ drives ‘Car’

Modine steps up to WB while LaSalle finds 'Conviction'

Matthew Modine will give series TV a shot, signing on to star in the WB’s untitled Tom Fontana pilot.

Also Tuesday, “ER” vet Eriq LaSalle joined the cast of CBS’ drama pilot “Conviction,” while former “Friends” star David Schwimmer inked a deal to direct the Fox sitcom pilot “New Car Smell” and Jay Ferguson was added to the cast of NBC’s actioner “Fathom.”

Modine will play Prof. David Macklan, the teacher of a controversial human behavior and sexuality class, in the Frog pilot. Fontana, Barry Levinson, Julie Martin and Jim Finnerty exec produce the project, which revolves around a small Manhattan college.

Milo Ventimiglia, Penn Badgley and Ernest Waddell had already been set for the pilot, which comes from Warner Bros. TV and HBO Ind. Prods.

Modine’s recent credits include the features “Le Divorce” and “Any Given Sunday” as well as the telepics “Hitler: The Rise of Evil” and “The Winning Season.” He also guested on “The West Wing.”

LaSalle, meanwhile, will play veteran attorney Peter Seidman on “Conviction.” Procedural drama, from Warner Bros. TV and 25C Prods., tracks legal cases from the prosecutor’s viewpoint. Ed Redlich, Carl Beverly and Sarah Timberman exec produce.

Best known as Dr. Peter Benton on “ER,” LaSalle’s other credits include “One Hour Photo” and “Crazy as Hell.”

Ferguson will play Richard Owen, an expert diver who encounters a mysterious sea creature, on “Fathom.” NBC Universal TV pilot comes from Jonas and Josh Pate.

Ferguson’s credits include the feature “Higher Learning” as well as “Judging Amy” and “Glory Days.”

Also on the casting tip, thesp Lauren German (“A Walk to Remember”) will play Rose in UPN’s twentysomething drama pilot “Wildlife.” Drama, set in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake area, comes from exec producers Daniel Cerone, Michael Gans, Richard Register, Jonathan Axelrod and Kelly Edwards.

German’s credits also include the upcoming CBS telepic “Surrender, Dorothy.”

As for Schwimmer, the thesp has been focusing on his directing career as of late, helming episodes of “Joey” among other series. Robb and Mark Cullen exec produce “New Car Smell,” which comes from 20th Century Fox TV.

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