Abrams hires ramp up film, TV units

Lingg, Clark join Bad Robot divisions

J.J. Abrams has staffed up his Bad Robot Prods. — and he’s poised to begin turning out new film and TV projects much sooner than originally expected.

Abrams Wednesday tapped former Paramount TV drama exec Kathy Linggto take charge of his TV division and hired Kopelson Entertainment production prexy Sherryl Clark to run his film business. Hirings come after Abrams inked separate-but-equally-hefty overall deals last summer with Paramount for film and with Warner Bros. for TV (Daily Variety, July 17).

Film deal kicked in over the summer, but because the TV pact doesn’t begin until June, the Abrams camp had said it was unlikely he’d develop any TV shows for next season. Abrams, however, said he already has several feature and TV projects in various stages of development.

“It’s too early to go into details, but there are things that are in the pipeline,” he said. “I can’t keep still.”

Indeed, Abrams said it’s even possible — though not certain — he’ll have his first WBTV project ready for a fall 2007 debut.

He said work is on track to release the new “Star Trek” pic, which Abrams is overseeing for Par, in 2008.

As for new hires Lingg and Clark, duo join Abrams and production partner Bryan Burk at Bad Robot. Company has also upped Athena Wickham and Ben Sokolowski to roles as creative execs.

Bad Robot will relocate next year from its current offices in Burbank to new digs in Santa Monica.

“The thing I’m most excited about is that we’ve pulled this team together and we’re finally open for business,” Abrams said, adding that he plans to develop a wide variety of projects.

“Unfortunately, I like so many genres that it’s hard to limit yourself,” he said. “I want to work on things that either really make me laugh or really scare me or make me gasp.”

On the TV front, Abrams said Lingg first popped onto his radar two years ago.

“She was recommended to me by Ken Olin, who’s known her for a number of years,” he said. When it came time to staff Bad Robot, Abrams talked to a number of execs, but kept remembering Olin’s advice.

“There’s a sense of trust and confidence and great taste (with Lingg),” Abrams said. “She’s critical, but in a very insightful and articulate way. And she’s got a great deal of experience in ways that I don’t.”

Indeed, though Abrams is no TV neophyte, he noted that almost all of his experience has been limited to Touchstone and ABC.

By contrast, “Kathy knows everyone,” he said.

During her run at Par, Lingg helped develop a mix of hits (“NCIS,” “Numbers,” “Medium”) and critically-hailed productions (“Deadwood,” “Keen Eddie,” “Now & Again”). She ankled the studio last year after more than a decade, most recently as exec VP of the division.

Before joining Par in 1992 as senior VP of movies and minis, Lingg spent seven years at TriStar Pictures as senior VP of production. Among the pics she helped develop were Marlon Brando-Matthew Broderick starrer “The Freshman” and the Cybill Shepherd romantic comedy “Chances Are.”

On the film side, Abrams said Clark has a strong love for film that will translate well to Abrams’ desire to make Bad Robot a company with a diverse slate.

“The kind of company that I want Bad Robot to be needed someone who has a great scope of interests in terms of genre films and styles, but at the same time wants to make movies for large audiences,” he said. “We also talked about growing up what was important to her about movies, and we shared many of the same sentiments.”

At Kopelson, Clark worked on pics such as “Don’t Say a Word,” “Twisted” and the upcoming “Killing on Carnival Row” and “Strangers on a Train.” She worked her way up at the company, starting as director of development and leaving as prexy of production.

Clark began her career at Disney, working at Touchstone Pictures and the Jacobson Co. After Disney, she hooked up with Mario Kassar’s MK Prods., working on Adrian Lyne’s “Lolita.”