Fall TV Preview

Fall TV Recasts: Damon Wayans Will (Briefly) Live with New Girl, and More Updates

Fox’s New Girl, Zooey Deschanel, is still going to live with Damon Wayans Jr. — but not for very long.

With Happy Endings renewed by ABC and also scheduled for fall, Wayans’ New Girl guy, who goes by the nickname “Coach,” is but one of several roles that need to be recast, replaced or revisited for the 2011-12 TV season.

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Typically, the springtime announcement of a “second position” casting is met with a half-chuckle, since almost always the in-demand actor’s first commitment is hanging by a thread — if not semi-officially canceled — when it comes to the prospect of renewal.

Personally, I’ll always recall Milo Ventimiglia insisting to me that Heroes was a mere back-up plan for The Bedford Diaries (remember that show?). If you need further education on the misleadingly dismissive tone of the “second position” term, Tyler Labine (Invasion, Reaper, Sons of Tuscon, Mad Love…) can probably teach a college course on the topic.

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But moving to the matters immediately at hand: TVLine has learned that Wayans will still appear in the New Girl pilot, which was shot this spring and has received some of the strongest buzz from the new crop of shows. “Coach” will then promptly move out of the three guys-and-a-girl living arrangement, to be replaced by a new roommate. Jake Johnson (No Strings Attached) and Max Greenfield (Ugly Betty) play the other apartment-dwellers.

Similarly, Nancy Travis plays a significant character in The CW’s Hart of Dixie, which was filmed prior to the actress landing the female lead, opposite Tim Allen, in ABC’s Last Man Standing. But her role won’t be recast, either; instead, a source tells us that Travis’ “Mrs. H” — a Southern fried nurse/mother figure for Rachel Bilson’s transplanted New York City doctor — will appear in the freshman drama’s first two episodes. Beyond that, the producers have yet to comment on how the character will be written out.

Interestingly, Wayans wasn’t the only Happy Endings cast member to hedge his bets by booking a pilot destined for success. Adam Pally landed in the ensemble for NBC’s Best Friends Forever, which also happens to be a rom-com series. But since that’s a midseason premiere, there is no word just yet on how Pally’s unavailability will be dealt with.

Other actors on new shows that call into question their previous jobs include Law & Order: SVU vet B.D. Wong, who has a major role on the midseason NBC drama Awake, and recurring Fringe player Kirk Acevedo, now a part of NBC’s Prime Suspect adaptation.

Says Wong, “[The SVU powers-that-be] gave me the blessing to do [the Awake pilot], which that was really nice. But I don’t really know if I cant do both or not.” Acevedo, meanwhile, told me that, especially with Fringe‘s two worlds now linked, he is contractually able to reprise his role as Alt-Charlie “for maybe three or four [episodes],” if need be.