By Ken Guidry | The Playlist February 20, 2014 at 5:41PM
Fox Television has managed to find a great deal of success with a couple of their new shows this past year. “Sleepy Hollow” has been a solid hit, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” recently won two Golden Globes, and even “Almost Human” has been scoring some solid ratings (though a possible second season is still up in the air). Now, Fox hopes to keep the ball rolling by ordering three new TV pilots with notable stars attached to each one.
First, there’s “Empire,” a hip-hop family drama that centers on a rap superstar who plans to make his entertainment empire go public. Having been raised on the streets, the hip hop mogul will do all he can to fight for his company, even if it means breaking the rules. Terrence Howard has signed on to play the lead role and the pilot will be made by the team that brought you “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” Danny Strong is set to pen the script and Lee Daniels will direct, and they will also be executive producers alongside Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer. Terrence Howard will be on familiar ground, earning an Oscar nomination for his turn as a rapper in “Hustle & Flow” back in 2005. [Deadline]
Jada Pinkett Smith’s career may have quieted down in recent years, but it looks like she’ll be making a return to television pretty soon. She’s attached to star alongside Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue in “Gotham,” which is said to be a Batman prequel (oh boy). The show already has a series commitment and will explore a young Commissioner Gordon, played by McKenzie, who plays a rookie detective. Of course, we’ll also see Bruce Wayne along with many of Gotham’s villains throughout the course of the program. Jada Pinkett Smith will play Fish Mooney, a sadistic gangster boss and nightclub owner who is not one to be crossed. With a “badass” name like Fish Mooney, who would cross her? [Deadline]
“Red Band Society,” another upcoming Fox TV drama, will star Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer. The drama is based on the Spanish series “Polseres Vermelles” and will explore the lives of a group of teenagers who live in a hospital and become unlikely friends. Octavia Spencer plays Nurse Jackson, an excellent nurse who works in pediatrics and “does not take crap from anyone.” The show will be written by Margaret Nagle and will see relative newcomers like Charlie Rowe, Rebecca Rittenhouse, and Zoe Levin join the cast. [Deadline]
Lastly, in non-Fox-related news, there have been a few casting additions to the PBS/ITV drama “Downton Abbey” that should perk some people’s interest. Richard E. Grant (“Gosford Park,” “Doctor Who,” “Withnail and I”) will appear in the show’s fifth season alongside Anna Chancellor (“The Hour”) and Rade Sherbedzija (“Eyes Wide Shut”). Grant is set to play Simon Bricker, who visits Downton Abbey as the guest of the Granthams. Meanwhile, Harriet Walter and Peter Egan are supposed to reprise their roles as Lady Shackleton and Lord Flintshire, respectively. Season five of “Downton Abbey” will premiere in the UK later this year. [Variety]