- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Paquin joins HBO

Oscar-winning actress Anna Paquin is making her first foray into series television, Reuters news agency reports.

Miss Paquin will play the lead in “True Blood,” an HBO drama pilot written by Alan Ball, creator of another HBO drama, the critically acclaimed “Six Feet Under.” Mr. Ball, who also wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning film “American Beauty,” plans to direct and executive produce the new series.

“True Blood” is based on the “Southern Vampire” book series by Charlaine Harris in which vampires can buy Japanese-made synthetic blood. The creatures’ integration into a small Louisiana town causes a stir, and a love story ensues between a vampire and Sookie Stackhouse (Miss Paquin), an innocent waitress who can read other people’s minds.

Miss Paquin became the second-youngest Oscar winner in history when she won the Academy Award for best supporting actress at the age of 11 for 1993’s “The Piano.” (Tatum O’Neal was 10 when she won best supporting actress for 1973’s “Paper Moon.”) Miss Paquin has since has appeared in more than 20 films, including “X-Men,” “The Squid and the Whale” and “Amistad.”

‘Matrix’ star on TV

Moving on to another notable casting move, Reuters also reports that actress Carrie-Anne Moss has signed on to star in ABC’s drama pilot “Suspect.”

The “Matrix” star will play a police lieutenant who’s tough on the outside but warm on the inside. The fast-paced procedural drama will uncover the villain by tracing the suspects in a lineup.

The pilot will be directed by Guy Ritchie, who directed the feature films “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch” and is married to Madonna.

Leaving ‘Las Vegas’

While those thespians are joining new series, two others are exiting prime time.

“Las Vegas,” NBC’s casino drama, will return for a fifth season this fall without two of its stars, James Caan and Nikki Cox, Reuters reports.

Mr. Caan, an Oscar nominee for playing Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather,” wants to return to the big screen. “Las Vegas,” in which he played a casino’s surveillance boss for four years, was his first foray into series television. He said he gave up film opportunities because of the show’s schedule. In a 2005 Playboy interview, he was critical of the show, saying he never watched it and it sometimes strained credibility.

Miss Cox’s exit is said to stem from budget cuts. The actress, who played a casino hostess, said she was “very sad and shocked” by her pink slip. She recently married comedian Jay Mohr.

“Las Vegas” has moved from Mondays to Fridays, where viewership levels are lower. With 9 million viewers, however, it’s still the top program in the 9 p.m. Friday slot among adults 18 to 49.

Improv comes to NBC

NBC will preview its comedy improv show, “Thank God You’re Here,” April 9 and 16 at 9 p.m., replacing “Heroes” on both nights, MediaWeek.com reports.

Following those broadcasts, the series moves into its regular slot on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. beginning April 18. The comedy takes over the time slot held by “Friday Night Lights,” which will have ended its 22-episode run on April 11.

Produced by FremantleMedia N.A., “Thank God You’re Here” is based on an Australian format that features various celebs in improv sketches. Among the stars set to appear are Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard, Fran Drescher, Mo’Nique and Jason Alexander.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance and Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.

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