By Luis Gomez
10:20 AM CST, March 4, 2013
What do Steve Zahn, the actor who played Elliott in 1982's "E.T.," the telepathic police officer from NBC's "Heroes" and Lieutenant Eli Roosevelt from FX's "Sons of Anarchy" all have in common?
They're all scheduled to film TV pilots for ABC in the Chicago area this month.
As the Tribune recently reported, pilots "Influence," "Betrayal" and "Doubt" will film here, and now the casting picture is beginning to fill in. Zahn ("Sahara") will play a genius who runs a problem-solving agency with his ex-con brother in "Influence." Henry Thomas ("E.T.") will play a character with slight brain damage in "Betrayal," which revolves around a woman who has an affair with a defense attorney who ends up facing off against her prosecutor husband in a murder trial. The cop-turned-lawyer drama "Doubt" — from "House" creator David Shore — will feature Greg Grunberg ("Heroes") as the protagonist's brother and office receptionist, and Rockmond Dunbar ("Sons of Anarchy") as his former partner on the force.
And if you're wondering what happened to the Denis Leary-produced "Sirens" for USA Network that filmed in Chicago last fall, it's expected to briefly re-shoot here this month. The EMT-focused comedy features a relatively unknown cast, including Kevin Daniels, who you may know for his recurring role as Cameron and Mitchell's friend Longinus on ABC's "Modern Family."
Before you get your hopes up about seeing more Chicago-based shows filming in the city and airing on TV, it should be noted that there's no guarantee all four shows, if any, will be picked up. Pilots with much bigger stars attached to them have been passed over every year during the networks' annual upfronts in May.
(Remember "Firsts," the comedy pilot Vince Vaughn produced and directed in the Chicago area for Fox in 2010 about two recent college grads who moved from the suburbs to the city for the first time? Neither do most people, because it never saw the light of day.)
The good news is that TV pilots continue to want to film in the Chicago area. As Illinois Film Office director Betsy Steinberg put it, there are a healthy number of pilots filming here this year — fewer than some years (the Chicago area hosted six pilots in 2010, including Showtime's "Shameless," Fox's now-canceled "The Chicago Code" and "Firsts") but more than others.
Speaking of "Shameless," the Emmy Rossum and William H. Macy dramedy was picked up for a fourth season and will return this year to film exterior scenes. Typically these scenes have been shot in the North Lawndale neighborhood. NBC has yet to officially announce if "Chicago Fire" — starring Taylor Kinney and Jesse Spencer — will be back for a second season.
Help wanted: If you missed the casting call for "America's Got Talent" but are still interested in showing off your talent in front of judges Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, Mel B. and, Deadline.com and TMZ reported Sunday, the newly signed Heidi Klum when the NBC reality competition tapes May 8-10 at the Akoo Theatre in Rosemont, you can submit your online audition at agtauditions.com. The competition is open to all ages.
About this week: Mary-Louise Parker ("Weeds") will be honored Monday at the 4th annual Steppenwolf Salutes Women in the Arts fundraising luncheon at the JW Marriott Chicago. … Art Smith ("Top Chef Masters") and Gail Simmons ("Top Chef Just Desserts") will co-host the 7th annual Common Threads World Festival Monday at Soldier Field's United Club. … According to Silver Cloud Bar & Grill's Facebook page, Food Network's "Sandwich King" will film Tuesday at the Bucktown restaurant.
Sightings: First Lady Michelle Obama dined Wednesday at RPM Italian with a friend while in Chicago to launch her new health and fitness initiative. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who also took part in Thursday's launch at McCormick Place, dined at Mastro's Steakhouse Wednesday, as did, separately, NBA legend Magic Johnson, who spoke at New Life Covenant Church on West North Avenue Thursday. … The now-50-year-old Michael Jordan had lunch at Michael Jordan's Steakhouse Feb. 25 and, according to a restaurant spokesperson, bought a bottle of champagne for a newly engaged couple dining at the restaurant. … Following his triple-double against the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday, the Bulls' Joakim Noah enjoyed a belated birthday celebration at Board Room with teammates, including Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler. Rapper/actor Common and singer Howie Day were also on hand, separately.
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