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Friday, January 15, 2010

J.J. Abrams finds 'Undercovers' female lead

British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw to star with Boris Kodjoe

By Nellie Andreeva

J.J. Abrams has cast another ingenue as the female lead of his newest TV project.

After a lengthy search, British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw has landed the female lead opposite Boris Kodjoe on "Undercovers," Abrams' pilot for NBC.

"Undercovers," which Abrams co-wrote with Josh Reims, revolves around a domesticated husband (Kodjoe) and wife (Mbatha-Raw) who are re-activated as CIA agents after years of retirement.

Abrams also will direct, marking the first pilot he has helmed since "Lost" in 2004.

Mbatha-Raw, a graduate of London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, broke through during the summer when she was cast as Ophelia opposite Jude Law in the Donmar Warehouse production of "Hamlet," which had successful runs in London's West End and on Broadway.

The daughter of a South African doctor and an English nurse, Mbatha-Raw hasn't appeared on American TV but has done arcs on several popular British series including "Spooks" and "Doctor Who."

She is the latest discovery for Abrams, who is known for breaking new young female talent on his TV series. He cast Keri Russell on "Felicity," Jennifer Garner on "Alias," Evangeline Lilly on "Lost" and, most recently, Australian Anna Torv on "Fringe."

Although Kodjoe and Mbatha-Raw are biracial, casting on the leads for the pilot was done color-blind, producers said, as they looked for the actors who best fit the characters and had the best chemistry.