TV Article

'What About' J.J. Abrams' new show

Behind the scenes of ''What About Brian'' -- Working overtime on the new J.J. Abrams dramedy

It's early March and the cast of J.J. Abrams' new ABC dramedy, What About Brian, are working overtime, thanks to reshoots with a new actress (Everwood's Sarah Lancaster) who stepped in at the last minute to play a corner of the show's love triangle. But the real problem on set today is Tom Cruise, who is roaming around the soundstage, visiting his Mission: Impossible III director, Abrams. As most of the cast gape at the movie star, only Lancaster stays away — but not because she's playing it cool. ''I just want to keep him as this perfect being,'' she murmurs dreamily.

Alas, this is a story about the project Abrams is shepherding, not Cruise. And the show — which premieres April 16 at 10 p.m. — ventures away from Alias and Lost and into old-school Abrams territory: a perennially single titular character (7th Heaven's Barry Watson) surrounded by hitched friends. It could be sold as the male Felicity. ''I wanted to write about marriage, but I felt like the single guy was the perfect foil,'' says creator Dana Stevens (City of Angels), whom Abrams hails for her ''very distinct'' POV. Casting Brian was a challenge (''He has to be romantic, funny, sympathetic but he can't be a nerd,'' Stevens says), and Watson is thrilled to land a part he says leaves plenty of room for growth. ''I was this guy five years ago.... We'll see what happens if we can get this show going.'' Wait: if? ''You never know. They could cut us off in a second for the stupidest reason.'' Sheesh. Tom Cruise needs to teach that guy about optimism.

Originally posted Apr 14, 2006 Published in issue #873 Apr 21, 2006 Order article reprints
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