DESPERATELY SEEKING JOANNA COLES: Cosmopolitan is the latest glossy to get the Hollywood treatment, with NBC readying a single-camera comedy about a failed political blogger who becomes the magazine’s new sex editor (which is a whole lot more amusing than the sex editor becoming a political blogger, but who knows?)
It’s still early days for the unnamed show, which will be penned by Leslye Headland and produced by Universal Television, The District and Cosmopolitan’s director of editorial brand strategy Holly Whidden and her boss, editor in chief Joanna Coles.
“Life behind the masthead” is hardly a new trope for Hollywood (see: “The Devil Wears Prada,” “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “Thirteen Going on Thirty,” “Ugly Betty,” etc.), so the key to success for Cosmo’s new pet project may lie in some savvy casting if it wants to make it to the small screen — and become a must-view on Netflix and Hulu.
A few names of actresses to play Coles immediately come to mind — Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett and Emma Thompson all fit the bill as lithe Brits (OK, Blanchett is Australian but that WAS once a British colony) with blonde crops. But while TV may be a career-booster for many, as Academy Award winners and nominees, their plates may be a bit too full (and their paychecks a little too demanding) for an NBC comedy.
So in lieu of posting a formal casting call, WWD did the next best thing: put a recent picture of Coles into an online celebrity look-alike generator. Some suggestions were immediately discarded for obvious reasons (and, Joanna, we apologize in advance and stress these were NOT our choices): Jason Statham (a nice East London accent); Anthony Hopkins (pre- and post-“Silence of the Lambs”); Bruce Willis (“Pulp Fiction” does have a nice symmetry, though); Margaret Thatcher (the late Iron Lady), and Meryl Streep (aka Margaret Thatcher).
Not exactly a list to boost the confidence in the celebrity generator’s accuracy. Still, a few options had potential.
Jennie Garth is no stranger to the dramatics or big-city zip codes. Should they choose to slant younger — again, no offense to Coles — Evan Rachel Wood has the winning trifecta: previous TV experience, a blonde pixie-cut and believable British accent. And there’s always Katherine Heigl. Sure, “State of Affairs,” her new politically-driven series, has yet to premiere, but given its initial reviews and Heigl’s personal track record, it’s probably only a matter of time before she’s looking for a new job. Or NBC could cast an actual Brit, who some have suggested Coles herself is playing in real life: Jennifer Saunders of “Absolutely Fabulous.”
Coles’ entourage — her public relations partner-in-crime Whidden and her executive assistant Sergio Kletnoy — are also said to be potential characters in the show. Whidden could be played by Michelle Williams, who, in turn, could also play Coles — after all, Hearst is all about cost-savings — while Eminem could be cast to play the tatted-up Kletnoy.
As for the starring role of the politico-turned-sex blogger — to quote the project’s most successful predecessor, “a million girls would kill for that job,” — WWD’s suggestions: Kate Mara or Allison Pill. Both have mastered roles as political reporters in recent years (“House of Cards” and “The Newsroom,” respectively). Voilà, art imitates reality — at least, as much as Hollywood will allow it.