Rookie takes lead in Fox sci-fi comedy

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Fox is boldly going with a newcomer as the lead of one of its hottest comedy pilots.

After his first studio and network test, Ben Koldyke has landed the central role in “Boldly Going Nowhere,” which also has tapped “Arrested Development” alumnus Tony Hale.

The comedy depicts life on a spaceship helmed by a rogue captain (Koldyke). Hale, who played professional student Byron “Buster” Bluth on “Arrested Development,” has come aboard as the ship’s robot, who thinks he’s superior to the human race.

The project comedy from Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton, the stars and creators of the FX comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Koldyke’s casting stems from a chance meeting two years ago at the Rose Cafe in Venice, Calif., where McElhenney regularly had breakfast.

That day, instead of the check, McElhenney was given an anonymous note -- “Hey, man, I think your show is fantastic” -- by someone who had picked up his tab and left.

A few days later, a waiter pointed out the mysterious benefactor to McElhenney, and McElhenney in turn covered his check. The man, Koldyke, introduced himself, and the two became friends.

Koldyke, who had been getting by doing bit parts in such movies as “Stuck on You” and “Thirteen Days,” impressed McElhenney with his online short, “Osama Bin Laden: Behind the Madness,” which he wrote, directed and starred in.

But several attempts to land a writing job on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” fell through, a script he penned for ABC didn’t get picked up and his acting career was going nowhere.

In December, Koldyke packed his bags to go back to Chicago, where he was planning to return to his early career as a high school English teacher. But his acting coach talked him into giving it two more years. So he went back to acting classes and did one more digital short, “Jedi Gym,” which put him back on McElhenney, Day and Howerton’s radar.

He met with them for a writer-director job on “Boldly” and, talking about his vision for the project, he read a few lines from the script.

At that moment, McElhenney, Day and Howerton suggested he should try out for the lead. “You have to find a star for that,” he replied. “To say I was a long shot was an understatement.”

But against all odds, Koldyke made it through.

“He came in and nailed it,” McElhenney said. “From Day 1, he was the guy to beat.”

With “Boldly,” TV history repeats itself as McElhenney also cast virtual unknowns -- himself and buddies Day and Howerton -- as the leads in “Philadelphia.” But that wasn’t intentional.

“We love the idea of finding talented people out there,” McElhenney said. “The fact that Ben is unknown is great but irrelevant. We wanted the best guy for the lead and he was it.”

Koldyke landed the role without having an agent or a manager but won’t stay without a rep for long.

“For a guy who couldn’t get his phone call answered, my cell is ringing nonstop, the battery is dying,” said Koldyke, who still can’t get used to his status as a true Hollywood story.

“I didn’t think they actually happen,” he said.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter