Comic Book Casting: The CHEW TV Series

Since it’s debut in 2009, the Image series Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory  has become a stand-out book in American comics for taking a new direction in comics: food. While Chew isn’t the first comic to feature food, it’s the first to use it as the avenue for a government agent to track down criminals.  You see, FDA Agent Tony Chu is a cibopath; he learns the history of any food he eats, psychically. Be that fish, fowl, or anything else he can fit into his mouth.

Last year at San Diego Comic-Con, it was announced that a Chew TV series was in the works via Circle of Confusion, the same production company that ushered The Walking Dead to TV. And earlier this year, it was cemented when Showtime revealed it was fashioning the comic series to be a half-hour series. Since then nothing has come out, but everyone from fans to the creators themselves have speculated on how – and who – a Chew TV series could contain. Instead of nibbling, let’s go in whole hog and figure out who we’d like to see in those roles.

The Concept:

The concept doesn’t need much tinkering to fit within the mold of a TV series. FDA agent with food-telepathy trying to track down people who traffic chicken, which has been banned after a catastrophic bird flu outbreak. The underground poultry market is more than one-dimensional thing: everything from imitation poultry to cockfighting and even outer space become the purvey of Tony Chu.

Doing this as a half-hour comedy series might seem like a gourmet-size meal fitting into a fast food container, but if you really understand the Chew comic you can see how producers could do a serialized story with standalone episodes akin to Bored To Death and other recent cable-TV comedies. It’s like Dexter on the Food Network.

The Creative Mastermind:

Showtime already has a pilot script by two Eureka alums and a pilot director with Stephen Hopkins (Californication, 24), but they’ve yet to announce someone to guide the series in an overall perspective the way Frank Darabont did for The Walking Dead. For this I’d enlist screenwriter Bryan Fuller, co-creator of Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies. His quirky but rock-solid storytelling would be an ideal match for Chew, especially at a cable network like Showtime which also showed Dead Like Me. Hammond’s also between shows, so could be brought in easily – for the right price.

The Cast:

Tony Chu – Ken Leung: A no-brainer. Everyone from fans to co-creator John Layman has said Lost’s Leung would be a perfect fit for the central cibopath for Chew. He has the right mix of comedy, theatrics and seriousness to anchor a series – plus he’s done comics-to-film adaptations before, working on X-Men: The Last Stand.

Mason Savoy – John Rhys Davies: Bringing a real seriousness to the film, Indiana Jones’ Sallah could be an awesome presence to a Chew TV series. Some might say he’s “too big” for television, but remember he played a key role in the Sliders series in the late 90s, and has an impressive (albeit under-rated) string of comic-to-film roles from playing Wilson Fisk in the 80s Hulk series to voicing Thor for both the 90s Fantastic Four and Incredible Hulk TV series.

John Colby – Brian Van Holt: To play Tony’s original police partner, I’d cast Cougar Town’s Brian Van Holt, but better known (to me at least) as Butchie Yost from John From Cincinnati. The former model has played everything from surfer to biker and even a cop a couple times, and he could really play well off Ken Leung – perhaps even better than Lost’s Josh Holloway.

Mike Applebee – Michael McKean: The overbearing FDA superior could be played with aplomb by actor/comedian Michael McKean of Spinal Tap and Christopher Guest’s movies fame. Once you envision McKean as this mean-spirited paper pusher, you can’t unsee it.

Amelia Mintz – Emilie Ullerup: Rounding out the cast and livening up Tony’s life, I’d cast Danish actress Emilie Ullerup. Comics fans might know her best for her role as (the first) Catherine Grant on Smallville or perhaps in her role as Ashley Magnus in Sanctuary, but I’m making my pick for her based on her work for jPod, the little-known TV adaptation of Douglas’ Copeland’s novel made by CBC back in 2008. She can be beautiful and she can act, but most importantly she can be funny.


  1. Parri (@pazzatron) says:

    I would watch the shit out of a Chew TV series.
    I love McKean for Applebee

  2. John Rhys Davies as Savoy is pretty damned brilliant.

  3. I always thought Graham Linehan would be a good choice to make the show

  4. Brian Blessed as Savoy!

  5. So dead on, and then dragging Cat Grant into things? Uhm… ok… alternative… Kristin Chenoweth?

  6. I always see Colin Hanks in my head when I read Tony Chu.

  7. Nitpick…That pic is NOT the chick who played Cat Grant on Smallville. I’m not in the mood to go to IMDB to sight it. Agree with everyone else on the list.

  8. Wow! Now that’s a cast I could get behind.

    The only problem I have with this turning into a TV show is that you are going to lose a lot of the magic that Rob Guillory brings into each issue. Translating the overall story shouldn’t be a problem; but I doubt it will be visually appealing or have tons of background jokes as the comic does. It really is the art that makes the book what it is today even if John Layman writes a perfect issue each month.

  9. Another great one Chris!

    I can only picture Josh Holloway as Colby.

    and for a showrunner, or at least a director, I think Pamela Fryman’s style would suit this show well. How I met Your mother has a very similar stucture that Fryman uses well.

  10. yes, yes, and yes…

    Great group.. wish it would happen that way..

  11. Layman told me (at a bar, so possibly unreliable) he wants Holloway as Colby and John Goodman as Savoy; however, Davies would be much better with that stilted dialogue.

  12. Ken Leung is the only choice for Tony Chu. Here’s hoping the studio sees that.

  13. Knowing Hollywood, I can say with pretty much certainty that it will be a white guy playing the lead character.

  14. I always pictured John Cho (from Harold and Kumar) as Tony, but now I’m leaning towards Ken after watching some of his stuff online.

  15. This is perfect. I hope to god someone makes this show. It would be spectacular!

  16. i like the ideas here, but i would opt for John Goodman as Mason

    Would dearly love to see this adapted as a film but even better as a HBO/AMC mini-series