The lead roles in Riverworld and The Phantom—two of SCI FI Channel and RHI Entertainment's recently announced trio of four-hour movie events—have been cast and production on both back-door movie pilots began on Monday in Canada.
Penikett (Battlestar Galactica, Dollhouse) and Laura Vandervoort (Smallville) star in Riverworld, which is based on the popular award-winning series of novels by Philip Jose Farmer.
Ryan Carnes (Desperate Housewives, Doctor Who) has been cast in title role of The Phantom and as his alter ego, Chris Walker, in the re-imagined version of the classic comic strip, which has been updated to the present day.
Penikett plays Matt Ellman, an American war reporter who has witnessed the worst of humanity first-hand, yet still retains an optimistic spirit. When a suicide bomber kills both Matt and his fiancee, Jessie, played by Vandervoort, they awaken, separated, in a mysterious world where everyone who has ever lived on Earth, seems to have been "reborn" along the banks of a seemingly endless river.
Determined to locate Jessie, Matt joins forces with a 13th century female samurai warrior named Tomoe (Jeananne Goossen) and American novelist Sam "Mark Twain" Clemens (Mark Deklin).
Together they sail upriver in search of its source and to discover where they are and who put them there. Alan Cumming (Tin Man) guest-stars as the mysterious Caretaker.
Riverworld is set to air in 2010 and is produced by Reunion Pictures; it is shooting in Vancouver.
In The Phantom, Isabella Rossellini guest-stars as the villainous Lithia, the head of an experimental mind-control program. Also starring are Cameron Goodman as Chris Walker's love interest, Renny, and Sandrine Holt (24) as the Phantom's trusted advisor, Guran.
A favorite costumed hero for more than six decades, the Phantom relies on his wits, physical strength and skill with weapons over superhuman powers.
Production began in Montreal under director Paolo Barzman (The Last Templar). The Phantom is slated to air in 2010 and is produced by Muse Entertainment. RHI will distribute internationally.