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Minnesota native gets starring role in pilot for new ABC series

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Marshall-born actor Steve Zahn is about to wield some of his influence in a new drama for ABC.

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Zahn has been cast as one of the two leads in the pilot episode of "Influence" -- as a unmedicated bipolar sufferer who is a world-renowned expert in human behavior, psychology and motivation.

The Reporter says the series focuses on the complicated relationship between Zahn's character and his brother, who run a unique agency designed to tackle their clients' problems "using the real science of human motivation and manipulation."

Deadline Hollywood describes the brother character as a "slick ex-con," but Zahn's character also has a provocative back story: he used to be a professor until his career fell apart after the university he was working for discovered he was having an affair with a 22-year-old undergraduate.

The 45-year-old Zahn's most recent gigs include the HBO series "Treme," and a voice role opposite William Shatner and others in the new animated sci-fi adventure "Escape From Planet Earth."

Zahn's big-screen breakthrough role came in 1994 in the Ben Stiller comedy "Reality Bites," and in 1996, he starred as one of four band members in the Tom Hanks' music-flavored comedy "That Thing You Do!"

The actor, who graduated from high school in New Hope, has since gone on to star in such films as "You've Got Mail," "Saving Silverman," "Sahara," "Rescue Dawn" and the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series.

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