James Purefoy in 'Rome'

James Purefoy (right) in 'Rome'

Three months after NBC announced its place on next season's schedule, "The Philanthropist" may finally have found its star.

James Purefoy, who played Mark Antony on HBO's "Rome," is in negotiations to take the lead role on the series, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He'll play a billionaire who uses his money and connections to go around the law and help people who badly need it.

"The Philanthropist," which is scheduled for midseason on NBC, has taken a long and circuitous road even before shooting a usable frame of film.

The network announced last fall that it was ordering the show straight to series, with Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson ("Oz," "Homicide") attached to write and direct the first episode. Then in April, a few weeks after NBC announced its 2008-09 schedule, Fontana and Levinson left the series; they reportedly had a darker, more issue-oriented take on the show than NBC wanted.

"Battlestar Galactica" executive producer David Eick came on board as showrunner in May, charged with lightening up the show a little bit. Meanwhile NBC and producer Universal Media Studios continued the search for a lead actor.

In addition to "Rome," Purefoy's credits include "Vanity Fair," "A Knight's Tale" and "Resident Evil."