Rap diva Eve hip-hops to UPN

March 25 HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - UPN has greenlit a comedy pilot starring hip-hop diva Eve, while actor Joe Mantegna (news) has been cast in the CBS drama project "Joan of Arcadia."

Should her project make it onto prime time as a UPN series, Eve would join a long string of urban music stars who moved into television at the height of their careers to headline a half-hour sitcom.

Past examples include Will Smith("Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"), Queen Latifah ("Living Single"), LL Cool J ("In the House") and Brandy ("Moesha").

The Eve project would star the rapper as a fashion designer on the lookout for love. Like her character, in real life Eve is about to launch her own fashion line, called Fetish.

Eve recently appeared in the feature "Barbershop." She shared a Grammy with No Doubt's Gwen Stefani for their song "Let Me Blow Your Mind" and has released two platinum albums.

Executive producer David Janollari, who developed "Living Single" while at Warner Bros. TV, said he saw similarities between Queen Latifah and Eve.

"Queen Latifah stepped onto that stage and we never looked back -- she was a terrific actress," he said. "We have the same feeling about Eve for this project. Eve's a natural to come to TV. Her persona and her fan base (are) absolutely perfect for UPN."

As for CBS' "Joan of Arcadia," with Mantegna attached, Sony Pictures Television is now onboard as a producer alongside CBS Prods.

Given its deal with creator Barbara Hall ("Judging Amy"), 20th Century Fox TV originally was set to co-produce "Joan of Arcadia." But studio insiders said 20th execs didn't think the show would sell well internationally and its commercial prospects didn't justify deficit-financing the show.

But CBS believed in the script and proceeded anyway, bringing Sony onboard. Mantegna will play the father in "Joan of Arcadia," which revolves around a contemporary Joan of Arc who sees God in a different form each week.

Mantegna recently starred in the CBS drama "First Monday" as well as the HBO telepic "The Rat Pack."

Also, Fox's untitled comedy/drama pilot from Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein has added cast members. Joining the project (formerly known as "Splitsville") are Christopher Gartin ("Johns"), Heather Stephens ("Men, Women and Dogs") and Katherine Towne ("Mulholland Drive").

(Melissa Grego contributed to this report.)