In Rebel, ABC/ Disney Television Studios’ freshman drama that was canceled Friday, we revisit a new version of a woman we’ve seen on screen before: Erin Brockovich. Starring Katey Sagal as Annie ‘Rebel’ Bello—a character loosely based on who Brockovich is today—the show follows the renegade underdog advocate as she negotiates the takedown of all things corrupt.
Creator, EP and showrunner Krista Vernoff explained during Deadline’s Contenders Television awards-season event that the genesis of the series began with a first meeting with Brockovich. “I got a call to meet Erin Brockovich and I ran as fast as I could to my car,” she said. “We talked for two and-a-half hours without taking a breath, and I left and I knew what the show was and I had to write it.”
For Sagal, her enjoyment of the character of Rebel began with Vernoff’s “amazing” script. “Krista wrote a great, well-rounded, flawed, family-oriented, social justice worker; this incredibly well-rounded character that I just so related to.”
Rebel’s employer on the show is Julian Cruz, a recently bereaved lawyer played by Andy Garcia. The actor discussed how he brought some of his own history to the role. “The character was not written as a Cuban man,” he said, “but Krista and I talked about that, and that was a thing that really attracted me to all of this, aside from Krista herself and the quality of the writing and of course Katey, I’m such a fan.”
Tamala Jones said she loves playing her character of Lana, an investigator working with Rebel, with addiction in her past. “She is definitely a woman with a lot of layers to herself,” Jones said. “She also has her addiction issues that she is still working through, and she has a niece with the same issues, and she’s trying to make sure she doesn’t relapse.”
Jones also credited Vernoff for a specific bonding method she used during quarantine. “Krista did an amazing job with helping develop that character in the beginning. I love that during that downtime in quarantine she reached out to all of us individually and interviewed us about our personal lives and what we wanted to possibly do with each character, where we wanted to go. We blended that, and when we started to work together it was magical.”
Check out the conversation in the video above.