Erin Brockovich-Inspired ‘Rebel’ on ABC April 8

Rebel on ABC
(Image credit: ABC)

Rebel, a legal drama inspired by the life of Erin Brockovich, premieres on ABC April 8. Annie “Rebel” Bello is a legal advocate without a law degree. ABC describes her as a “funny, messy, brilliant and fearless woman who cares desperately for the causes she fights for and the people she loves.”

Katey Sagal plays Rebel. Andy Garcia, John Corbett and James Lesure are also in the cast. 

Brockovich executive produces along with Krista Vernoff. Vernoff is the showrunner, as she is on Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19. In other words, Vernoff runs the show on everything in ABC’s Thursday prime. 

Vernoff said Rebel is about fighting injustice in unconventional ways. “One of the themes of Rebel is sort of breaking rules and breaking with expectations in service of the greater cause,” she said during the TCA press tour. 

Steven Soderbergh made the movie Erin Brockovich in 2000, with Julia Roberts in the title role. 

There are some big names in the series cast, and Vernoff said all the pieces fell into place when it came to casting. “As I was writing this pilot, you have prototype actors in mind,” she said. “You're picturing people. And I was picturing Katey Sagal, Andy Garcia and John Corbett as I wrote.  And then you're talking to the casting directors and you're like, ‘You know, we need an Andy Garcia. We need a John Corbett. And then it's like, we got Andy Garcia and John Corbett.” 

Garcia, who plays Cruz, has done a ton of movies, including The Godfather Part III, The Untouchables, When a Man Loves a Woman and the Ocean’s Eleven franchise. He’d never done a TV series before. Cruz represents “a very difficult character,” said Garcia. 

“That was hard to turn down because of the quality of the writing and the quality of the people that were involved,” he said. 

Sagal played Gemma on Sons of Anarchy and, going back a bit, Peggy Bundy on Married...with Children. “What I love so much about Rebel is, she can cross a few lines,” said Sagal. “She can go outside the box. She can push where maybe it wouldn't be within legal bounds. I mean, not that she's illegal, but she just pushes a little bit further.”

Vernoff said Rebel switches effortlessly between drama and comedy. “One of my favorite things about Rebel and about working with this group of people and working with Erin is that, whenever I'm on set and a director asks me, ‘Is it supposed to be this or is it supposed to be that?’ ‘Is it supposed to be funny, or is it supposed to be dramatic?’ ‘Is she supposed to be angry, or does she really love him?’  My answer is always, ‘Both’,” she said. 

“There's no binary,” added Vernoff. “There's no either/or.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.