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'Renegade Nell' on Disney+: 'Derry Girls' star Louisa Harland's Nell Jackson perfectly blends wit and action

The new period drama-comedy series is one of the most thrilling, unique and fun shows to watch right now

We fell in love with Louisa Harland in Derry Girls, but now she's paired her magnificent wit with thrilling action in the new Disney+ series Renegade Nell, as Nell Jackson.

Renegade Nell release date: March 29
Where to watch Renegade Nell: Disney+
Showrunner: Sally Wainwright
Directors: Ben Taylor, Amanda Brotchie, M.J. Delaney
Cast: Louisa Harland, Nick Mohammed, Bo Bragason, Jake Dunn, Alice Kremelberg, Enyi Okoronkwo, Frank Dillane, Joely Richardson, Adrian Lester
Number of episodes: 8

Watch Renegade Nell on Disney+, plans start at $7.99/month

$8 at Disney+

What is 'Renegade Nell' about?

Set in 1705 England, Nell (Harland) was believed to be dead, but returns home with a special abilities, given to her by a magical sprite Billy Blind (Nick Mohammed). When Nell is in trouble, Billy gives her supernatural powers to fight any foe.

But this unexpected reunion quickly turns sour after she gets in a fight with Thomas Blancheford (Jake Dunn), the son of the town's Lord Blancheford (Pip Torrens), and Nell is framed for a murder she didn't commit.

Having to leave home quickly with her sisters Roxy (Bo Bragason) and George (Florence Keen), they're joined by Rasselas (Enyi Okoronkwo), who works for the Blancheford family, but believes Nell is innocent. He also has a particular interest in getting to know Roxy.

They all set off into the woods, hoping they can find a path to safety, and some way to clear Nell's name.

Meanwhile the Blancheford siblings, Thomas and his sister Sofia (Alice Kremelberg), are on their tail, with the assistance of the Earl of Poynton (Adrian Lester), who has a more sinister plan for the Blancheford siblings to execute.

Louisa Harland as Nell Jackson in Disney's Renegade Nell, Season 1, exclusively on Disney+ (Rekha Garton/Disney)
Louisa Harland as Nell Jackson in Disney's Renegade Nell, Season 1, exclusively on Disney+ (Rekha Garton/Disney)

'You've got to grab them quickly, and then not let them go'

What's quickly impressive about Renegade Nell is that it will grab your attention just from the cold open alone.

The series begins with an example of exactly how powerful Nell is, when she's confronted by highwayman Charles Devereux (Frank Dillane), who eventually ends up joining Nell in her journey.

It's a really unique way start to a series, and exemplifies all the action and fun and smart banter that's to come in the rest of the show.

"The cold open in Episode 1 was a real gift, because it meant we could just come out at full speed and we didn't have to rely on dialogue to set up who this person was, it was all action first, which I think is sort of, in hindsight, the only way to introduce a character like Nell," director Ben Taylor told Yahoo Canada. "I think it occupied, especially my mind, a lot where it's like, 'Oh god, we have to do something big, distinct and unique to the show.'"

"It's that fear now with working with streamers, you've got to grab them quickly, and then not let them go. I think some people are scared of that approach, but I think if you can do something that starts with a bang, you stand the best chance of getting them."

Taylor also highlighted that they got to establish their own set of rules for the powers Nell gets from Billy.

"We got to make up our rules of what the superhero was," he said. "So we knew she had powers imbued by Billy Blind, but Sally [Wainwright] hadn't set out she can do this, but she can't do this. We knew she couldn't fly, but sort of everything else was was up for grabs."

Joely Richardson as Lady Eularia Moggerhangar in Disney's RENEGADE NELL, Season 1, exclusively on Disney+ (Photo by Robert Viglasky/Disney)
Joely Richardson as Lady Eularia Moggerhangar in Disney's RENEGADE NELL, Season 1, exclusively on Disney+ (Photo by Robert Viglasky/Disney)

'Fabulous to access someone with zero sensitivity towards anyone else'

But there is a pattern in Renegade Nell that most characters are introduced to the audience with a "bang," including beloved actor Joely Richardson who plays Lady Eularia Moggerhangar, who we discover later in the season has a personal relationship with Charles Devereux. And an interesting nugget of information, Richardson famously starred alongside Frank Dillane's father, Stephen Dillane, in the 1991 series Heading Home.

Richardson shows up on screen wearing an impressively detailed, lavish costume, and one of her first lines in the series is, "Most people stand up when I enter a room." It's a perfectly punchy introduction to a character.

"It was really, really fun, because I don't usually play characters like that," Richardson said. "So it was wonderful and it released some crazy alter ego that was fabulous to access someone with zero sensitivity towards anyone else, because I think I'm naturally quite a sensitive person, so it was very freeing."

(L-R): Frank Dillane as Isambard Tulley and Joely Richardson as Lady Eularia Moggerhangar in Disney's RENEGADE NELL, Season 1, exclusively on Disney+ (Rekha Garton/Disney)
(L-R): Frank Dillane as Isambard Tulley and Joely Richardson as Lady Eularia Moggerhangar in Disney's RENEGADE NELL, Season 1, exclusively on Disney+ (Rekha Garton/Disney)

There's also a brilliant dynamic between Richardson and Dillane's characters in Renegade Nell that's just infectious to watch, an absolute highlight.

"Our character dynamic, I'm obviously very subservient to her and so I tried to bring that as much into the personal relationship as well, and I felt that Joely really occupied the sort of dominatrix aspect of the relationship quite well really," Dillane said. "I loved working with [Joely], I really did, when you came in you brought so much energy and so much life to it."

"She is bossy and she's controlling, but then he's so slippery and I think it worked really well," Richardson added.

(L-R): ÉnyÌ Okoronkwo as Rasselas and Louisa Harland as Nell Jackson in Disney's RENEGADE NELL, Season 1, exclusively on Disney+ (Robert Viglasky/Disney)
(L-R): ÉnyÌ Okoronkwo as Rasselas and Louisa Harland as Nell Jackson in Disney's RENEGADE NELL, Season 1, exclusively on Disney+ (Robert Viglasky/Disney)

'It was that element of holding all the colours of a person'

The impressive introductions also extended to Enyi Okoronkwo's Rasselas, and it's something that particularly appealed to the actor about the project.

"I think it is a little bit trepidatious when you first hear that you are auditioning to play a slave, and you go, 'OK what type of thing is this?' And then you see the first scene that I did was playing some sort of ventriloquist game, throw my voice with a horse, and I was like, yeah I can get behind this," Okoronkwo said. "It was that element of holding all the colours of a person, and having that sort of situation and journey with a lot of lightness and joy."

Watch Renegade Nell on Disney+, plans start at $7.99/month

$8 at Disney+

Okoronkwo added that the ability for Renegade Nell to check all the boxes, action and comedy, with brilliantly unique characters, all comes down to showrunner Sally Wainwright.

"I think Sally Wainwright is the key to that and the writing is the key to that," Okoronkwo said. "Period dramas, I think, you can hold them in a bit too much reverence sometimes and get caught up in the etiquette, and everything is almost like the paintings that we see, we want to put them together and make them like that."

"Whereas Sally can find her way into that sort of dialogue by treating every single character as a human being. And I do think that's the key to what makes it stand out."

"Wit is the operative word and to get that word is sometimes really tricky, and I've seen the first two episodes and I was like, 'They got it,'" Richardson added. "It's funny. It's witty."