‘Rebel’ inspired by fiery life of Erin Brockovich

Rick's Reviews

Katey Sagal stars in “Rebel,” an ABC series inspired by the life of Erin Brockovich. (Photo courtesy of ABC/Disney)

(KGET) — The world got introduced to the brash, determined, unrelenting fearless champion for justice, Erin Brockovich, in the 2000 film about her life starring Julia Roberts. Her story showed how a blue-collar legal advocate without a law degree could cause big problems for major corporations.

That film looked at her early years. Brockovich is now 60 years old and has seen a lot happen during the two decades since the movie was released. Her story continues to be told as Brockovich’s more recent battles serve as the inspiration for the new ABC drama, “Rebel,” starring Katey Sagal (“The Connors”).

The series, scheduled to launch at 10 p.m. April 8, has Sagal playing Annie “Rebel” Bello, a champion for those who are fighting losing battles with large companies. When Rebel applies herself to a fight she believes in, she will win at almost any cost.

The cast also includes Andy Garcia, John Corbett, James Lesure, Lex Scott Davis, Tamala Jones, Ariela Barer, Kevin Zegers and  Sam Palladio.

Brockovich, who is an executive producer of “Rebel,” describes the difference between the character Roberts played and the one that Sagal is portraying as an evolution of who she was in her 30s compared to who she has become today.

“I think I’m a little older now.  I’m a little wiser.  I still am just as frustrated at being underestimated or put into a box, oftentimes which results in my trying to jump out of that box however I can,” Brockovich says. “So I think it is a different character.  You know, I’m definitely, like I said, older, wiser, more evolved.

“I have different approaches, different ways that I handle it.  Can still be up in your face, but only when I’m pushed to that corner.”

The biggest difference between the early Brockovich and today’s version is that she is far more willing to step back and be just an observer when the situation calls for that. But, there are still times when she will go boldly into a conflict.

How she will react comes down to what is happening in any given moment.

“I’ve been told to watch my mouth plenty of times, but it’s passion. It’s like why do you have to respond a certain way when some of the things that you’re dealing with are just full of passion and angst and fear and upset and lies and deception,” Brockovich says. “So not always is my response calm, cool, and collected, and sometimes it’s just a reaction.

“What is going on here, and why would nobody not understand that you get upset over those kinds of issues?”

In the series opener, Rebel gets involved in a major fight with Stonemore Medical while also trying to help a woman who is dealing with an abusive boyfriend. Rebel gets support from her husband, Grady (Corbett), and numerous friends and colleagues.

Brockovich is so connected to the series that she often will visit with the writers and share her thoughts. Those conversations are then worked into the scripts. And, the same has happened with the time Brockovich and Sagal have spent together.

Sagal knew how she was going to portray Brockovich after the pair sat down to have lunch together for the first time. She saw the passion, fire and commitment Brockovich brings to everything she does and that’s the way Sagal is playing the role.

One thing Brockovich and Sagal are in complete agreement on is that the timing of this series is perfect. Feedback Brockovich gets from a large part of the public is that they feel like they are being pushed down, not being heard and put in a box. The series is a way to push back.

Seeing herself portrayed in a film and now a TV show has been surreal for Brockovich but she can deal with that because both projects show there is nothing wrong with being passionate about a subject.

Sagal was attracted to how “Rebel” is designed to present some very serious messages while continuing to be entertaining. That coupled with working with Brockovich has made the latest acting job for Sagal a real pleasure.

“I think what I love so much about Rebel is she can cross a few lines.  She can go outside the box,” Sagal says. “She can push where maybe I guess it wouldn’t be within legal bounds.  I mean, not that she’s illegal, but she just pushes a little bit further.

“To me it feels like she gathers knowledge from everywhere.  I mean, she just takes it all.  And, then, her primary purpose is to do the right thing. Is to fight for the right thing.  And I think sometimes legal mumbo jumbo can make that a little bit confusing when it’s actually a very straight line in terms of what’s right.”

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