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Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff has landed her third show at ABC.
The Disney-owned broadcaster has handed out a series pickup to Rebel, the drama inspired by the life of Erin Brockovich with Katey Sagal set to play the legal advocate. The series is expected to air in 2021 and marks the second drama from ABC’s pilot crop to land a slot on the network’s schedule, joining David E. Kelley’s The Big Sky. (Multicam comedy Call Your Mother was also ordered earlier this year.)
Put into development in October with a sizable put-pilot commitment, Rebel is inspired by the life of Brockovich today. The project revolves around Annie “Rebel” Bello (Sagal), a blue-collar legal advocate without a law degree. She’s a funny, messy, brilliant and fearless woman who cares desperately about the causes she fights for and the people she loves. When Rebel applies herself to a fight she believes in, she will win at almost any cost. Andy Garcia and John Corbett co-star.
With the order for Rebel, Vernoff now has three shows on ABC’s schedule, joining Shondaland-produced Grey’s Anatomy and its firefighter spinoff Station 19. The series is Vernoff’s first as part of her rich overall deal with ABC Signature and hails from her Trip the Light banner, which she runs alongside her producing partner and husband, Alexandre Schmitt. Brockovich, Davis Entertainment’s John Davis and John Fox and Andrew Stearn also exec produce. The series is a co-production with Sony Pictures Television. Tara Nicole Weyr will direct the pilot. A formal episode count has not been determined.
“The work that Erin Brockovich does in this world is so powerful and so important that it almost defies description. Erin works tirelessly for social, legal and environmental justice despite the lack of a formal degree. She inspires everyone she meets to become their own heroes, and somehow, she also keeps us laughing. It has been a tremendous honor to get to know Erin and to create a show inspired by her,” said Vernoff. “I am thrilled to be working with a dream cast led by the extraordinary Katey Sagal with the incredible Tara Nicole Weyr directing. I could not be more excited about the series order for ‘Rebel,’ and I’m so grateful for the support of Dana Walden, Karey Burke, Craig Hunegs, Jonnie Davis and all my partners at Walt Disney Television and ABC.”
Rebel was one of only five pilots (only two of them dramas) to be fast tracked at ABC after the novel coronavirus pandemic completely derailed pilot season. Only one of the more than 60 broadcast pilots were able to be completed before production shut down; Rebel had yet to begin filming. Sources note that ABC picked up Rebel straight to series based on the strength of back-up scripts that Vernoff was crafting during the quarantine.
“Erin Brockovich has never stopped the extraordinary work she does fighting for her clients like they’re family, and Krista Vernoff’s take on her life today in Rebel is undeniable,” ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said. “Katey Sagal is a powerhouse as Rebel and with Andy Garcia, John Corbett and the rest of the phenomenal cast, viewers are going to fall in love with these characters and the world Krista has created for them.”
ABC previously picked up two shows straight to series — David E. Kelley drama The Big Sky and Kyra Sedgwick comedy Call Your Mother. ABC is taking a rolling approach to its 2020-21 schedule and has been slowly setting return dates for its unscripted and comedy series. A schedule for dramas, including Grey’s and Station 19, has yet to be determined. With the order for Rebel, Vernoff could — like Grey’s creator Shonda Rhimes before her — wind up with an entire night of programming should ABC schedule the series for Thursdays, replacing the recently concluded How to Get Away With Murder.
“Rebel is not just my story, it is all of our stories. There is a hero that exists in all of us, and I am so excited for Krista Vernoff and ABC to bring their visionary storytelling to this series,” Brockovich said. “The name ‘Rebel’ oozes self-empowerment, courage and rising above, even in the worst of circumstances. I cannot think of anyone better to play this role than the indomitable Katey Sagal, who is such a force, as well as the rest of this extraordinary cast.”
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