Just like magic: Original fantasy-adventure series ‘Renegade Nell’ premieres

One exceptional young woman drives polite society mad on her journey to fulfill an unexpected destiny in “Renegade Nell,” an original historical adventure series premiering Friday, March 29, on Disney+. All eight episodes of the family-friendly fantasy series drop on the streamer on premiere day.

Nell Jackson, portrayed by “Derry Girls” star Louisa Harland, is a clever, brave woman who makes a name for herself as a highwaywoman in 18th-century England after she is framed for murder. Petty theft on the road keeps Nell afloat until she discovers she is destined for something beyond her wildest imagination. When powers enchant Nell, they make her even more of a force than she was on her own.

A magical spirit appears to Nell in the form of Billy Blind (Nick Mohammed, “Ted Lasso”) to help her on her adventures — a sort of Tinker Bell-type fairy sidekick. Nell’s abilities to evade capture and survive on her own get her into as much trouble as they keep her out of. With seemingly everyone after her for one reason or another, Nell thrives as an outlaw possessed by magical powers that make her stronger, faster and more capable than she ever was before.

Also starring in “Renegade Nell” are Frank Dillane (“Fear the Walking Dead”) as Nell’s difficult, fair-weather friend, Charles Devereux; Adrian Lester (“The Undeclared War”) as the well-connected Earl of Poynton; Alice Kremelberg (“The Sinner”) as power-hungry Sofia Wilmot; and Joely Richardson (“The Sandman”) as oddball newspaper magnate Lady Eularia Moggerhanger.

Rounding out the cast are Pip Torrens (“The Crown”) as Lord Blancheford, Jake Dunn (“Big Boys”) as Thomas Blancheford, Enyi Okoronkwo (“The Lazarus Project”) as Rasselas and Craig Parkinson (“Line of Duty”) as Nell’s father, Sam. Newcomers Bo Bragason and Florence Keen star as Nell’s younger sisters, Roxy and George.

Sofia, a widow motivated by a need for power and independence, is the architect of a scheme to bring down Nell. Aiding Sofia in her plot is the Earl, an influential political figure with the connections she needs to get the job done. Unfortunately for the pair of strategists, Nell more than lives up to the talk going around town.

In an official trailer for the series, excited gossips speak of Nell, saying, “she’s unnatural,” and “she is formidable,” before Nell herself warns a foe, “you don’t want to mess with me.” Nell literally has the fighting spirit, as Sofia points out in the trailer, saying, “she fights as though she’s possessed.” Something comes over the titular renegade in these battles; whether it’s a firefight or hand-to-hand combat, a dark glow reaches her eyes and Nell cannot be bested.

Nell is joined on her adventure by her two sisters, as well as Rasselas. Inspired by the chance to chase his own freedom, Rasselas leaves his life as a stable boy behind to help Nell, Roxy and George on their journeys. The troupe, with Billy Blind in tow, earns quite a reputation all across the country while on the run. As Lady Eularia claims in the series trailer, “if you haven’t heard of Nell Jackson, then you’re the only person in England who hasn’t.”

Known for crafting satisfyingly complex adult dramas such as “Last Tango in Halifax” and “Gentleman Jack,” “Renegade Nell” is a bit of a departure for series creator Sally Wainwright, who is also the BAFTA Award-winning series creator of small-town British crime drama “Happy Valley.” In an appearance on “The Graham Norton Show” this February, Lester shared that the new series “is really good fun. It’s very different for Sally Wainwright. She’s put political intrigue, sprites, magic, lots of fighting, highway robbery and Regency England in a big pot, gave it a stir, and out came an amazing idea.” In further praise, Lester said, “It is really good writing and I have a really good time being bad.”

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