The famed legal eagle introduces a new drama, starring Katey Sagal

Annie “Rebel” Bello is the kind of woman you want on your side in a street fight. As played by Katey Sagal (late of The Conners) in the freshman ABC drama series Rebel, she’s a brilliant, blue-collar legal advocate who drives a pickup and fights passionately for the causes she believes in. She’ll also do almost anything to make sure she gets her clients their due, such as confronting all-powerful CEOs at their own stockholder meetings.

RebelCTVWhile husband Grady (John Corbett, Sex and the City) admires her zeal and daughter Cassidy (Lex Scott Davis, Training Day) has inherited it, Rebel’s tendencies can prove exasperating for associates such as Julian Cruz (Andy Garcia, in his first series-regular role), the prominent attorney with whom she consults, and ex-husband Benji Ray (James Lesure, Good Girls), a corporate lawyer.

The series was created and executive produced by Krista Vernoff (Grey’s Anatomy) and is based on the life of activist Erin Brockovich, also an executive producer here. Sagal, whose long resumé runs an impressive gamut from comedy (Married... with Children, 8 Simple Rules, Futurama) to drama (Sons of Anarchy, Boston Legal), was attracted to the series for its blend of both those genres and for the bold, don’t-take-no-for-an-answer nature of Rebel, whose lack of a law degree the actress says gives her character licence to pull outrageous stunts.

RebelCTV“I think what I love so much about Rebel is she can cross a few lines,” Sagal notes. “She can go outside the box. 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.

“And I think that she takes the best,” the actress continues. “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.”

RebelCTVIn preparing for the role, Sagal decided to meet Brockovich for lunch, not so much to talk about the nuts and bolts of advocacy but to pick up on her energy.

“I got it just sitting and hanging out with her,” Sagal says, “because clearly the passion and the fire comes even over lunch.”

Brockovich, whose career as an environmental activist was brought to life by an Oscar-winning Julia Roberts in director Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 legal drama Erin Brockovich, thinks her doppelgänger got the performance right.

“It’s her energy. It’s her presence,” Brockovich says. “It’s like, ‘I’m a badass.’ She’s it. She gets it. So it’s just there.”

Rebel airs at 10:01 p.m. Thursdays on CTV and ABC