Disney+’s Renegade Nell: Is the Adventure Show Fiction or Reality?

Starring Louisa Harland, Joely Richardson, Adrian Lester, and Nick Mohammed. ‘Renegade Nell’ is an adventure series that centers around a woman named Nell Jackson. The titular character gets accused of a murder she never committed and soon becomes well-versed in the way of highwaymen. Set in the 18th century, the series follows Nell as she gains a notorious reputation and becomes feared by travelers, only to soon discover that life has even bigger plans for her. Created by Sally Wainwright, the Disney+ show is able to captivate the viewers thanks to its intriguing characters and the swashbuckling adventures. However, this has also led to the question of whether the project is a work of fiction or is inspired by a particular actual event.

Renegade Nell is an Entertaining Blend of History and Fantasy

Rather than being inspired by real-life events, ‘Renegade Nell’ is a result of the imagination of Sally Wainwright, who has been behind some well-known shows like ‘Gentleman Jack,’ ‘Happy Valley‘ and ‘Unforgiven.’ Known for the creation of several formidable female characters, the screenwriter employed her ingenious vision and creative abilities to conceive the titular character of Nell Jackson, who has to navigate 18th-century society as an outlaw and try to understand just what destiny has in store for her.

Initially titled ‘The Ballad of Renegade Nell,’ the series chronicles the swashbuckling adventures of Nell by combining historical elements with the world of fantasy, ensuring that there is no dearth of intrigue, mystery, adventure and some lighthearted action and drama in the narrative. Nell’s character has a past and present in the show that fits well with the time period that the story is set in while also allowing her to seem different than what people might expect from a female character of that era. The series does take some true historical elements to give their settings a bit more authenticity and realism.

Consider the concept of highwaymen, which often plagued the road of Britain up until the mid-19th century. Though the very idea of these individuals has always opposed established laws, many have often found themselves being creatively captivated by them. Consider the well-known ballad by Alfred Noyes that was published in 1906. Titled ‘The Highwayman,’ the poem is also set in the 18th century but is much more about the love of an outlaw for a woman. The poem serves to highlight that the world has always found itself fascinated by the idea of highwaymen, something that the character of Nell Jackson has been able to capitalize on easily.

Despite its historical setting, there are certain elements of the show that do seem quite relevant to the real world. The theme of the inequalities within society based on gender and financial status is one that is addressed in the show multiple times. Nell’s misfortunes certainly seem to be a result of the same, along with her brush with law. Even the latter is a concept questioned in the series, with the question of whether the law is truly impartial in this particular setting or if it favors one part of society over the other.

Actress Louisa Harland, whom you may also know from ‘Derry Girls,’ essays the role of Nell and has described the character to be multifaceted. She has also praised Wainwright’s way of work, stating to The Guardian that the writer “doesn’t enjoy writing for men. I mean, she writes brilliant men, but she enjoys wholeheartedly writing for women. Loves us.” The statement served to highlight that Wainwright’s work in the past has quite creatively presented female characters that many have fallen in love with.

However, one cannot deny that there is a very obvious element to the story that makes the world easily believe that the story is indeed fictional. We are, of course, talking about the magical elements within the series that are heralded by the magical entity called Billy Blind. Nick Mohammed portrays the character who allows Nell to look even faster than the adventurous and dangerous life she has established for herself. Billy Blind’s character acts like a supernatural guide for Nell and truly helps establish the otherworldly nature of the story. One aspect of Wainwright’s writing for this particular story that both Harland and Mohammed have expressed admiration for is how it allows for a diverse cast despite being set in the 18th century.

In other words, ‘Renegade Nell’ can be credited as an entertaining piece of period drama and fantasy. However, it is certainly not based on a true story. That said, it makes use of elements from the society of the past to create a world that keeps the viewers coming back for more and more. Despite the prominent presence of magic, the characters provide a sense of reliability to many that allows the viewers to eagerly follow the stories of their favorite characters.

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