'Derry Girls' Star Louisa Harland to Lead Cast of 'The Ballad of Renegade Nell'

(Photo: Disney+)

Though fans are still mourning the cancellation of the period drama Gentleman Jack, series' creator Sally Wainwright isn't slowing down in terms of projects she's working on. Production on the third and final season of crime drama Happy Valley is already underway, and the cast now appears to be set for her next big project, a fantasy adventure series called The Ballad of Renegade Nell, a limited series that will stream on Disney+.

This is intriguing news from an industry standpoint, as Disney+ isn't exactly known as a streamer home to a substantial amount of British content or as a source of current programming that's particularly interesting to Anglophiles. (Unless those Anglophiles also happen to be Marvel fans.) But Renegade Nell seems to signal the streamer's first tentative steps into this particular content vertical; the show is being branded as a U.K. Original and produced in conjunction with Lookout Point, owned by BBC Studios.

The series is written, and executive produced by Wainwright and follows the story of an 18th-century young woman who unwittingly becomes the country's most famous highwayman (or highwaywoman in this case). Derry Girls' Louisa Harland will star as the titular Nell, a quick-witted and courageous girl who finds herself framed for murder, a twist of fate that will have far more significant consequences than ever dreamt. 

She's joined by newcomers Bo Bragason and Florence Keen as Nell's two younger sisters Roxy and George, as well as Ted Lasso star Nick Mohammed, who plays a "plucky but prickly little spirit" called Billy Blind,  who join forces to help Nell when she finds herself on the wrong side of the law.

Louise Hartland in "Derry Girls" )Photo: Netflix)
Louise Hartland in "Derry Girls")Photo: Netflix)

The swashbuckling drama boats a starry ensemble cast of supporting characters, including Adrian Lester (Trigger Point) as Nell's formidable adversary, the Earl of Poynton, Craig Parkinson (Line of Duty)  as Nell's kind-hearted father Sam Trotter, Joely Richardson (The Sandmanas eccentric newspaper magnate Lady Eularia Moggerhanger, Frank Dillane (The Essex Serpent) as the roguish Charles Devereux, and Alice Kremelberg (The Sinner), as Sofia Wilmot, a young widow with thwarted ambitions whose quest for independence becomes indelibly entwined with Nell's own. 

Poldark fan favorite Pip Torrens plays Lord Blancheford, the father of Sofia and her feckless bullying brother Thomas, who Jake Dunn plays (Get Even). And Enyi Okoronkwo (Giri/Haji) plays Rasselas, a spirited stable boy who joins Nell and her sisters on the run in his own bid for freedom.

The eight-part series is directed by Ben Taylor (Sex Education),  with Amanda Brotchie (Gentleman Jack) and MJ Delaney (Ted Lasso) also helming episodes. Executive producers include Faith Penhale, Will Johnston, and Louise Mutter for Lookout Point alongside Disney+'s scripted content VP. Johanna Devereaux. 

There's no news about when we might expect to see The Ballad of Renegade Nell on our screens, but it seems safe to assume a target release date in the first half of 2023.


Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Twitter at @LacyMB