Renegade Nell star praises ‘exciting’ queer visibility in Disney series

Renegade Nell star Alice Kremelberg has praised the Disney series for putting “gritty, complex” women and queer people front and centre.

Alice Kremelberg, best known for her role as Nicole Eckelcamp in queer favourite Orange Is The New Black, stars as the dark and mysterious widower Sofia Wilmot in brand new swashbuckling adventure series, Renegade Nell.

The Disney show, which is written by BAFTA-winning Happy Valley writer Sally Wainwright, follows Derry Girls star Louisa Harland as Nell Jackson, a female highwayman – a highwaywoman, if you will – who is framed for murder.

With her two sisters Roxy (Bo Bragason) and George (Florence Keen) and little spirit Billy Blind (Nick Mohammed) in tow, Nell has to navigate a newfound life on the run – which involves learning to live with supernatural powers, and getting embroiled in a plot to overthrow the queen of England.

Along the way, she meets an endless supply of adversaries including Sofia, who Kremelberg views as being “jealous” of Nell’s power – but also “admires her in a very twisted way” as she embarks on her own push for authority.

Set in the 18th century, the time period wasn’t one in which women were generally treated as powerful by society. Yet in Renegade Nell, the women are leading the charge.

Speaking exclusively to PinkNews, Kremelberg reflected on why the series might relate to a queer audience.

“These women, who are really paving their own way in a time like 1704 where it’s so unheard of – it is a very queer outlook on life, where you don’t see a path in front of you that’s paved already, so you have to create it,” she says.

Kremelberg, who is queer herself, added that there is a “little taste” of queer representation in the series.

“As a queer person, I am always aching for more queer representation in every aspect,” she says. 

“I know that for myself as an actor, I love playing queer roles because it’s something that you relate to deeply and you want to see every version of what a queer person is on screen.

“It’s really exciting. In this, we get a little taste of that throughout which is very exciting, especially for a show that is on Disney and is for everyone.”

While Nell herself isn’t queer, she does go some way to defy gender stereotypes by refusing to use her full name Nelly, wearing masculine clothes, and sharing her aspirations of joining the army.

“When I first read [the script], before I even met Lou [Harland], I was so enraptured by this character who really denounces all of it. I think that Nell really doesn’t think about [gender]. She is this way and she would rather be fighting in the army than being on the side, and so she does that,” Kremelberg says.

Even her own character Sofia starts off wearing hyper-feminine clothing, but as the series goes on, she becomes “unbuttoned” and ditches the corsets.

“That was so exciting to me to feel that journey in the costuming,” she adds.

Renegade Nell also stars trans Hollyoaks actress Iz Hesketh as the non-binary assistant to Lady Eularia Moggerhanger (Joely Richardson).

Iz Hesketh posing with Hollyoaks sign and in costume for Renegade Nell.
Iz Hesketh stars in Hollyoaks and Renegade Nell. (Instagram/iz.hesketh)

With conversations around gender and gender identity becoming increasingly toxic globally, Kremelberg also stressed her message for allies of the trans community.

“Trans people have a right to be equal to us. It’s so absurd to me that anything else could be true,” says the star, who is currently in a relationship with non-binary The Sandman actor Mason Alexander Park.

“I think it’s for the people around [the trans community] to encourage them to speak up. Talk to your family members, talk to people around that maybe don’t fully understand or don’t know a trans person in their life,” she urges.

“It’s the little things that really do make the change. You can change the perspective of the people that are closest to you.”

Renegade Nell is streaming now on Disney+.