Louisa Harland found Renegade Nell's fight scenes 'embarrassing' at first

The Disney+ series features a lot of unique action sequences

Watch: Louisa Harland and Ben Taylor discuss Renegade Nell's fight scenes

Louisa Harland had a difficult challenge ahead of her in Renegade Nell, because the Disney+ fantasy has a lot of intricately choreographed fight sequences that she was the star of.

The Derry Girls actor takes on the title role of Nell Jackson, a young woman framed for murder who must fight to clear her name, and who becomes a highwaywoman fighting for justice when she goes on the run with her family. To bring the latter part of her story to life, Harland appears in a number of fight scenes from the very first moment.

At first, Harland found the experience "embarrassing" but the more she embraced Nell's fighting spirit the more funs he found filming these scenes: "I spent three months doing fight training and I would have been nothing without the stunt team. I mean, James Embree and Abby Collins and my stunt double Melissa Humler [are] just the most incredible people.

"The show would be... I mean Nell would really be nothing without them. I found it so daunting and embarrassing at the beginning, and then I really found my stride and I really enjoyed it towards the end."

Renegade Nell (Disney+)
Renegade Nell stars Louisa Harland as Nell Jackson, and she spent three months preparing for her fight scenes in the Disney+ series. (Disney+)

While some actors might rely predominantly on their stunt double, Harland explains she did all of the fight scenes herself and then her stunt double would also do a take, meaning that the director had a choice of which performance to use in the end product.

"I had to do everything by myself," Harland explains. "And they might have used the take with Melissa, but I actually had to do every fight sequence, and I loved it."

From the off, viewers see Nell's fighting skills in action as the series opens with a fight sequence that not only introduces viewers to the protagonist, but also establishes her supernatural abilities that she gains through her sprite companion Billy Blind (Nick Mohammed).

Director Ben Taylor was delighted to have a scene like this to introduce Nell, but also admits that it posed a challenge too in this new streaming world: "We have the gift of a cold open at the start of episode one, which was throwing us into the action and throwing us into the series with very little dialogue and a lot of action, which I think represents Nell.

Bo Bragason as Roxy, Florence Keen as George, Louisa Harland as Nell in The Ballad Of Renegade Nell in Renegade Nell. (Disney+)
Louisa Harland admitted that at first she found it 'embarrassing' to do the fight scenes, but she later learned to love them. (Disney+)

"She's a woman of few words, but when it's needed her fists come out and she can take care of herself, and I think the design of that became an obsession for me and for the designers, we knew we had this very precious 4-minutes at the start where we had to grab the audience and set our story out.

"Not just in terms of character with Louisa and Nell, but in terms of the style as well, and how the choreography of the fighting was gonna work and what sets us apart from Marvel and superhero things."

It was all about "finding our own distinct set of rules", Taylor adds, saying: "We poured over it and it was my first time working with the full time stunt team, so everything you see was done weeks before in a gymnasium with cardboard boxes and fake knives and swords, and they would just meticulously block it out, design it and shoot it shot by shot.

Renegade Nell (Disney+)
Louisa Harland praised the show's stunt team, and said: 'Nell would really be nothing without them'. (Disney+)

"Then when it came to filming it, we would replicate every bit that James, the choreographer, had come up with, and we wanted to find our level of super-heroics, like I said, in the physics of what she can do. We knew [Nell] couldn't fly, but she could jump; we knew she didn't want to kill people, but incapacitate.

"It was all of that and then finding humour in it, finding a way of knowing that Nell was improvisational and and humorous when she was in these fights. So it wasn't just blunt scrapping, it had charm to it as well."

Taylor, who previously worked on Sex Education, adds: "I think that the fear at the moment now with working with streamers —which I've done for the last few years and love— is that if you don't pull people in early as a viewer you can just turn it off and look for the next thing. So we wanted to come out with a bang, and get people hooked. It's the scene I'm really proud of."

Louisa Harland's skills as a leading lady

Renegade Nell (Disney+)
Renegade Nell's Ényì Okoronkwo (left) praised Louisa Harland for being an 'amazing' example to her co-stars at all times on set because of her hard work and dedication. (Disney+)

Taylor and Harland's co-stars heaped praise on the actor for her ability to lead the series, with the director saying she "instantly" became "an incredible figurehead for the show".

"It was intimidating because she is [playing] the title of the show, she's holding it but she embraced it in every sense," he explains. "I knew her as a comic actor and she is incredible for that, but I think what people are gonna be blown away by [is] seeing this new side of her as a dramatic actor and a physical actor, and the combination of those. She just grabbed onto [that] and I think she's spectacular."

Ényì Okoronkwo, who plays Rasselas in the series, was full of admiration for his co-star, saying: "She's amazing and also not just the talent and the beautiful acting, just the stamina to be there every day to show up — and she never hid, at all.

"It's a beautiful example, cause if you think that you're tired you look over at Louisa and she's come in from doing fight training in the morning to going straight onto set, and she's doing it with such grace and she's amazing."

Joely Richardson, who plays press magnate Lady Eularia Moggerhangar, simply added that Harland is "the real deal", saying: "Those are my two words for her."

Renegade Nell will be released in full on Disney+ on Friday, 29 March.

Watch the trailer for Renegade Nell: