When Danielle Moné Truitt first saw the description for the lead character in BET’s new drama Rebel, she knew it was made for her. “When I got the audition, my eyes got huge because I was like, this is a lead part for a Black woman from Oakland with brown skin and natural hair?” the actress told EBONY. “I’m from Northern California, I have brown skin and natural hair, so I was like, wait a minute. It sounds just like me!”
Truitt, who got her start in theater, slayed her audition with Rebel creator and famed director John Singleton, but she still wasn’t sure he would choose her for the role.
“I was the second person to go in and after I finished the first scene John was like, ‘Baby girl, oh man, that’s what I’m talking about! See, she’s a sista!’” Truitt recalled. “I was freaking out and he says, ‘See, that’s what I want right there!’ In my head I was like he wants what I did from someone who’s famous, not me.”
But Singleton did want her, and four months later, Truitt had the part.
Rebel centers around Oakland Police Detective Rebecca “Rebel” Knight, “who leaves the force after being under an intense Internal Affairs/criminal investigation for shooting her partner in the hopes of stopping him from gunning down her little brother.” After smashing through the Blue Wall and refusing to tow the company line, Rebel continues to fight crime as a private investigator, which makes her a target of rogue cops who want to bring her down. The complex role was a breath of fresh air for Truitt, who said Hollywood is slow to dole out “meaty” parts to Black actresses.
“I’m a Black actress in Hollywood, so there’s not a whole lot of meaty roles available,” she said. “It’s changing, but hopefully it’s not a fad. Hopefully it’ll be happening for years to come.”
In addition to the stellar cast, which includes Cliff “Method Man” Smith and veteran actors Mykelti Williamson and Giancarlo Esposito, Truitt said she thinks Black women will be able to relate to her character.
“I think a lot of Black women are going to breath a sigh of relief,” she said. “The normal, everyday around the way girl, who gets up every day and takes care of her kids or goes to college or goes to work in an all-male workforce, I believe those women are going to be able to look at Rebel and be able to relate to the things that she’s going through and who she is as a person.”
Still, playing a police officer at a time when Black folks have been killed and turned into hashtags after interactions with police wasn’t easy for Truitt, who admitted she has always felt uneasy around cops.
“I’ve always been afraid of cops, I grew up in the hood. I’ve never looked at cops as someone who would protect me. When they pull up my heart is beating fast,” she explained. “After we shot the pilot, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed, and I remember being out of town and just crying. I felt so confused and helpless because I felt nobody cared. This stuff happens every week and nobody cares. And when I say ‘nobody’ I don’t mean Black people, I mean the rest of the world.”
Despite her fear of police, playing Rebel has given Truitt a new view of law enforcement officers.
“Doing this show has given me more of a heart for law enforcement, in general, but especially for Black cops,” she explained.
While many will want to liken the show to other police dramas like Law & Order, Truitt says Rebel is less about the men and women in blue, and more about her character’s journey.
“You’re going to see something very soulful. It’s the story of a woman’s life who just happens to be a police officer,” she explained. “It focuses a lot on the relationships she has with certain people in her life and the effects of certain events. It’s a story I feel everybody can relate to.”
Rebel airs Tuesday nights on BET. Miss an episode? Catch up here.
Britni Danielle is EBONY’s Entertainment/Culture Director. Follow her on Twitter @BritniDWrites