BET is debuting new television police drama, “Rebel,” from filmmaker John Singleton, the premise of which is sure to spark debate, possibly some controversy and hopefully, some constructive action about one of today’s hot button topics. Danielle Moné Truitt takes the series lead as Rebecca “Rebel” Knight, an Oakland cop in a complicated and conflicted position.
Danielle Moné Truitt Stars as Rebecca "Rebel" Knight on New TV Series, 'Rebel.' Photo by Dante Photos
As an African-American woman and an Oakland cop, Rebel understands the unique job she has and that she must constantly be cognizant of what she does and how she does it. When her brother is killed by a police officer, Rebel loses faith in the law enforcement system and becomes a private investigator serving as a beacon of hope and justice in her own community. How does the character balance out loyalty to the police and loyalty to her family?
‘Rebel’… In Training
Truitt is a multi-talented actress, singer and dancer with a heavy background in theater- a skill that would prove of the utmost interest to “Rebel” creator, filmmaker and Oscar-nominated director, John Singleton. “A lot of my training is self-taught,” says Truitt. “I grew up in Sacramento in an underprivileged neighborhood. At a young age, I realized I had the gift to sing, and I did a lot of talent shows. Then I started dancing and doing drill team. It was great because it all gave me purpose and helped me not to get into trouble.” She says that her parents didn’t have the funds to give her dance classes and other lessons when she was younger. Rather Truitt got creative and listened to Whitney Houston, trying to train in that style. She also grew up participating in church and sang in choirs.
In high school, Truitt was doing everything – cheerleading, playing basketball and dipped her toe into the theatre pool. “I got into college at Sacramento State University,” she states. “I was a psychology major taking theatre class for fun. My professor stopped me one day after class and she said, ‘Are you a theatre major?’ and I said, ‘No.’ She said, ‘You should really consider being a major.’” The professor recognized Truitt’s natural acting ability and encouraged her to audition for an upcoming play, “The America Play.” Truitt won the lead. “I went through rehearsals and opening night, I walked out on that stage and said, ‘I’m going to change my major!’” She continued her rigorous training in theatre, musical theatre and her vocal training she primarily credits to her church. “The training really never stops,” adds Truitt.
Landing the Series Lead. John Singleton? IMPRESSED.
An audition for the character of Rebecca ‘Rebel’ Knight came to Truitt through her manager in late 2015. “I auditioned for it, like everyone else,” says Truitt. “Probably every black woman with brown skin and natural hair went in for this part.” She loved the premise of the show. Truitt states, “I was like… ‘This woman sounds like me!’” The character of Rebel is from Oakland and Truitt hails from Sacramento, so she could relate to the material and felt comfortable with it. “She’s a cop. She’s sexy, but very strong and sassy,” says the actress. Truitt even did some Skype coaching with her acting coach to nail down some of the material. “I went in for Kim Hardin, who was the casting director, and then got a call back from John Singleton,” she explains. For the call back, she was given 12 pages of dialogue. But, she was prepared.
“I worked really hard on it and I went in for John Singleton, and it was literally the best audition I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Truitt gushes. “It wasn’t so much because I said all my lines perfectly, or that I thought I had done everything I was going to do. It was mainly his reaction to what I did, and I had never experienced anything like that.”
“John (Singleton) was like, ‘Oh. My. God. Baby girl! Oh. I love your flavor. Ooo, I love your flavor! See? This is what I’m talking about. This is what I want right here. See, she’s black. She is a black woman!’” recalls Truitt. “My face was about ready to fall off! I was just so excited.” Her nervousness quickly dissipated, but she left the audition thinking that Singleton was just speaking generally and surely couldn’t have meant that she was right for the part. After all, as Truitt noted, she was trained in theatre and really didn’t have a bunch of TV experience. However, Singleton is known for breaking new talent. Alas, Truitt landed the lead role and will carry the series.
Truitt did some prepping for her role in “Rebel.” “I talked to quite a few police officers,” she says. “I have two in my husband’s family and I have a couple of friends who are police officers. I spoke to them about their jobs. My husband’s uncle was a detective for 30 years and Rebel is a detective, so I talked to him about how un-glamorous the role of a detective really is. Just about all of these cops are African-American cops. I really wanted to talk to them because it’s a different dynamic with everything that is going on in our country, and has been.” Truitt also did a lot of physical training and fight coaching because her character was in the military and does indeed physically tussle with some tough people.
The Talented, All-star Cast Family
“I love them so much!” Truitt says of the Rebel cast and crew. “I just feel like we have the best cast and crew anywhere. My cast mates and I got along so well.”
“Me and Method Man, who plays my husband on the show, we have the same birthday,” says Truitt. “We automatically hit it off. He’s the yin to my yang and vice versa. We had a great connection and great rapport working together.”
Actor Mykelti Williamson plays Rebel’s father on the show. “Mykelti is literally my second father,” she says. “I adore him. He adores me. When I met him, he was just so gracious and warm. And of course, I’m a fan of his, of Giancarlo (Esposito) and Method Man. When I was in high school, Method Man was the dopest rapper ever. Now that I was working with him, I’m still a fan, but I have to be professional at the same time. They were all just so gracious and so happy to work with me. I was so flattered by that.”
Truitt continues, “Giancarlo is wonderful to work with. He’s so focused on the job he’s doing. He’s gracious to everyone around him and he’s so gracious during his scenes. He gives you what you need to get you to the ‘place’ you need to get to. I was very nervous in a scene I had with him. It was a big scene in episode three. I was in my dressing room looking at myself in the mirror saying, ‘Ok, Danielle. You’re either going to let his greatness make you feel small, or you are going to rise to the occasion. What are you going to do?’”
“Giancarlo motivated me a lot to put my big girl panties on and realize that I’m in this position for a reason,” Truitt explains. “If I wasn’t supposed to be doing this part, I wouldn’t be doing it. I gleaned a lot from his confidence and I watched everything he did.
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The Juggling Act
In addition to her busy acting career, Truitt is a wife and mother of two sons. In fact, she describes her husband as a “rock star,” and they have known each other since they were 14-years old. (All together now, ‘Awww!’) Her family, friends, mother-in-law, parents and friends from church have been an incredible support system for her as the actress steps into the limelight as a series lead in “Rebel.”
Truitt finishes, “I know I’m pretty much playing a superhero on television. But, I’m not a superhero. So, I’ve had to learn how to humble myself and ask for help when I need it and not feel like a failure because I can’t do everything for everyone when they need me to. It’s helpful when you have a community of people who understand what you’re doing and truly believe in you.”
“Rebel” will debut on BET 10P/9C March 28 with a two-hour pilot. The series is from filmmaker and Oscar-nominee John Singleton (“Boyz n the Hood,” “Poetic Justice,” “Hustle & Flow”). The series also stars “Breaking Bad” alum Giancarlo Esposito as Rebel’s lieutenant, mentor and friend. Mykelti Williamson (“Fences,” “Forrest Gump,” “Con Air”) Cliff “Method Man” Smith (“Blue Bloods,” “Meet the Spartans”) and Brandon Quinn (“The Fosters,” “Entourage”) also co-star. For more information, visit http://www.bet.com/shows/rebel.html.