The Niecy Nash Betts-starring “The Rookie: Feds” hit the ground running earlier this year when it was introduced as a double-episode backdoor pilot in ABC’s “The Rookie.” And when the spinoff drama premieres Sept. 27 on ABC, in an episode titled “Day One” and set after Simone (Nash Betts) celebrates her graduation from Quantico, it gets right into the action.
“The first thing she wants to do is after graduating from Quantico, she goes up to her old high school where she was a guidance counselor. … Simone wants to say goodbye to her students and kind of give them encouragement about how it’s never too late – again, speaking about what ‘The Rookie’ [franchise] is all about, reinvention, and about following your dreams no matter where you are in your life,’” co-showrunner and executive producer Terence Paul Winter told TheWrap when we spoke to him as part of our Fall TV Preview.
“What Alexi [Hawley, co-showruner and EP] set up in the pilot of the original series, and in what he and I put together in this one, and then of course because it’s ‘The Rookie,’ we think it’s just going to be a simple goodbye and then something very exciting and energetic happens. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s really a cool way to start the show, and it really declares what this show is.”
“The Rookie: Feds” brings Nash Betts back to the role of Simone, the oldest rookie in the FBI, just like Nathan Fillion’s John Nolan character was when he joined the LAPD training program in Season 1 of “The Rookie.” Simone and Nolan developed a friendship in the backdoor pilot in “The Rookie” Season 4, so it’s only fitting that he’s there to greet her when she makes the move to Los Angeles in her full-time role as an FBI agent.
“He’s actually the one who picks her up at the airport when she arrives on her first day, where she’s been assigned to the L.A. field office. Simone’s coming back home after living in DC for 20 years. And so that becomes sort of the transition that gets us into the world of the show,” Winter said. “You will see in [Episode] 101, there’ll be several connective pieces to ‘The Rookie’ flagship, but then we have to launch our own show and we get to meet all the wonderful new series regulars that we have for our show, including ones that you met in [Episodes] 419 and 420 — Felix [Solis] playing Garza and Frankie Faison as Cutty.”
As Simone overheard in that backdoor double pilot, Garza wanted to set up a team that wasn’t into color coordinating research documents while tracking down suspects in serious cases. He was looking to get a group together that would be more hands-on and experience-driven. So when Simone comes back to L.A. and finds out that Garza’s team has been green lit, she thinks she’s the perfect fit.
“He just got the blessing to start this program, and then as we begin the first episode…Simone says, ‘I should be on that team,’” Winter explained. “Garza is a little concerned about having Simone, who can be a bit of a wildcard even though she’s incredibly talented. So once again, Simone has to prove herself in the way that only Simone can because she’s a woman who is unapologetically herself. And she’s more than happy to not break the rules but kind of bend them as far as possible to kind of prove herself. She’s a 48-year-old woman. She is not going to let any more time pass.”
Winter also revealed that “she gets a little help from Nolan in the process.”
With “The Rookie” and “The Rookie: Feds” taking place in the same city and same universe, there will be crossovers between the two shows. Some will be major, and some will be minor. (Think: the #OneChicago shows and the bar that characters from the different dramas visit.)
In her personal life, Simone will be adjusting to moving back in with her dad – Cutty (Faison) – after living on her own for two decades. She’s taking up residency in her dad’s abode due to the rising SoCal rent prices.
“[If you’re an] FBI agent, you make a good amount of money, but you know how expensive it is to live in Los Angeles,” Winter said. “So one of the things that Simone does early on as she moves back home with her father – and she’s thinking it’s only gonna be temporary – but I think over time, they realize that this is actually a good situation for the both of them. They’ve got to rekindle a couple of things, find a groove, because they haven’t lived together in the same house or the same city for over 20 years.”
Winter describes the father-daughter relationship as “the heart of the series,” and a well of “wonderful, emotional stories.”
A character with a full life, Simone is also going to jump into the dating scene. She says herself that she is into “the vibe, not the gender” of a potential date, and quickly finding romance.
“Simone meets this brilliant woman who is played by a very special actor, and the chemistry between the two of them is really…it just brightens every scene that they’re in together. It just makes you lean in, it makes you smile. And that’s just the first relationship that Simone is in, because again, she’s dating,” Winter said.
“The Rookie: Feds” –which also stars James Lesure (“Las Vegas”) as Carter Hope, Britt Robertson (“Big Sky”) as Laura Stensen and Kevin Zegers (“Transamerica”) as Brendon Acres – premieres Sept. 27 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.