Niecy Nash-Betts is no stranger to wearing a police uniform. The actress made a name for herself playing Det. Raineesha Williams on Reno 911! on and off for almost two decades and policewoman Denise Hemphill for two seasons of Scream Queens. While both of those shows required Nash-Betts to play a member of law enforcement, this fall she leads the cast of The Rookie: Feds, which takes wearing the uniform to a whole new level.
"I just thought [the role] was delicious because it is a world that I've never played in on the legit side," Nash-Betts told reporters including TV Guide at the Television Critics Association digital summer press tour. "Reno 911! and Scream Queens [were] more like Keystone Cops. This is more like the real deal. So I was very, very excited about tapping into this woman, her story, her journey, and the fact that it was starting a little later in life made it even better."
The Rookie: Feds centers on Nash-Betts' character Simone Clark, who was introduced during an episode of The Rookie last season. Clark is a former high school guidance counselor who now uses her honed ability to read and connect with people to help the FBI catch bad guys. Simone and her fellow recruits are all getting second chances in their own ways and hope to bring their own unique approaches to the weekly cases. By the nature of setting the spin-off within the FBI series co-creator Alexi Hawley teased that the show will have a bigger scope than the flagship, but will not be passing up the opportunity to tackle real issues within the organization itself.
"The FBI is a national organization, and the LAPD happens in L.A. So the show does travel. We do go places. The unit has a jet, and so we can tell sort of bigger stories," he explained. However, The Rookie: Feds will also be able to dig into systemic policing issues in a different way by having Nash-Betts at the center of the series. "We sort of take it upon ourselves to be a show that deals with matters of policing and systemic injustice, and so it was very much in our hearts when we created this show that [co-creator Terence Paul Winter] and I really wanted to address what it would be like for Niecy's character to be inside an organization that is traditionally male, which is traditionally white, and is traditionally stuck in the past," Hawley said. "And so the clash of those two cultures and those two forces makes it inherently dramatic."
And if anyone is wondering if they've seen the last of Simone Clark and Nathan Fillion's John Nolan interacting, fear not. The Rookie: Feds is still based in L.A., allowing crossovers between the two series to happen on a regular basis.
"The shows exist within the same universe, within the same city, and the design in creating them was always to have them be able to cross over back and forth," Hawley confirmed. "So that definitely exists, not just with Nathan and Niecy, but with all of the characters on both shows. I mean, police and FBI work hand-in-hand a lot, and so the ability to have the fun with the characters bouncing back and forth is really part of the show."
The Rookie: Feds airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on ABC. Episodes are available the next day on Hulu.