If you love courtroom dramas with a healthy dose of scandal, the new CBS series Doubt, which premieres on Feb. 15, is right up your alley. Katherine Heigl stars as Sadie Ellis, an esteemed attorney at a boutique law firm who runs into a bit of a professional dilemma when she develops feelings for a charismatic client, Billy Brennan. As if that wasn't complicated enough (love isn't easy, folks), Billy has been accused of murdering his girlfriend 24 years ago. This would have most women heading for the hills, but Sadie secretly pursues a relationship with him anyway. Fact is often stranger than melodramatic fiction, so is Sadie Ellis from Doubt based on a real person?
Sadie is undoubtedly an interesting character, but she's not inspired by a real individual. In an interview with The Boston Herald, Heigl said she was drawn to the character because she's "a real idealist" who looks for the best in people — and that's something many of us can relate to, even if we don't quite take it to the level of pursuing a relationship with someone accused of murder. Doubt's creator and producer Joan Rater added that showrunners were interested in exploring what would happen if an attorney genuinely believed her client was innocent and developed feelings for him as the case progressed.
In the same interview, Heigl discussed how she and Doubt's showrunners tried to make Sadie as realistic and relatable as possible:
“Really, her first instinct is to believe the best in people. She is obviously clouded a bit by her not terribly professional feelings for this man, but she’s so determined to save him and so determined to prove his innocence that she’s trying to separate herself emotionally, but struggling with it. I feel like that struggle can go one of two ways: ‘Oh, come on, this isn’t realistic at all,’ or it can feel very human. And that’s what I think we’re trying to do, keep it feeling very relatable and human.”
During a Feb. 9 conference call with reporters, Heigl also hinted at what's in store for Sadie aside from her complicated romance. As reported on CarterMatt.com, Sadie will also deal with a challenging situation with her mom, who has an upcoming parole hearing. (We'll have to tune in to find out what crime her mom committed.) According to Heigl, Sadie "goes on quite a journey" this season and evolves a great deal as a character.
Sadie also has a killer wardrobe and rides her bike to work — the latter isn't an especially common habit amongst New York City's top attorneys, but every good TV character has to have at least a few fun quirks. She may not be based on a real person, but I have a feeling many viewers will be rooting for Sadie as we watch Season 1 of Doubt.