Inspired by the life of Isaac Wright Jr, ABC’s freshman legal drama For Life follows Aaron Wallace (played by Nicholas Pinnock), a prisoner who takes on the justice system by becoming a lawyer, fighting cases for other inmates while trying to overturn his own wrongful conviction.
When executive producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson was first introduced to Wright, he knew he had stumbled on something unique.
“I was blown away by it,” Jackson said during Deadline’s Contenders Television virtual event, where he was joined by executive producer and creator Hank Steinberg just before the news that the network had renewed the show for a second season. “I had never heard of a situation like that where you represented yourself and get back 70 years plus life.”
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He felt that Wright — who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1991, eventually working as a paralegal to help other inmates and prove his own innocence — deserved to have his story told on an episodic platform.
“Initially, he had an idea to create a feature film, but I said, it’s not a film,” said Jackson. “There’s no way that you can put that journey in the two hours and do it justice. You need more time to convey what that was about.”
Steinberg agreed and saw an opportunity to use Wright’s story to shine a light on the fractures of the justice system.
“I thought it was a really intriguing way to get at the problems in our criminal justice system, in our penal system, to explore the inequities in them and to do it through a very personal story and underdog story,” he said.
What Steinberg hopes viewers will take away from the show is simple: “I want them to care. And then I want them to gradually, slowly learn and ask questions and go, is that real? And let them look it up. We’re not trying to change the world. We’re not trying to change the system by having one show. But we’re trying to explore an issue through these amazing characters and have people engage with it. And then from there, I think the progress can be made… when people get educated about something, then things can change.”
Check out the panel video above.
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