Cast, crew and a cozy group of press hit the red carpet in Lincoln Center Wednesday night for ABC’s gripping new drama, “For Life”.
A growing buzz stirred amongst the crowd gathering on the carpet as executive producers, Hank Steinberg and Curtis “5o Cent” Jackson entered the room, followed by the man (literally) behind it all – Issac Wright Jr.
“It’s taken literally decades from where I started to where I’m actually at now, but I’m here and I have an opportunity to share my experience and my story with the general public and people around the world; I’m very excited,” Wright said beaming with pride.
It seemed Wright’s excitement was contagious as Tyla Harris, cast as Jasmine, the daughter of Aaron Wallace in the show, couldn’t help but squeal when describing how it felt scoring her first major recurring role in a TV series.
“I’m so excited!” Harris said while pumping her fist in the air. “It feels amazing to be here at the premiere especially with the story I’m backing,” Harris said before continuing on to say, “I just feel so great that this is my first time, [and] to be able to represent something so big – it means the world to me.”
And by “something so big”, Harris isn’t overselling it. In fact, the inspiration behind the creation of ‘For Life’ came from Wright’s personal experience as being wrongly convicted and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Accused of being the head of the largest drug distribution network in the New York/New Jersey area, Wright faced a life sentence in prison.
Fortunately, Wright’s determination led him to represent himself in a trial, study law, become a prison paralegal and eventually oversee his own trial.
Only Wright’s story didn’t end there – it managed to garner the attention of Jackson who found it so intriguing that he had to bring it to the attention of co-executive producer, Hank Steinberg.
“When the idea for the series was first brought to me I thought I wanted to create something that I thought would get people talking and thinking about an important issue,” Steinberg said. “Wrights’s story was such an amazing way in because he’s such an incredible underdog character; he fought against all the odds [and] you can root for him, and it’s entertaining to do that – it’s compelling,” Steinberg added.
Equally compelled by Wright’s story was Joy Bryant, who plays the role of Marie Wallace. “I’m really excited that the story’s coming out, it’s crazy,” Bryant said with a smile. “To be apart of this series and this story that’s inspired by such an incredible man and [Wright’s] incredible journey that he experienced, I just feel very lucky and fortunate.”
Bryant grinned and cocked her head to the side, gesturing towards her castmates behind her adding, “and [to be] with such a great group of actors – yea, I’m pretty excited!”
While the premise of Wright’s story is sure to draw a range of viewers, it begs the question if it will also shift the narrative for those who are wrongly imprisoned and left without a voice.
This is where Van Jones, CNN political commentator and CEO of REFORM Alliance, an organization set to change “laws, policies, hearts, and minds” decided to step in. “You realize people don’t know what’s going on; lawmakers, elected officials, media personalities – they assume everybody in prison is guilty and deserves to be there for 100 years and that’s just not the case.” According to Jones, getting involved with “For Life” will “give [a] huge lift to the issue and [their] movement.”
Having served 14 years in federal prison himself Louis L. Reed, national organizer of #Cut50, a social justice organization set to cut incarceration across all 50 states, also decided to get involved with the series. “Over the last two years we have been able to successfully pass 13 bills; we have literally impacted 230,000 people in the criminal justice system – no one is beyond redemption,” Reed said.
If you’re ready to get into this enticing new legal drama, you can officially find out what “For Life” is all about this Tuesday, February 11th on ABC.