Coming Soon: For Life

TVNZ OnDemand has confirmed October 19 as the release date for a true-life legal drama.

For Life was inspired by the life of Isaac Wright J but has been fictionalised by Hank Steinberg (The Last Ship, Without a Trace).

It stars Nicholas Pinnock (Criminal: UK, Counterpart) as Aaron Wallace, a prisoner who becomes a lawyer and litigates cases for other inmates while fighting to overturn his own life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. Reads the blurb:

His quest for freedom is driven by his desperate desire to get back to the family he loves and reclaim the life that was stolen from him. Aaron’s complicated relationship with a progressive female prison warden helps shine a light on the flaws and challenges in the U.S. penal and legal systems.

The 13-part first season went to air eight months ago on ABC and a second has been commissioned.

Primetime reports Wright was happy with Steinberg’s dramatic licence: “It tells my story and the story of everybody that’s been in prison. The liberties they take are not important as the message. That’s what’s important.”

The New York Times praised the “nuance” of Steinberg’s writing and Kinnock’s “steady, measured performance” while USA Today revealed it wasn’t a morality lecture but a “watchable and enjoyable” courtroom drama:

For Life asks its audience to engage with more than just a mystery of the week, finding a new way into a genre that has a tendency to become stale … The jailhouse lawyer concept is certainly a great hook, but what makes it stand out in a sea of cop and lawyer shows is its cynicism about our institutions.

But Variety thought the “genuinely intriguing” premise was “buried under a fair amount of frenetic drama that tends to obscure its most interesting ideas” while The Hollywood Reporter’s bottom line was: “The evidence is all over the place, but there’s a case for an OK drama here.”

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