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Nicholas Pinnock On Legal System, Mental Health and His Latest Role in 50 Cent-Produced Legal Drama ‘For Life’

Nicholas Pinnock, best known for starring in a British TV series Marcella, is the lead in ABC’s latest serialized legal and family drama titled For Life. He plays Aaron Wallace, an imprisoned man who becomes a lawyer, litigating cases for other inmates while fighting to overturn his own life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. The story was inspired by the life of  Isaac Wright Jr., who was falsely convicted of drug dealing back in the 90s. Attaching himself to this role was a no-brainer for Pinnock, “I’ve always been interested in true life events or things inspired by true life, and stories that move and inspire me”.

There has been a noticeable growth in the production of television and film stories that expose the faulty legal system and which are based on true life events (i.e. Warners Bros’ Just Mercy, Netflix’s When They See Us). For Life can also be categorized as such. Produced by Curtis James Jackson III (aka 50 Cent), the series explores further what it is to be black and fight for what is just and fair – a theme that continues to carry importance in modern America. “I think it’s vital [to continue to tell these stories]. There’s a whole world of incarceration, and a legal system, and law that the general public has no idea about, and we should think about the [amount] of innocent people that are sitting in jail, haven’t even been tried yet! Some people are in jail waiting for their court trial and they can be there for 5-6 years, and the injustice of keeping someone locked up when they could actually be innocent is ridiculous… What we do as creators – we have [the] influence to affect change and if we can affect this change within the world then we have to do it.”

Bringing awareness to mental health issues has been another way for Pinnock to affect change in the world. After going through a serious emotional breakdown about 30 years ago, the actor had set a “whole routine of things to keep [myself] buoyant”. That includes talking to friends and family and going to a therapist, exercising and eating healthy. “[The breakdown] was partly because I didn’t speak, I kept everything inside, and I imploded, basically… I think if we keep our minds healthy and strong, we can engage with the toll we have to live with every day.”

When it comes to his character Aaron Wallace and what keeps him going in his seemingly hopeless situation, is his family. Aaron […] just purely puts his whole focus on his family and getting back to them, and that was his ammo for the whole time that we see him throughout the series. He is focused on proving his innocence and getting back to his family. And those two things were a focal point for him and that’s what gets him out of the dark days and depression that he would have or may have suffered while he was in there.”

Watch the premiere episode of For Life on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 10 PM PST on ABC.

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Interviews

‘Harlem’ Star Shoniqua Shandai Talks 3 Pillars of Success

Harlem Shoniqua Shandai

Shoniqua Shandai is fully immersed in the study of her success. Through her determination, Shandai found a way to reach the precipice of her goals. In an exclusive interview with Hollywood Melanin, Shandai shared an in-depth level of self-perception. She provided personal definitions of courage, confidence, and self-belief. 

The world is waking up to the power that Shandai holds. In the new hit Amazon series Harlem, the New York native brings Angie’s character to life. Many would look at her and say she is struggling, playing into the “starving artist” archetype, but if one looks closer, Angie’s only struggle is the battle with the conformity of the world. 

Series creator Tracy Oliver worked with Meagan Good, Grace Byers, Jerrie Johnson, alongside Shandai, to share a raw narrative of Black women who have the goal of living out their version of happiness.

Harlem
Grace Byers, Shoniqua Shandai, Jerrie Johnson, and Meagan Good / ‘HARLEM’ credit: Prime Video

Angie embodies liberty, a freeform display of what it means to be dedicated to pursuing a dream. Off-screen, Shandai knows the level of commitment it takes to create a world that fits a personal vision. It takes a custom-made level of courage, confidence, and self-belief. It takes a personal standard of hustle. 

Conquering the fear of being one’s true self ignites the labor in building confidence. Shandai admitted the process was in layers. “I found the confidence to be myself in having tried to be everyone else and it not working,” she continued, “I might as well show up as me–as vividly, as boldly, as audaciously as possible. You have to live for yourself.” 

I found the confidence to be myself in having tried to be everyone else and it not working

Courage is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one.” To be one’s true self is nearly impossible without courage. It’s the secret ingredient to personal success. Before every interview, the repeated chorus from loved ones is “to be yourself,” but that takes courage. Shandai opened up and shared her process.

“Courage came from having to build confidence – I am who I am.” The actor and singer continued to explain that her support from her mother, adjacent to her self-determination fueled her confidence. 

Courage came from having to build confidence

To be unstoppable, there has to be a strong foundation of self-belief. The approval of others is fickle. Self-belief might be the only thread left to hang on to when no one else is willing to share blind faith in chasing dreams. 

The Amazon series star considered the solution to working when the motivation isn’t there, “I am incredibly future-oriented. Being so future-oriented has saved my life.” Shandai said. She admitted to reverting back, and taking baby steps in order to prepare for bigger strides. Each day, she pulled herself closer into the vision. 

Shandai said she is most happy when she is cooking success in multiple pots. Her next debut is coming in through audible wavelengths. As a singer and songwriter, she will be looking for a deeper level of self through music. 

Her first single, with visuals directed by her co-star Good, is called, Something About You. Nothing has been officially released yet, but Shandai is ready for this part of herself to rise to the surface. 

Through her personal definition of courage, confidence, and self belief, Shandai always finds the strength to keep extending her reach, to keep answering the calling on her life. Stay connected with Shandai on Instagram and Twitter. Bingewatch Harlem on Amazon Prime.

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Interviews

Robin Givens Talks Guest-starring on ABC’s Queens

Givens’ episode titled “Let the Past Be the Past” will air on Tuesday, February 8

Robin Givens is set to appear on the all-new episode of ABC’s music drama Queens. We sat down with the Ambitions star to discuss her joining the show and take a deeper dive into her pivotal scenes.

In Queens, we get a first-hand look at the dynasty built by the hip-hop quartet of women – Naomi (Brandy), Brianna (Eve), Valeria (Nadine Velazquez), and Jil (Naturi Naughton). Viewers meet the group on the verge of claiming their place at the top of the music game for the second time.

The upcoming episode titled ‘Let the Past Be the Past’ will feature Givens as Eric’s ex-wife, who will pay him an unexpected visit. Once the manager of the girl group, Eric will have to confront his former spouse to help save the future of Nasty Girl Records.

Last week ET exclusively released the first look images of Givens as Robin and her intense sit-down with Brandy’s Naomi – the woman who might’ve caused the breakup of her and Eric’s marriage. See the photos below.

Queens
Queens

The official ABC synopsis reads, “Queens follows a fractured girl group living in the shadows of their once prominent hip-hop dynasty. After their popularity skyrocketed with the success of their chart-topping single, “Nasty Girl,” they were once regarded as one of the greatest girl groups of their generation. However, the group was plagued by internal conflict and jealousy despite critical and commercial success. Estranged and out of touch, the four women, now in their 40s, reunite for a chance to recapture their fame and regain the swagger they had in the ’90s when they were legends in the hip-hop world.”

Watch Queens on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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Interviews

Eris Baker Talks ‘This Is Us’ Final Chapter and Pressures of The Industry

‘This Is Us’ has been making its viewers laugh and cry for six years now. NBC’s hit series and talented cast collected many nods and awards season after season, including several Golden Globes and Primetime Emmys. With the family drama on its sixth and final season, we sat down with one of the show’s stars, Eris Baker, who plays Tess Pearson, Randall (Sterling K. Brown), and Beth’s (Susan Kelechi Watson) oldest biological daughter.

Eris grew up on the show, and she calls her castmates and crew, ‘family’. She took on her biggest television role thus far at the age of 10. Now, at 16, Eris is ready to enter a new chapter of her life and career.

This Is Us
Eris Baker as Tess / This Is Us – “Yellow Brick Road” Episode 602 (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

The oldest sister of 4 in real life, Eris never shied away from responsibility. So when the opportunity to audition for This Is Us presented itself, she gladly went after it. Convinced that she did not get the part, Eris later received the best news on Christmas – the role was hers. She admits that she did not realize how big this was back then and how massive it would become.

Eris says she never felt overwhelmed by her immediate professional surroundings as a child actor. Working on the set of This Is Us has always been comfortable and fun. However, Eris told HM, the pressures mounted from the demands that came with being in the industry – “You need a manager, you need an agent, you need a PR, you need to post this, you need to post that, you need to be this image for other people, and I don’t even know if I’m that image for myself,” she explained. A lot comes with being in the public eye, and the young talent says she is learning to navigate that.

Watch the rising star talk about working with her co-stars, reveal some of the pressures she faced growing up in the industry, and reflect on what lies ahead in her professional future.

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