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.
‘A Snowy Day in Oakland:’ Nicole Ari Parker Stars in New Dramedy From ‘Sister, Sister’ Creator Kim Bass
A Snowy Day in Oakland is heading into theaters this week. The magical-realism comedy starring Nicole Ari Parker is gearing up to be introduced to the world on Friday, March 17. Hollywood Melanin sat down with the leading star to explore some of the critical issues addressed in the film.
At the center of the story is LaTrice (Parker), the successful psychologist from San Francisco who longs for a more purposeful life. Leaving her unfaithful, high-profile psychiatrist boyfriend and business partner behind, she establishes her practice in a vacant office space on a small commercial block across the bay in Oakland. Surrounded by minority-owned businesses, LaTrice is determined to provide support and gently guide the residents of this predominantly Black neighborhood to embrace the importance of communicating one’s feelings through therapy.
“I think there is an issue of trust in the Black community where we just keep our problems close to our chest,” Parker expressed while discussing mental healthcare in minority groups. “It’s also an expense. It’s an investment. So, when you are trying to make ends meet and prioritize your income, it feels like a luxury. But I think that that’s an expense worth taking.”
Helmed by Sister, Sister creator Kim Bass, the film was initially shot six years ago. Parker says she attributes her involvement in this project not just to the powerful and relevant script but also to “Kim’s vision, his magical realism, his playing with time, and his saturation of color,” she added, “We don’t really get to have that kind of whimsy in most independent Black films.”
Produced by Planet 9 Productions and distributed by People of Culture Studios, this dramatic comedy also explores other meaningful themes like navigating complex relationships and struggles of entrepreneurship. Those conversations are explored through the town’s biggest personalities, Davis (Deon Cole), Jeanette (Loretta Devine), Theona (Kimberly Elise), and Rodney (Evan Ross). The star-studded cast also includes Keith David, Marla Gibbs, Michael Jai White, Tony Plana, Arden Myrin, and others.
Watch A Snowy Day in Oakland in selected theaters on Friday, March 17. Watch the trailer below.
‘Harlem’ Star Shoniqua Shandai Talks 3 Pillars of Success
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.
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.
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.
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.