Life after incarceration
Back in 2021, Disney announced the launch of its Onyx Collective content brand, devoted to developing projects from Black creators.
The first scripted comedy from that new brand arrives this week, UnPrisoned. Based on the life of series creator Tracy McMillan, UnPrisoned focuses on “a messy but perfectionist relationship therapist and single mom whose life is turned right-side-up when her dad gets out of prison and moves in with her and her teenage son.”
Scandal alum Kerry Washington (who is also exec producer) stars as Paige Alexander, a marriage and family therapist and mom to 16-year-old Finn (Faly Rakotohavana), while Delroy Lindo (The Good Fight) is her father, Edwin, described by executive producer Yvette Lee Bowser as “a Black Ted Lasso.”
Disney+As McMillan pointed out in a press release, her own personal experience of losing a parent to the prison system is far from unique for African-Americans. “This isn’t just my story, it’s the story of millions of people dealing with the effects of mass incarceration on their families, hearts, minds and bodies—and as writers, we wanted to come to these flawed but super-lovable characters from the place of empathy, humour and soul that they deserve.”
“We live in the shadow of the prison industrial complex in this country,” explained Washington during an appearance at the Television Critics Association press tour. “When you look at the numbers of people who go through that system, it’s so important that we think about these systems and how they impact personal lives, how they impact families... to have the opportunity to take a lens and explore: What are these systems, these racist institutions? How do they impact the everyday lives of families? And can we do that in a way that’s fun and loving so that people don’t turn away?”
Unprisoned premieres Friday, March 10 on Disney+