For Life

Pilot Script Review of For Life

A once wrongly-convicted man seeks justice for others in the same position.
  • Nicholas Pinnock stars in the legal drama For Life
    Editor's Note: Ever wonder how TV executives wade through the dozens of pilot scripts they're pitched each year? They have staff script readers, who provide what's called "Script Coverage," an executive summary and a recommendation for each script. Now, thanks to Primetimer's own resident script reader, you too can preview some of the season's most buzzed about pilots. Note that all opinions are our own, and all plot, casting and other creative details described here are subject to change.

    Based on an incredible and remarkable true story that was bound to be adapted sooner or later, it's no surprise this pilot script was a hot commodity going into this year's development season. Isaac Wright, Jr., wrongfully convicted as the kingpin behind one of the largest drug distribution networks in New Jersey, studied law in prison and worked as a proxy-lawyer, writing briefs and motions to overturn the convictions of over 20 fellow inmates, including (ultimately)  himself. He now practices law in the same courtroom where he was sentenced to life behind bars, defending the wrongly accused and going after corrupt institutions. After passing the New Jersey Bar in 2008, Wright spent nine years being investigated by the New Jersey Bar’s Committee on Character before  inally being admitted in September 2017. That's when Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson heard about Wright and signed a deal to produce a TV series based on his life through his G-Unit Film & Television production company. It's mentioned in the script that he's written a special song for the show. The Hate U Give helmer George Tillman Jr. directed the pilot.

    WRITTEN BY: Hank Steinberg
    DRAFT DATE: 2/4/19 Draft
    PAGE COUNT: 66 pages

    SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: We open with a flashback of  events narrated by AARON WALKER (52) as he describes having been a satisfied dad with a great life and a great job, until the day he was falsely accused and convicted for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Cut to the present day, where Aaron is working from prison as a proxy-lawyer, fighting the good fight for victims of injustice like himself. His goal is to fight day by day to attack the D.A who imprisoned and win the freedom he deserves. The man he's fighting for today is JOSE RODRIGUEZ (27), who's done too much time for a drug crime he never committed. At the courthouse, ADA O’REILLY (40s) storms in, and is shocked to see Aaron on the other side. A day later, Aaron's ex-wife MARIE (40s) visits him in prsion to regretfully rant at him about the decisions he made in life. The day of the trail comes, and Aaron describes the circumstances that led to his client's wrongful conviction, which include a note that was destroyed as evidence. Aaron knows this is true and interviews FREDDY (the drug dealer) afterwards in a Prison POD, where Freddy confesses that he lied in the past and promises to tell the truth about the drug deal that led to the Jose's imprisonment. Another day of hearings and Aaron and Jose are hit with a surprise when Freddy rejects everything he confessed to Aaron in private. Frustrated, Aaaron has Jose write down the same words he wrot years ago on that note. During a visit from his wife, he desperately attempts to give her a hug during their exit and in the process passes along the forged note...

    COMMENTS: For Life is one of the best pilot scripts of the year, and arguably the most original legal drama among the many I've reviewed.. One part legal, one part political, one part family and onew part soap, this is a a full deal deal. If the main protagonist were a woman, it could have been a Shonda Rhimes-show. If they went with a darker set up and a slower pace, it could have been a HBO premium drama. Instead, they went with an efficient and emotional broad drama; one that has the ambition to be an entertaining hour of television whole while shining a light on the  flaws and challenges in our penal and legal system. It's progressive, it's important, and it's has all the makings of a  future must-see. 

    Our protagonist Aaron is the character who had it all -- a lovely wife, a beautiful daughter, and a thriving small business -- but lost it when he was wrongly convicted of drug dealing and thrown into prison. He understandably has a fire and rage inside, but we only see it when he's pushed to its limits. He's tenacious, no-nonsense, a force of nature, and an oustanding manipulator when needed. Don't expect him to be a super-hero in an orange jumpsuit, however. He's far from perfect, but his flaws make him even more interesting as they're revealed. The other character that stands out immediately is Prison Warden Kate. A self-made woman, she's confident, tough and progressive while also being pragmatic. She has aspirations to reform the prison system, advancing her own career in the process, and champions Aaron from the get-go. Their relationship is complex, and kind of a secret, which makes it both exciting and scary. 

    Kate shares two kids with her wife, Anya, an intelligent, politically savvy woman who also happens to be Brooklyn District Attorney. She is running for re-election, and Kate’s support of Aaron will make that complicated for her. Sacrifices will have to be made but neither of them is ready to take that leap, least of all Kate, who had to put her carreer on hold to take care of the kids. The show is ble to go to a simpler place when it comes to Aaron's own family. Marie, Aaron’s ex-wife, is fiercely protective of their 17-year-old daughter Jasmine and carries the heavy burden of still loving the man to whom she’s divorced. Believing that Aaron never will get out of prison, Marie finds herself  in an impossible situation. Meanwhile, Jasmine has problems of her own -- including one that's revealed in one of the last scenes. It's not something that changes everything but it's definitely something that brings out the emotion. The "case of the week", which is actually Aaron's very first case in court, is written with some upredictable  twists and turns that keep us hooked from start to finish. 

    FINAL RECOMMENDATION: For Life is a promising legal show with a richness and emotional intensity that starts on page one.The pilot script is confident, top-shelf material that with the right execution could win critical acclaim. Finding an audience may be more difficult, but if there's one thining the script teaches us, it's to never doubt Aaron Walker.

    OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
    [   ] PASS
    [   ] CONSIDER
    [X] RECOMMEND

    BEST FIT: Could be How To Get Away With Murder's replacement Thursdays at 10 midseason.

  • More TV Tattle: