The ABC prison drama “For Life,” which recounts one man’s attempt to exonerate himself while serving a life sentence in prison, takes a detour Tuesday night.
The episodes that have aired to date concentrate on Aaron Wallace’s (Nicholas Pinnock) commitment to proving his innocence while studying the law. This week, the series, created by Hank Steinberg, goes back in time to Aaron’s arrest on a drug kingpin charge at a club he owns in New Jersey and how his prolonged incarceration affects his marriage to his wife, Marie (Joy Bryant).
The episode showcases the Bronx-born Bryant, 45, and is seen from Marie’s point of view. She visits Aaron in prison during visiting hours, learns to manage the household on her own and eventually decides to attend nursing school to keep her and their daughter, Jasmine (Klein Warwell Walker), afloat. As her life progresses, Aaron’s stalls, and over a nine-year period, Marie decides the strain is too much and that she can’t remain married. She shows up for one weekend visit at prison with divorce papers.
“I think if Aaron hadn’t gotten railroaded and locked up, Marie and Aaron would still be together,” Bryant tells The Post.
“And that makes things even more complicated, right?”
Steinberg planned to run the flashback early in the run of “For Life,” which has 13 episodes. “We spent a lot of time on Aaron in the first few episodes,” he says. “Building him up and getting the audience to really root for him. This was a chance to show some of his deeper flaws and decision-making and see how they affected Marie. Her episode would also show the toll that incarceration takes on families and what families need to do to survive when their loved one is imprisoned.”
Besides the estrangement of the marriage, another unfortunate repercussion of Aaron’s incarceration is that Marie falls in love with another man, her husband’s best friend, Darius (Brandon J. Dirden). Steinberg wanted the audience to see how Marie ended up with him earlier rather than later in the series run “so that the audience would be conflicted about Marie’s situation,” he says.
For her part, Bryant sees Darius’ transition from helpful family friend to intimate companion as a matter of survival.
“He helped her in many ways because Aaron didn’t have things set up for his family,” she says. “Marie found herself in circumstances of having to take care of the family. Finances and things like that. Darius was always there, supporting her, emotionally, financially at different times. And that developed into a genuine love. The episode gets at the core of how difficult it was for her to make these choices.”
To play the wife of a convict, Bryant, who lives in LA, didn’t have to do much research. She knows something about life on the inside from her family and friends.
“I have two girlfriends with partners who are incarcerated. I have loved ones who are incarcerated,” she says. “I remember when their partners went in and what it was like for my friends to stay connected to them. So I leaned into that. I didn’t have to go far to find those stories.”