When it comes to people with multiple talents, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson goes above and beyond. Not only can the man rap, act and produce, but he also once helmed his own reality show that helped young people tap into their business potential.
That’s a pretty aspirational resume for someone in the entertainment business, but it’s about to expand with the upcoming midseason CTV drama For Life. The legal series revolves around a wrongly convicted man who begins studying the law while in jail. He goes on to eventually become a fully-fledged lawyer representing himself and others in the system. The most mind-boggling part? The show is based on the real-life journey of one Isaac Wright Jr., who was convicted in 1991 under New Jersey’s drug kingpin law and went on to become a ground-breaking attorney in his own right.
Wright’s story is one of the most compelling we’ve ever heard, as it offers a snapshot of human resiliency, perseverance and hope. But the setup is also a great one for dramatic stories to unfold, which makes it one of our most anticipated series of the season. And to think that it all started with an underground fight club.
“There was a guy in the Bronx who had an underground fight club, and obviously it was illegal. He was successful in getting 200-300 people that would come out in the yards or salvage yards and they would hold these fights,” Wright told us Thursday at the CTV Upfront in Toronto. “During intermission he would get rappers to come out and he was friends with 50 Cent. But 50 couldn’t do it because he had a promotion license and didn’t want to be filmed at an illegal fight club.”
According to Wright, the guy then tried to get legal, but despite fighting the good fight—and even using one of Jackson’s lawyers, he just couldn’t make it happen. That’s when someone suggested Wright. He managed to make the entire thing legal two weeks later.
“50 came out to perform and he just didn’t believe it. He asked how did this get done. From that point on the rest was history,” Wright explains. “He was like, ‘I gotta have this story. I want it, I want to shop it, I think it’s a series, let’s make it happen.’ I said, ‘okay.’”
Once For Life, which stars Nicholas Pinnock, Indira Varma and Joy Bryant, enters production, Wright isn’t sure how much time he’ll have to devote to it given his fairly busy day job. But he was intimately involved as a consultant and producer on the pilot, which he says was an emotionally exhaustive process.
“I was on set almost every day and I was instrumental in a lot of the aspects of the series in terms of maintaining authenticity,” he said. “One of the things about being in prison is being surrounded by so much hopelessness. I’ve watched people deteriorate to the point where they lose their mind. I’ve watched people commit suicide. I’ve seen riots break out because of the hopelessness. I’ve seen people lose, not only lose sight but, but lose respect for human life in their own life and they just turn into a cauldron of violence. So one of the things that I’m hoping this this series does is give hope. There’s something within all of us when all else fails.”