Hulu’s new dramedy Unprisoned may be full of laughs, but the issues at its core are serious. Starring Kerry Washington, the 8-episode season follows relationship therapist Paige Alexander whose personal life is upended when her father Edwin (Delroy Lindo, Anansi Boys) gets out of jail after his latest 17-year prison sentence. Unprisoned is creator Tracy McMillan’s first time helming a series, which is particularly special as it is based on her personal experiences.
Unprisoned focuses primarily on how father and daughter overcome their strained relationship and adjust to daily life, but the series also incorporates an ensemble cast of family members and friends with stories of their own. Faly Rakotohavana plays Paige’s son Finn, Jee Young Han plays her foster sister Esti, Jordyn McIntosh plays a younger version of Paige, and Marque Richardson (Dear White People) plays Edwin’s parole officer Mal.
Screen Rant spoke to Washington and Lindo about how their mutual offscreen admiration translates to a powerful family dynamic in Unprisoned, and how proud they are of Rakotohavana as their onscreen descendant.
Kerry Washington & Delroy Lindo Talk Unprisoned
Screen Rant: Despite the strained dynamic between Edwin and Paige, it feels like the two of you really love each other. How easily do you play off each other, Kerry?
Kerry Washington: I’ve loved Delroy for many, many, many, many, many years. Despite not really being in a relationship with them, but loving him from afar. Every step of the way, I’ve just been so grateful that Delroy said yes, because it’s been a really special process. It has just felt like a privilege to tell this story and to bring these characters to life, and to be able to do it together with the rest of our incredibly talented cast and the writers in this crew. It really has felt like a privilege.
This is such an important family; their story is so important and so key to who we are as a country. There are 80 million Americans living with criminal records, and we’re not telling enough of their stories. I’m so happy that we are beginning to bring more of this part of who we are as a culture into the spotlight.
Delroy, as much as Edwin is getting a second chance with his daughter, he’s also getting like a first chance with his grandson. Can you talk about being a father figure to Finn and learning from him?
Delroy Lindo: Yeah, and I did learn from him. It’s a great way to put it because I did learn from him. Faly as an actor is extremely open and very present. And while I don’t think in those kinds of terms at the moment, I’m saying that now in the context of doing an interview. I don’t think about that in the work, but when you’re working with an actor who is that present, that open, and that vulnerable — you better work in a way that will raise the dynamic.
With Finn and with Faly, that happened. It grew just as our relationship, throughout the eight episodes, grew. Our relationship throughout the process of doing this work grew. I sent Foley. Actually, I called him about a month or so after we wrapped because he did something [toward] the end — no spoilers. He did something in one of the later scenes that absolutely floored me, and I didn’t have the presence of mind to say to him, “Do that again,” because it just got me. And I think it got me in a way that — I’m not a psychologist, but maybe it scared me. It was really real. It was really full, and it encapsulated the accumulation of the strength of his work as an actor.
Kerry Washington: Just raw talent and incredible instincts. And also, to watch him bloom this season is absolutely spectacular.
Delroy Lindo: Absolutely. You talked about the chemistry, and I’ll just say [it was in] our very first scene. In television and film, one does not work chronologically. Our first scene together was not our first scene in the story; our scene together kind of jumped ahead. But the chemistry; the connection was there. It was there. And it was not something that I said, “Oh, we’ve got chemistry,” we were just in it. We did it, and it felt alive and felt great. It felt alive, it felt rich, and it was working from the beginning.
Straight off a 17-year stint in federal prison, Edwin Alexander crashes back into the lives of his daughter Paige, and her teenage son, Finn – just as Paige is attempting to achieve her lifelong dream of buying her own home.
Check back for our other Unprisoned interviews with:
- Marque Richardson
- Faly Rakotohavana & Jordyn McIntosh
- Tracy McMillan
Unprisoned begins streaming on March 10 on Hulu.