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UnPrisoned's Delroy Lindo On Portraying Tracy McMillan's Real Life Story - Exclusive

"UnPrisoned" is a TV series grounded in multiple levels of reality. It engages with the hurdles present for those exiting the US prison system, and it tells the true story of show creator Tracy McMillan's experiences with her own father, aptly beginning each episode with the preface "Based on some truly crazy sh*t." 

Delroy Lindo plays Edwin, a charismatic man who thrives in the kitchen but needs to heal his relationship with his adult daughter and her 16-year-old son after spending 17 years in prison. Lindo is also executive producing alongside Kerry Washington, who plays McMillian's stand-in, Paige — a therapist struggling to heal her inner child. 

The series cleverly wades through Paige's trauma, using humor to engage with deeper themes of mistrust and abandonment while also seeing the characters experience emotional growth as individuals and as a family. In his exclusive interview with Looper, Delroy Lindo shared the deeper meaning behind the new Hulu series, along with what he hopes audiences learn from both the real and fictionalized elements of his character's story.

The actor breaks down UnPrisoned to the basics

Delroy Lindo had a lot to say about the opportunities denied to formerly incarcerated people. His experience embodying Edwin in "UnPrisoned" further clarified how filmmakers should tell stories about this vulnerable population. 

"In the final analysis, we're all trying to do the same thing, which is to live our lives with dignity, which formerly incarcerated people are trying to do," Lindo said in regard to Edwin's story. "[It's] appropriate [for us] to be given the benefit of the doubt. Where would we be? Where would I be if, in some instances, I wasn't given the benefit of the doubt?"

Edwin's experiences being denied employment opportunities based on his past, as well as having to jump through hoops to obtain forms of identification and working papers, are nothing new to those who know someone who has been a part of the prison system in the US. Lindo also was clear about the ways that race adds to the complexity of the central message of "UnPrisoned" and its characters' lives. 

"As a person of color, how do I cut through somebody else's propensity to misunderstand me based on how I look?" Lindo said. "How do we grapple with that?" Ultimately, Lindo found his answer through his craft, as well as his collaboration with Tracy McMillan.

The real-life story is based in its characters' humanity

In the first season of "UnPrisoned," Delroy Lindo's character's humanity and cultural identity are among the most important factors for him to convey to audiences.

"One of the things that 'Unprisoned' is presenting are human beings who happen to be of-color human beings," Lindo said. "It is, in the final analysis, entertainment, and I understand that. But one hopes that within the context of it being entertainment, it is a piece of entertainment that informs its audience of some things ... We are reaffirming in the way that we are presenting these people ... We are presenting their humanity, all of their messiness, all of the missteps they make ... all of that, which is, in the final analysis, human."

As the characters find their way amid their messiness, the actors behind the scenes are hoping audiences understand that the comedy series is about so much more than they might expect.

"Audiences can embrace this story, embrace these human beings, and relate to the pain and the fun and the love that these human beings are negotiating and exhibiting," Lindo said. "I hope ... it changes some opinions they may have about who and what they think of when they think about a formerly incarcerated person." 

All eight episodes of "UnPrisoned" are streaming on Hulu.