For Life star Nicholas Pinnock previews 'gut-wrenching' season 2 and Aaron's post-prison life.

By Chancellor Agard
November 16, 2020 at 03:53 PM EST

For Life

  • TV Show
  • ABC

Aaron Wallace has a choice to make in the season 2 premiere of For Life.

EW is exclusively debuting the first minute of the ABC drama's season opener, which picks up immediately where season 1 left off — with newly elected state Attorney General Glen Maskins (Boris McGiver) giving Aaron (Nicholas Pinnock) an enticing offer: If Aaron drops his retrial, Maskins will have him released from prison when he takes office in six months, but Aaron's name won't be cleared. If Aaron plows ahead, then Maskins will not only ensure that he remains at Bellmore surrounded by inmates who think he snitched (the definition of not great), but also send the police after his wife Marie (Joy Bryant) for a HIPPA violation.

How important is clearing his name and practicing law on the outside to Aaron? Well, that's the question he asks himself in the clip above.

While we don't know which path he takes, we do know that no matter what Aaron will be freed this season. With that in mind, EW hopped on the phone with Pinnock to discuss what's in store in the legal drama's upcoming season — from exploring the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19, to Aaron and Marie's shifting relationship, and more. Read on below:

Credit: Giovanni Rufino/ABC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There was some time in between For Life’s season finale and the official season 2 pick-up. After finishing season 1, what were you most looking forward to exploring about Aaron? What were you hoping to dig deeper into?
NICHOLAS PINNOCK: Well, more of the mental aspect of Aaron really, and how he was coping mentally with everything. [I] was also keen to explore his relationship with Marie and Jasmine [Tyla Harris]. That, I thought, was quite important. But those are the two things really, that were more key for me.

Aaron has this deal from Maskins hanging over his head going into season 2. How important is his innocence and reputation to him?
I mean, it's vital. If he doesn't clear his name and he's not exonerated, it shows a certain amount of guilt and he doesn't want that. I'm kind of dancing around your question because I can't give too much away. It's important that he has his name cleared, because holding on to anything to do with a criminal record or stuff, it's difficult for him because he is innocent.

What was it like watching this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and knowing that you would eventually be going back to work on a show that was already addressing these issues?
Going into the show at the beginning of season 1 before all the Black Lives Matter stuff had happened, you kind of know the weight and the impact of what's going on because Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were not the first Black people to be brutally murdered by the police. It's been happening for a long time. It's not new. What was new was the attention that surrounded it and what was new was the mass collective togetherness of people across the globe, that engaged in it. And what was new was this new change in mentality of how everyone was going to tackle it from there on in. But it wasn't new; the hangover of slavery has been something that this country has been going through and suffering for quite a while. So going into season 2, nothing new was attached to my want and my need to tell this story and do it in the best way possible because of the importance of it.

Credit: Giovanni Rufino/ABC

How has the increased attention to those issues affected season 2's story?
It’s shifted everything into a different gear. It's really upped the ante on what it was that we were telling before, and it's just added to everything that we found was a gut punch in season 1. There's more of a pressure for people to listen and to sit up and think and to second guess questions, even more so than there was in season 1.

Does the increased attention to Black Lives Matter make Aaron reconsider his responsibilities once he's freed? How does that affect him?
Yeah, it affects his family more than anything. If you remember from season 1, his only focus was to get out of prison to get back to his family. Now he's back with his family, anything that affects them is going to impact on him. And these stories will affect them in a way that he can't sit still and do nothing about it. While he was in prison, he uncovered lots of cases that were either similar to his, or in a sense, [where] there was color bias and culture bias. The same thing happens in the outside world for him. And he comes across a case, I can't talk too much about it, that will change the shape of where the season goes.

How is Aaron handling re-assimilation?
As you can imagine, not very easily. He's very safe in his office, where he is working as a lawyer, kind of. The thing that connects the prison and the outside, is him being a lawyer, because that's where he's most comfortable. The rest of it, he's struggling with.

Last season, Aaron signed the divorce papers Marie gave him years ago. What does it mean for their relationship when he eventually gets out?
I won't talk too much about it, but Marie and Aaron will have their conflicts. There's a bumpy road and maybe they will or they won't find a way.

Since you were looking forward to digging into Aaron and Marie's relationship, have you been enjoying that material in season 2?
Oh, I've not been enjoying it. It's been immensely hard and difficult emotionally. No, it's gut-wrenching. Enjoy is not really the word I would use. I'm being challenged by it and I like being challenged, so that's a good thing. But no, he's going through some difficulties as far his relationship is concerned and relationship with his daughter and his relationship with his friends, and just being on the outside has proven very, very difficult in so many ways for him.

I think he was in there for so long that he didn't know that this day was going to ever come. He thought he would be in there for life, but he was trying to make that not happen. And he managed to make it happen. All of a sudden, it's upon him and he has to deal with it. There are still some things that his mentality is very much prison about. So to break away from that has been quite a challenge for him.

Overall, are you finding this season more challenging?
Oh my God, yes! Absolutely. And that's what I live for in my career. That's what I thrive on, is having more challenging material to deal with and season 2 definitely afforded me that. And having read the majority of the scripts, I actually think it's a stronger season than season 1 — and I thought season one was already very strong.

Credit: Giovanni Rufino/ABC

Given everything Aaron is going through, do you find it hard to shake him off at the end of the day?
Oh, absolutely. I'm a complete empath, and you kind of have to be as an actor, for the most part. There's a certain amount of psychology and understanding people and knowing people's mentalities and psychology [that’s required] to be able to depict a role that is anywhere near being believable. Once you immerse yourself into the skin of a character so deeply, where you emote and feel what they feel, it's very hard to shake it off at the end of the day like it's nothing. There are times where I find myself carrying the weight of Aaron's s--- as opposed to my own, and it's just a matter of knowing what belongs to who, and if it's mine, fine. If it's Aaron’s, I have to be careful to kind of just let it go or let it sit in the corner of my mind where doesn't bother me because actually, it belongs to a fictional character.

What are you most looking forward to the audience seeing in season 2?
I think the aspect of his relationship with Marie is going to be one of the things I'm interested in how the audience is going to react to, because when you look at the fact that he's been fighting to get back to her, and then she went off with his best friend and betrayed his trust and he's come out and he's having to deal with all of those things.

Another one of the things that are the issues that are going to be tackled. Aaron being out of prison, his mental health, Black Lives Matter, and COVID things that happened over the summer, that will be reflected in certain aspects of the show and how people will identify with that. And if we hit the mark, and I think we will, in capturing the real essence of what it was for so many people globally, so that whether you're in the U.S. or Brazil or Sweden, and you're watching this show, you can identify with these things that happened to us all. I'm very interested in people seeing those things and also understanding more about the injustices that happen to certain communities, because that's not something that gets sidelined this season, that's very much still part of the M.O. for our storytelling.

For Life returns Wednesday at 10 p.m. on ABC.

(For Life season 2 premiere clip provided courtesy of ABC)

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For Life

  • TV Show
  • ABC