Unprisoned, a Hulu series starring Kerry Washington, tells the story of Paige, a relationship expert who hasn’t figured herself out. She’s adept at dispensing advice but can’t seem to make the right decisions. Paige has a father, Edwin (played by Delroy Lindo), who’s just about to leave prison. 

Edwin assures Paige that he won’t be going back to jail and moves in with her and her teenage son. The series uses humor to explore Edwin’s struggles as he tries to reintegrate into society and reestablish relationships after a long time in prison. 

Unprisoned is based on the real life of Tracy McMillan and her father, who spent his life in and out of prison

Tracy McMillan and her father

Unprisoned is based on the true story of Tracy McMillan and her father, Harold, who spent a significant portion of his life in prison. 

Tracy molded Paige in her own image, giving her the same struggles she experienced growing up. She told the Alliance of Women Film Journalists that she didn’t grow up without a father as he was in prison. 

“I had never really been in a relationship with my dad where we would go to lunch, be in the world, or have anything to do with each other outside of a prison visiting room,” Tracy said. 

Tracy said she started thinking about life after her father’s release nearly a decade before his sentence elapsed. “I started thinking about what it was going to be like to be in a relationship with him for basically the first time,” Tracy stated. 

The writer stated that thinking about establishing a relationship with her dad and having him meet her son gave her a lot of anxiety. “So I started writing about it, and this is where I ended up,” she added. Tracy’s writing spawned Unprisoned

Tracy said on The Drew Barrymore Show that she infused the series with humor because laughter got her through a rough childhood. “In order to survive that [her father’s imprisonment, foster care], I had to find humor in it,” Tracy said. 

Kerry Washington said in an interview with MSNBC that she enjoyed exploring a theme that rarely appears on television: the struggles ex-cons face when trying to reintegrate into society. She stated:

“We don’t explore the challenges of what it’s like to be a returning citizen – the challenges of trying to re-enter society as a formerly incarcerated person; what it’s like to love a formerly incarcerated person.”

Tracy McMillan’s father, Harold, the inspiration behind Unprisoned, died in January 2023. “It’s pretty clear (and getting clearer!) that I created a show called ‘Unprisoned’ to set myself free,” Tracy wrote on Instagram on 24th January 2023. 

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