Tracy McMillan Says She Didn’t Create ‘UnPrisoned’ As a ‘Favor’ to the Audience: ‘Every Writer Has Got Something to Work Out’

The Hulu dramedy from Onyx Collective is based on McMillan’s real-life relationship with her formerly incarcerated father

Tracy McMillan (Getty Images), Delroy Lindo and Kerry Washington in "UnPrisoned" (Hulu)
Tracy McMillan (Getty Images), Delroy Lindo and Kerry Washington in "UnPrisoned" (Hulu)

Tracy McMillan, the creator and executive producer of Onyx Collective/Hulu’s newest dramedy “UnPrisoned,” says she didn’t create the series as a “favor” for the audience, but rather as an outlet to work through her own trauma.

She’s an author, realtionship expert, TV writer and now the creator of “UnPrisoned,” a half-hour dramedy based on McMillan’s life adjusting to her now-late father re-entering her life after being freed from prison. The series stars Kerry Washington, who plays Paige, the “UnPrisoned” version of McMillan. While Paige’s father’s (Delroy Lindo) transition out of incarceration establishes the show, viewers eventually peel back even more layers of her life, which involves traumatic memories from prison visits and living in foster homes.  

The storyline mirrors McMillan’s real life growing up with a criminal for a father and going in and out of foster homes. And while it’s a story she’s told before, the creator says the show served as a platform for her to unpack some of her heavy emotional and experiential baggage. 

“I think, in some ways, every writer has got something to work out, and that’s what brings us to writing,” McMillan told TheWrap. “Likewise, every therapist has something to work out and that’s what brings them into wanting to be a therapist. There’s a saying that you teach what you need to learn.”

In crafting the show from a therapist’s lens, McMillan says she hopes viewers will learn how to tap into their purest and innermost selves, but mentioned that the show itself isn’t strictly for fans but also for her own healing journey. 

“I’m not writing this show as a favor to the audience,” McMillan said. “I’m writing the show to work it out for myself and audience receives catharsis through that. That is what art is all about. 

McMillan added: “To me, that’s why you make a TV show, to offer the audience insight catharsis. It’s an opportunity to examine something as a society and as an individual, that you wouldn’t have that talking point without that show, that book, that play, that song. So, to me, that’s the highest form of popular culture. It’s the highest form of media is that, and what got me into it in the first place.”

“UnPrisoned” — which dropped all eight episodes Friday, March 10, on Hulu — stars Washington, Lindo, Faly Rakotohavana, Marque Richardson, Jee Young Han and Jordyn McIntosh. Yvette Lee Bowser serves as showrunner, and as executive producer alongside McMillan, Washington, Lindo, Pilar Savone, Joy Gorman Wettels and Jen Braeden.