Award-winning Author and Journalist Walter Thompson-Hernández Hosts the Series, Featuring Co-Creator Jay Ellis, with Special Appearances By John Legend, Issa Rae, Keke Palmer, Jesse Williams, and more
Episodes 1 & 2 will Premiere on July 14th
Listen to the Trailer HERE
Lemonada Media, the podcast network that presents humanity unfiltered, today announces their newest original podcast, “Written Off,” a co-production in partnership with Insecure star Jay Ellis’ production company with Aaron Bergman, Black Bar Mitzvah. In this 13-part series, journalist, author, and 2021 NAACP Image Award-nominee Walter Thompson-Hernández (The Compton Cowboys, The New York Times) interviews formerly incarcerated young authors with a remarkable talent for the written word. In each episode, influential creatives including John Legend, Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, Randall Park, Keke Palmer, Karamo Brown, Julio Torres, and Jesse Williams will amplify these unheard voices by performing their work. Lemonada and Jay Ellis previously partnered on The Untold Story: Policing podcast.
According to SentencingProject.org, almost 4,000 youth are incarcerated in prisons and jails in the United States. America leads the world in locking up young people, and the voices of those locked up in the U.S. prison system, some as minors, have all been but written off, but no more. On “Written Off,” vulnerable poems and honest stories play out against a tailored soundtrack with original music. Starting with actor Randall Park (WandaVision, Fresh Off the Boat) in the premiere, each episode opens with a well-known creative reading from one of the authors’ work. Listeners will hear the writer’s raw reaction as host Walter Thompson-Hernández opens an authentic dialogue with them about their life and experiences that have led them to this point.
“I believe this series will help to drastically erase the stigma surrounding formerly incarcerated people,” says host Walter Thompson-Hernández. “As a former youth offender, hearing the stories, poems and art that our interviewees have shared speaks volumes to the idea that a criminal record shouldn’t erase any person’s humanity. For me, “Written Off” means going back to my early teenage self and reminding him that I was always more than what society perceived me to be.”
The original soundtrack was composed by Xander Singh of indie-electronica band Passion Pit. Each of the 13 episodes features the podcast’s theme song and an individual composition inspired by the author and story told in that episode. The artwork for the podcast was created by painter Russell Craig, a self-taught artist who survived nearly a decade of incarceration after growing up in the foster care system. Craig creates art as a means to explore the experience of overcriminalized communities and reassert agency after a lifetime of institutional control.
“Our commitment to creating platforms for the unheard drives us every day,” shares CEO and executive producer Jessica Cordova Kramer. “I nurtured young writers as a teacher,” shares Chief Creative Officer Stephanie Wittels Wachs, “and these authors are some of the most talented individuals. It’s an honor to bring their voices to the forefront through this podcast.”
“So many times I hear folks say they’re looking for new storytellers and don’t know where to find them. Storytellers are all around us, and in this case, we are bringing stories from voices who have been impacted by the system and are often overlooked because of their past,” said co-creator and executive producer Jay Ellis. “It is an honor, a privilege, and a joy to be able to bring their beautiful writing to everyone in the world and have some of my friends be the voices that read their work. I’ve been a fan of Walter Thompson-Hernández’s work for years, and the minute we met, I was like, ‘Yo, we’re gonna be best friends and we’re going to work together every single day.’ We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect host, voice, point of view, and connection to our writers.”
The first two episodes of “Written Off” from Lemonada Media will be available on all major podcast platforms on Wednesday, July 14th. Subscribe to listen HERE.