The inspirational idea of living one's life to the fullest after a life-altering diagnosis is one that's been explored through plenty of movies and TV shows. Throwing caution to the wind, living each day as if its your last, and truly making the most out of your time on this earth — we've seen variations of it all, and it's definitely a story worth telling. But one show is taking that time tested premise and turning it on its head. In the CW's Life Sentence, a girl who has lived eight years with all of the spontenaity and decisiveness that only a person with limited time left could have, learns that she isn't dying anymore, after all. So, is Stella from Life Sentence based on a real person?
While the show explores a harrowing notion that would be incredible for any person to go through, right now all signs point to it being a fictional tale. Given the talent behind the main character, though, Life Sentence should prove to be a compelling story, even if it doesn't draw from a real life inspiration. Lucy Hale of Pretty Little Liars fame stars as Stella, who soon finds out that not only is she newly free of the cancer she's been battling for years, but also that the decisions she and her family have made in their "live like you're dying" mindset may not be sustainable in the long term.
Between doubts over her shotgun-style wedding and the realization that her family has been keeping a ton of secrets from her in order to give her a happy, carefree environment in which to beat cancer, life as she knows it becomes more complicated (and longer) than Stella ever expected it to. "Stella had become very good at living like she was dying. She had made peace with that," Hale said in an interview with TV Guide. "Now she has to live like she's living, which I think for her is very scary because the questions that we all ask ourselves — What do we aspire to be? What do we aspire to do? What are our dreams? — she's never had to ask herself those hard questions."
Suddenly Stella has to make decisions that will last a lifetime — nothing has an expiration date anymore, putting a whole new weight on her future choices and causing her to scrutinize ones she's already made. Despite the seemingly heavy plotlines Life Sentence has to explore, it is ultimately framed as a heartwarming and funny ride — and that's apparently a big part of what intrigued Hale, a veteran of drama and anxiety-inducing storylines. "I hadn’t done a lot of comedy, and I really liked the pace of the show,” she told Entertainment Weekly. "There were so many aspects that appealed to me. It’s a feel-good show."
Hale said she also loved the optimism of her character — her story is ultimately one of joy despite struggle. "After eight years [with Pretty Little Liars], I knew I needed something so tonally different," she told Us Weekly. "I needed to step out of the box. And I just loved Stella. We need more empowering female leads like her. She was given this second chance and she’s super optimistic. Where we’re at in the world right now, we need more positivity."
The fact that Life Sentence isn't necessarily a true story just means that showrunners have an opportunity to completely create this universe from scratch. There are endless possibilities for this story that don't need to necessarily be anchored in any actual person's reality, meaning that the sky is the limit for Stella and this whimsical comedy.