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What One Chicago And Law And Order Fans Can Expect From Wolf Entertainment's Dark Woods

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(Image credit: NBC)

Wolf Entertainment’s One Chicago, Law & Order, and FBI shows are some of the biggest hits on television, and the production company just keeps on adding new projects. Just months after FBI: International premiered on CBS and just months before Law & Order returns to NBC, Dark Woods premiered as a fiction series that takes the action to California for a new kind of crime mystery in a podcast format. Executive producer Elliot Wolf spoke with CinemaBlend about the new project and how it compares to the Wolf Entertainment TV shows.

Dark Woods, which will itself be adapted into a television series in partnership between Wolf Entertainment and Universal Television, stars Chicago Fire’s Monica Raymund and Law & Order: LA veteran Corey Stoll. When I recently spoke with Elliot Wolf about the podcast, he shared what it offers to fans of the Wolf TV shows who might not be familiar with a audio fiction series:

I lead digital for Wolf across all mediums and my mandate, whether it be social media, podcasting, other new forms of storytelling that we're getting into, is to maintain the quality of the shows. At our core, we are storytellers, first and foremost. And as long as we can bring our quality of storytelling to a new medium, we're interested in doing it. And with podcasts, with the sound design team that we have, the writers and directors that we're able to work with, we're able to do that. So I think fans of Law & Order and the Chicagos and FBI should expect a similar quality of storytelling that's going to take you on an emotional journey that you're invested in.

There’s no disputing that the quality of the Wolf Entertainment storytelling has been attracting television viewers for literal decades now thanks to the Law & Order and Chicago series, and fans of those shows can expect to find that storytelling element present in Dark Woods, despite the podcast as a very different medium than a TV show. 

And similar storytelling quality can only work in the project’s favor. The Wolf universe on TV – currently comprised of Law & Order, Law & Order: Organized Crime, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, FBI, FBI: Most Wanted, and FBI: International – is more expansive than any other franchise on the small screen. Elliot Wolf continued with the comparison, saying: 

It's a little bit different than an episode of Law & Order, as an example, in the sense that it's serialized. But at its core, we're aiming for the same quality of storytelling. And at the end of the day, it's a story that fans can immerse themselves in and will enjoy, whether it'd be for the two episodes that came out [first], or all eight. We want fans to come back week after week, or sit down and listen to it all at once and feel rewarded for doing so.

Law & Order (which returns for Season 21 in February after more than ten years off the air) and the ongoing Law & Order: SVU have lasted decades with the successful procedural format, but Law & Order: Organized Crime has more recently proven that serialization certainly works for the kinds of stories that Wolf Entertainment can tell, and that’s the style of storytelling that Dark Woods provides.

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(Image credit: Wolf Entertainment)

And it’s thanks to some significant adaptations from the team behind the podcast that it was even ready to premiere in November of 2021, since the production process had to happen with people working remotely. In fact, Monica Raymund managed to record her lines as leading lady Laura from the set of Hightown, her series on Starz. Elliot Wolf explained the process behind getting all of the audio together for the project:

It's really a testament to the whole team. From our director Takashi Doscher – he did an excellent job, sort of managing the production and having the actors and actresses find their footing and understand where they were in the story coming in, and not always being able to work off the other actors in the scene – to our sound design team, who technically figured out the entire thing. We put together these remote kits and shipped them all across the country and then got them back and we're downloading the audio off of the devices themselves, while also recording them on the cloud live during the performances, and managing to put all that together and create such an immersive sound experience. The other aspect of it is the actual sound design and while all the actors were remote, we still had our foley artists go out into the woods and actually record the creeks, the forest at night, and all those sounds are authentic. So from the point of sound design, it was quite a massive lift, and the entire team rallied around it and we really wanted to make something special.

Fortunately for everybody, there were backups for the recordings in case the worst should have happened and the audio on either the kits or the cloud was lost. Interestingly, the team did some on-location recording for the background audio to create atmosphere. A significant part of the story is actually set within the California redwood forest, even as it involves drugs and environmental threats and politics in a small town, and the sounds of the forest help raise the stakes.

In fact, after the three episodes that have released so far, Dark Woods installments can come across as episodes of television being listened to with eyes shut, and the podcast sets up the story in a way that can conjure up visuals. As Elliot Wolf went on to explain, that was a goal in creating the podcast: 

The goal is to make it feel like you are listening to a television show without the visual. And that, in turn, lets your imagination create the rest of the story for you. And in order to do that successfully, the sounds have to be authentic. So we've recorded all the foley from picking up a coffee mug to the creek that you hear to the trees rustling to the footsteps in the forest. It's all real audio that we recorded.

Not all of Dark Woods actually takes place in the woods, as the storyline is split between game warden Mark Ellis (voiced by Law & Order: LA and Ant-Man alum Corey Stoll) investigating the death of a young woman in the forest, while city councilwoman Laura (voiced by Chicago Fire’s Monica Raymund) has to approach the problem from a different angle, even though the divorcing pair have to find a way join forces, along with Reid Scott of Veep fame as Arthur Hedley, who is caught up in the situation. Elliot Wolf previewed what’s on the way following the initial episodes that were released: 

I would say that the scale of our story is going to get a lot bigger, and our characters are going to find themselves in situations that at the beginning of Episode 1, were unimaginable to them. So buckle up. It's quite a ride. And I sincerely hope and believe that everyone is going to enjoy it. It's a good story.

While Dark Woods may begin in a small town adjacent to the California redwood forest with some small town worries for Laura to deal with, that doesn’t mean the scale of the story will be small as well. Three of the eight episodes of Dark Woods are currently available, and you can find them on Apple, Spotify, and other podcast platforms. The television show based on Dark Woods is in the works, but the podcast has a thrilling story to tell without requiring any visuals. 

If you’re in the mood for some Wolf Entertainment action on television, you can find the three FBI shows on CBS on Tuesdays, the three One Chicago shows on NBC on Wednesdays, and both current Law & Order shows on NBC on Thursdays as the fall TV season winds down.

Laura Hurley

Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.