Actor Robert Downey Jr. has shown his range from Charlie Chaplin to Iron Man to Dr. John Dolittle during a career that has stretched more than three decades in Hollywood. But his latest creative endeavor is bringing the A-lister to audio. Cadence13 has partnered with Team Downey and Wink Pictures for an investigative documentary podcast series called The Sunshine Place.
The podcast examines Synanon, a former California-based experimental drug rehab facility and community that morphed into a dangerous and violent cult, led by its messianic founder Charles E. Diedrich.
Synanon was called “the miracle on the beach” in Santa Monica, CA during the 1960s. It started as an experimental drug rehab facility that made a radical claim: It could cure your addiction to heroin. The man responsible for this miracle was Diederich. Before long, he would make an even bolder claim: Synanon could cure any of your problems. All you had to do was move in. What started in a house on the beach in Santa Monica soon spread to San Francisco and Oakland, then to compounds across the state of California, and then the country, with thousands of people and millions of dollars in assets. But Diedrich would be the same man to destroy it all, along with the lives of many of his followers and, by the late 1970s, Synanon was being called a violent cult.
Robert Downey Jr. and his wife Susan Downey, as well as Emily Barclay Ford will produce for Team Downey, alongside Josh McLaughlin for Wink Pictures.
"While we were familiar with Synanon, it wasn’t until we heard the deeply personal stories that we could truly appreciate its epic rise and fall,” said Susan Downey and Robert Downey, Jr. in a joint statement. “We felt this was a strangely relevant and twisted cautionary tale that had to be told about the incredible lengths people will go to seek out answers and the more dangerous ones others will provide."
The Sunshine Place marks Team Downey’s first foray into podcasting. It is an eight-part series launching with its first two episodes today (August 10). New episodes will drop every Wednesday throughout the season. The series will be narrated by Sari Crawford, daughter of Bill Crawford, a former Synanon leader. It will be distributed by C13Originals, the documentary division of Audacy’s podcast studio Cadence13.
“This is a story we were immediately drawn to, and wanted to tell,” said Chris Corcoran, Chief Content Officer at Cadence13. “‘It's an honor to be able to tell incredible stories like this with such a great team in Susan, Robert, Emily, and Josh in collaboration with our brilliant C13Orginals creative team.” Corcoran will also serves as one of the podcast’s executive producers.
The Sunshine Place story is written, directed and produced by Perry Crowell, Zak Levitt, Ian Mandt, and Bill Schultz of C13Originals.
Wink Pictures’ John McLaughlin is also a producer of the podcast series O.C. Swingers.