Robert Downey Jr. is executive producing “The Sunshine Place,” an investigative podcast series about Synanon, the California-based experimental drug rehab facility and community that morphed into a dangerous and violent cult.
It’s the first podcast production for Team Downey, the entertainment company formed by Susan Downey and Robert Downey Jr. The eight-part series comes from Audacy’s Cadence13, in partnership with Team Downey and Wink Pictures.
The first two episodes of “The Sunshine Place” premiere Aug. 10 on major podcasts platforms. New episodes will drop every Wednesday through Sept. 21.
“The Sunshine Place” tells the story of Synanon — and its messianic founder Charles E. Dederich — through the recollections of members, survivors and dedicated chroniclers. The series is narrated by Sari Crawford, daughter of a former Synanon leader, Bill Crawford.
“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,” Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey said in a 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.”
Synanon was called “the miracle on the beach” in Santa Monica during the 1960s. Dederich, aka “Chuck,” claimed his program could cure heroin addiction — and he would go on to make the even bolder claim that Synanon could cure any problem, as long as you joined the movement. 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, attracting thousands of adherents and millions of dollars in assets. But Dederich ended up destroying it all, along with the lives of many of his followers.
“The Sunshine Place” is executive produced by Robert Downey Jr., Susan Downey and Emily Barclay Ford for Team Downey, together with Josh McLaughlin for Wink Pictures and Cadence13 chief content officer Chris Corcoran.
The story is written, directed and produced by Perry Crowell, Zak Levitt, Ian Mandt and Bill Schultz of Cadence13’s C13Originals studio.
Listen to the trailer for “The Sunshine Place”: