How Monica Raymund’s Role in the ‘Dark Woods’ Podcast Compares to ‘Chicago Fire’s Dawson
Monica Raymund, who starred as Gabby Dawson on Chicago Fire for six seasons, continues to be part of the Wolf Entertainment family, both directing — SVU, FBI, and most recently Organized Crime — and now as part of the cast of its second podcast, Dark Woods (the first two episodes are now available on Apple, Spotify and all other podcast platforms).
The investigation into a young volunteer’s death in the middle of the California redwoods leads to estranged ex-spouses, a stubborn game warden and a charismatic councilwoman, putting their differences aside to get to the truth of what’s happening in their state park. Raymund stars with Corey Stoll and Reid Scott, though they all recorded separately.
“I was actually in North Carolina, shooting Hightown. They sent me all of the equipment and I basically just set up a sound recording booth in my closet,” Raymund tells TV Insider. “They hooked us all up virtually in real time, and then you can see them as they’re in their own recording booths, so you can work together in real time, which is really nice.”
Raymund tells us more about Dark Woods, previews what’s coming up on Hightown, and discusses her potential future on Chicago Fire.
Set up the case as much as you can and the role that your character plays in it in Dark Woods.
Monica Raymund: My character’s trying to basically run for the local government office, and she needs to enlist the support of her ex-husband, played by Corey Stall. Then this death of this kid who ends up in the woods starts to spur fear in the community, and her ex-husband also gets mixed up in it. Eventually my character and Corey’s character are both in danger from these bad guys who are basically taking advantage of these woods that we’re all trying to protect.
Talk about creating that relationship with Corey, especially since it was done so virtually vs. being on a set.
What we were able to do when we were recording it is see each other on screen. Jobs like these are so fast and you have to just show up and be professional and have enough character built out on your own that it can feel like something real. [Seeing each other] gives me something to play off of and him for me as well. We got to stay connected in that way while we were going through these scenes. And you do these few times to get a couple of takes in there, so every time we would go back and do it again, it’s more in our bodies. We’re getting to know each other, learning each other’s rhythms as actors, and I guess just sort of organically following each other’s lead.
Is there anything like Fire‘s Dawson or Hightown‘s Jackie in your Dark Woods character?
I would say actually that my Dark Woods character is much closer to Gabby Dawson. Jackie’s in a different world. Jackie is very messy, very gritty, almost like a big kid trying to make it in an adult world. But Gabriela Dawson is very much an adult — a young adult, but an adult. She’s closer to my character in Dark Woods because she’s trying to keep her life together. She has a very strong purpose and passion. And the love that she has with her partner, whether they’re on or off, is very real. The love that’s between the two characters, even though they’re exes, you can feel that there’s still so much love there. You see how that morphs over the Dark Woods series. It echoes the relationship between Casey [Jesse Spencer] and Dawson in Fire. They start out together and then you sort of see them pull apart, but you never let go of that love. The fire is still there.
Dick Wolf, a criminal organization, politics, an investigation, drugs, high stakes — this sounds like what happens when you mixed together all of Dick Wolf’s shows and Hightown, so what will fans of those enjoy about this podcast?
This podcast is for people who really love to follow drama and thriller. Look, I’m in New York all of the time, I’m in LA all the time, I’m traveling all the time. One of my favorite things to do while I’m traveling is listen to podcasts, and Dark Woods is going to be in my earbuds because I love crime and I love thriller and suspense stories. This is such an incredibly gripping story that has good actors. If you’re a lover of Dick Wolf and you love those crime dramas that he’s been producing for 20 years, this is an extension of that in a new format. So, anybody who loves Law & Order, anybody who watches Chicago Fire, anybody who follows SVU, this is going to be the podcast for them too.
Is all that what drew you to the project originally?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m in the Dick Wolf family. Anytime anyone from Wolf Entertainment calls me, I always pick up, I love the Wolf camp. They are like a home, they’re family. So Elliot Wolf is, as you know, heading up the podcast format. When they called me, I said yes. I didn’t even read it. I was like, absolutely whatever they want I’m in, because I know that the quality is going to be so good. I know that they’re going to treat the characters with integrity. And I know they’re going to get the best actors they possibly can. That’s what you get when you work with them.
What will draw in regular podcast listeners and new ones to this podcast?
All of us love these suspense TV shows. Everybody loves like great dark crime drama, and this is one of those. It’s a mysterious crime thriller in your headphones. There’s an environmentalist approach to it, but then there’s this deep underbelly of what happens in politics on the surface and then what happens behind closed doors. There’s this super dark, double-faced element that a lot of people experience in their own communities.
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You’ve directed on the crime procedural side of Dick Wolf’s shows — SVU, FBI, Organized Crime — and even Hightown fits that. What do you most enjoy about directing those types of episodes?
I love the high stakes. I love high-octane high-stakes shows. The high stakes give actors the opportunity to really be connected and to explore all of their acting choices, and I love working with actors. It’s my favorite part of my job as a director. So whenever I’m working in those kinds of shows, I know that we have something to work with as actors and I get to play with them and I think be able to show the most committed and believable performances.
Do you have any plans to direct any more Dick Wolf shows this season?
Not this season.
Any chance of seeing you on Fire this season?
I don’t think so… here’s what I always like to say: I love my Wolf family. So I’ll never shut the door on any Chicago Fire. Dawson’s alive and well in my heart. If it feels like it’s the right storyline or it’s the right timing, I’ll always pick up the phone
Moving on to Hightown, what’s interesting is Jackie and Leslie’s [Tonya Glanz] relationship because it’s something that’s very different from what we’ve seen with Jackie. What’s different about her going forward as a result?
We’re seeing her actually show up to a relationship in a way that she’s always wanted to and in a way that I think the relationship is worthy of. In Season 1, you see Jackie trying to make it work with her ex-girlfriend [but] even though she has all this love for her, she’s not able to find love for herself and so she’s not able to show up as a partner.
But this season, Jackie has sobriety under her belt. She’s walking the walk, not just talking the talk. She’s got her job. She’s finding her purpose. She really has some integrity to her life. Because of that, the relationship she’s finding herself in with Leslie is really cute and adorable and lovely and gives her something to be really excited about personally in her heart. But it also can be a little tricky because she’s starting to get involved with her work partner. And I’m very curious to see in the next few episodes what happens with that. Because when you cross lines, cross boundaries, things get a little dangerous.
Season 1, I couldn’t have imagined that family dinner with Ed.
I know! She’s doing well, right? She’s getting it together one season at a time.
What’s coming up next with what’s going on with Frankie [Amaury Nolasco] and how’s Jackie feeling about that?
She’s getting closer and closer on Frankie’s tail. All of these clues keep popping up. … The major fire underneath Jackie is the fact that she wants to keep any other girls from showing up dead. In Season 1, it was all about Krista Collins. And in Season 2, we’re seeing more of these drugs that are killing kids on a Cape and we’re seeing Frankie and his goons taking people out. She wants to put this guy behind bars because that’s where he belongs. He’s dangerous. Part of how she became cop is because she wants to find redemption and trying to find a little bit of justice for these girls whose lives have been lost to Frankie’s hand.
Dark Woods, Apple, Spotify and all other podcast platforms
Hightown, Sundays, 9/8c, Starz