Jack Laurence’s new podcast Wanted sort of is and isn’t what you think it is.
From the mind behind the Aussie success story, One Minute Remaining, Wanted features Laurence interviewing intriguing people who have been – or are currently – wanted by authorities in connection with alleged criminal activities.
From a former MI5 officer who leaked government secrets to someone who says he was once a hitman for a Panamanian drug cartel, the show has an eclectic, eccentric cast of characters that all share a similar conundrum.
Mediaweek sat down with Laurence to discuss his new podcast and how storytelling subverts listeners’ expectations in more ways than one.
The TikTok Fugitive
One day, someone tagged Laurence in a video on TikTok with a guy claiming to be wanted by the FBI and living in the Caribbean. He explains curiosity got the better of him and he messaged him. After some back and forth, the mysterious TikTok fugitive agreed to chat with him.
Chad Hower is the least unassuming fugitive maybe ever. He is a former high-level Microsoft employee who travelled around the world speaking at web coding/development conferences on behalf of Microsoft and yet, he is wanted by the FBI for apparent international kidnapping.
In a custody battle that brings Ted and Joanna Kramer to shame, Hower is accused of kidnapping his son and taking him overseas. In 2009, Chad was arrested in Bulgaria by agents acting on an Interpol red notice sparked by the FBI and placed in a Bulgarian prison where he would have to fight against a US extradition order.
While the podcast goes into much more detail, the long and short of the story is that Chad’s son, who is now 27, has always said he was never kidnapped, in fact, he’s been on many TV shows as an adult to explain as much, yet Chad is still classified as wanted.
The idea of a wanted person in most people’s heads involves a persona that is lifted straight from a Hollywood script, some hardened criminal that says and does every cliche in the book. But in the case of Chad Hower, his script is one that most definitely wasn’t frankensteined by AI.
“Chad has lived quite an extraordinary life. He was absolutely not what I was expecting whatsoever,” Laurence said.
“I realised this especially when I first got tagged in his TikToks as he comes across as quite eccentric. I would say that eccentric probably is a good term for Chad.
“He is not what I expected from somebody who is a wanted man, however, our next person on the show, is definitely more what you would expect from who someone would describe as a wanted person.”
Like an onion
The TikTok fugitive episodes dive down a rabbit hole which at the entrance, seems simple, albeit a bit strange, but the further you go, the walls that line the hole develop into a mural of espionage, government secrets and ideological sparring.
Laurence agrees with the notion of the layers in the story that go a lot deeper than just what’s on the surface and it all leads to the simple question of, why?
“You’ve got to question it. It can’t just be a custody battle, right? That would be just ridiculous. Why are the US spending all this money to (unsuccessfully) extradite him? Each time they have tried it it was denied by all the countries he was in at the time because they basically said there’s no case here for extradition,” he said.
Hower believes because of his coding/computer abilities, the US government was trying to recruit him to the CIA to be a spy overseas in countries of US interest. However, he explains he cannot prove this.
“He says that he cannot categorically prove that they were trying to recruit him for some reason, but he does have links to Russia with his wife and her family,” Laurence said.
“Obviously, we know the ongoing history between America and Russia, so there’s definitely some weird undertones in the story and there’s definitely layers to what’s going on.”
The Inevitability of Ethical Issues
Laurence is aware that the act of speaking to supposed criminals brings with it a wealth of ethical issues and the idea of not getting both sides of a story.
But he explains he doesn’t see himself as an investigative journalist.
“Wanted is no different from my One Minute Remaining show, I genuinely set out only to let these people tell their stories. I only start investigating or looking into things further when asked directly to by these people,” he said.
Laurence explains that he is merely a conduit for these people who have found themselves in these situations, and through storytelling, he uses Wanted as a soapbox for those whose public persona is already decided for them because of their status.
“It’s no different than any other true crime show that’s on Netflix or Stan or Spotify, there always going to be ethical issues around these things. At the end of the day, they are stories that I think, in some respects, need to be told.”
The main takeaway for listeners
“One Minute Remaining taught me that you shouldn’t jump to conclusions straight away especially if a prisoner or wanted person is in question. I’ve had so many people message me and tell me that both shows have really changed their opinion on that side of things and that was my goal as a storyteller,” Laurence said.
“Everything is just not black and white, there’s always layers.”
Listen to Wanted here.
The post “Everything is just not black and white”: The layers of Jack Laurence’s Wanted appeared first on Mediaweek.