“The Accidental Wolf,” the new thriller from creator Arian Moayed debuting on Topic next week, is a series that avoids easy answers. Rather, the show lives within the ambiguities of truth and belief and, according to series star Kelli O’Hara, it speaks directly to our current political and cultural moment.
“How is it we can be absolutely opposed, 50-50, on things that seem so clear?” O’Hara said during a preview of the series for TheWrap’s Virtual Screening Series on Wednesday.
“The Accidental Wolf” centers on Katie Bonner (O’Hara), a woman whose “quiet” life in Manhattan is upended by a late-night phone call in which an unknown caller pleads for the life of his pregnant and wounded wife, Tala. Deeply affected, Katie embarks on a journey to find her, but not without drawing skepticism and condemnation from the people around her who think she’s falling into a scam. Throughout the first season, Moayed’s writing dances around the questions of who is right and what is real.
“This show, from day one, he [Moayed] said, ‘It is this, and it is this. And it is not this and it is not this,’” O’Hara said. “And that’s real. That’s what’s happening. And that is what is mind-blowing and soul-wrenching and crushing right now about everything. This is just one piece. This is one example of it. We don’t have an answer.”
That idea, that the same set of facts can look different depending on perspective, is at play in the show’s title, “The Accidental Wolf.” Who is the wolf and who is the prey in any given situation?
“I think everyone in the show, oddly, is the wolf and the prey in a way,” Moayed explained. “We keep talking about Katie, but Katie also — her surroundings, her mother, her father, the people who are around her — she is the prey to all of that cultural baggage … [But] you can go either way on that. Katie doesn’t want anything to do with that worldview. She literally walks away from it.”
“People really do latch onto the word ‘wolf,’ which I love, but the word ‘accidental’ is what I’m really kind of excited about,” he continued, linking it to the idea that who we are in life is shaped by happenstance as much as by personal choice. “That’s the thing I think that’s really interesting with every person in this piece. Are you going to take this accident as coincidence or are you going to use it to better society?”
O’Hara’s co-star, Sahr Ngaujah, added that while “The Accidental Wolf’s” confused reality may feel eerily relevant to an American audience in 2020 watching the ongoing dispute over election results, people have been using that confusion to prey on each other for ages. It comes up in the Nigerian “419” scams explored on the show, but also in countless other instances throughout history and everyday life. But, again, who is wolf and who is prey is not always so clear-cut.
“Obviously in America, there is a lot of confusion about what is reality, what is real, what is worth considering as reality,” Ngaujah said. “The thing about that as it relates to Arian’s piece for me in approaching it, was deciding who is virtuous enough when it comes to a desperate person trying to find their way in a new country — it can become really challenging.”
“We’re in New York City, and the only people in New York City originally were the Native Americans,” he said. “And when you talk to them or anybody who came after that about how many different types of people tried to scam them on the way to becoming legitimate Americans, it makes the 419 seem like a drop in the bucket.”
“The Accidental Wolf” premieres Nov. 26 on Topic.