Waco, the dramatic miniseries based on the deadly 51-day standoff in 1993 between Branch Davidians and federal law enforcement, premiered earlier this year on the Paramount Network, formerly SpikeTV. It stars Michael Shannon as real-life FBI agent Gary Noesner and Taylor Kitsch as Branch Davidians leader David Koresh.

In effort to get to the humanness of infamous Koresh, Kitsch told the packed crowd at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event today that found it was important to strip the character bare and go back to the start, get down to the bare bones. He requested footage of Koresh’s early sermons, researched his childhood, and lost 30 pounds.

The Contenders Emmys 2018
REX/Shutterstock

“Yes, this is a guy who does a lot of pretty reprehensible stuff, but we’ve got to ask ourselves why,” said on the network’s panel. “That is what is going to make [his character] fly.”

Koresh was shot several times by ATF agents, and survived for 51 days before his eventual death, which solidified his messiah status among many of the cult’s followers. A total of 76 people including Koresh died when agents raided the Waco compound.

“Dave was shot through his gut, his thumb and wrist,” said Kitsch. “To those who watched him die he was this Messiah bleeding out with no medical attention, the guy who paid the ultimate price for his beliefs.”

The show was created by brothers John Erick and Drew Dowdle, who were also on the stage at the DGA Theater panel. The sibling team also wrote and executive produced the six-episode series, relying heavily on A Place Called Waco, the book by David Thibodeau, for source material. Thibodeau was one of the nine survivors of the standoff.