After the audience at the ATX Television Festival watched an initial episode of Waco, actors Taylor Kitsch, Julia Garner, Paul Sparks and show creators/writers Drew Dowdle and John Erick Dowdle took the stage to talk about Paramount Network’s limited series. When asked how it is to watch the series with an audience, Kitsch immediately had an answer.
“I can watch myself any day of the week — all day, every day,” the Friday Night Lights alum joked.
The city of Waco is only about two hours away from Austin, so it’s only appropriate — and a tad bit eerie — that limited series had a presence at the ATX Television Festival. The limited series is based on the deadly 51-day standoff in the spring of 1993 between religious leader David Koresh’s Branch Davidian compound and federal law enforcement, premiered earlier this year.
In playing Koresh, Kitsch, who now lives in Austin, says its incredible to land “a gig that’s bigger than yourselves.”
“When you’re playing someone like this you have to honor it,” he added. “You’re searching for authenticity — but you never want to copy. You’ll fall flat.”
During the Branch Davidian stand-off, Koresh was shot several times by ATF agents, and survived for 51 days before his eventual death. This 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. That said, Koresh was clearly shown as a villain in the media — but the Dowdles didn’t want to paint that picture. They wanted to make him a complex, layered and nuanced character — like any other human.
John Erick Dowdle says the media at the time dehumanized Koresh and the members of the Branch Davidians. He says that there aren’t good guys or bad guys in this story. “There’s gray on both sides,” said John, “[There are] human beings on both sides making decisions that are tragic.”