“If you don’t make enough noise, the world might forget about you,” says David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch) in Waco. The noise Koresh made nearly 25 years ago still echoes through history.
In the spring of 1993, Koresh and followers of his Branch Davidian religious sect were hunkered down in their compound outside of Waco, Texas. Federal agents, acting on warrants issued for weapons violations, raided the compound. A gun battle ensued, resulting in the deaths of four agents and six Branch Davidians. The FBI held a 51-day siege on the compound before unleashing an assault that ended in the deaths of 76 Branch Davidians — men, women, children and Koresh himself.
Paramount Network (formerly Spike) launches its first original series with the six-part event Waco, chronicling what life was like inside Koresh’s polygamist commune, as well as how federal agents — often motivated by politics and publicity — assembled the case against Koresh.
To portray Koresh, Kitsch pored over hundreds of hours of videos, recruiting tapes and recorded phone conversations, and had a close relationship with Waco survivor David Thibodeau.
“I think he was mad brilliant, and that would be very hard to debate that he wasn’t,” Kitsch says of Koresh, whom he calls “Dave” throughout our interview. Koresh had memorized the Bible, and he employed it to his advantage. “Any time they had Dave in a corner or his back against the wall, he would resort to something that no one could one-up him in, and that’s going to Scripture,” Kitsch says. “He was that smart in the sense that you just coulnd’t work around that, because you’re in his element at that point. No matter where the conversation was going, he could bring it back to scripture.”
Koresh was incredibly persuasive, gaining many well-educated followers. “He would be an incredible coach,” Kitsch says. “And the best coaches were the ones that knew how to coach individually, on what makes each individual tick, and also make them feel like they’re serving a purpose. And I think Dave was just a master at that. And it does go into fear, and it does go into the unknown, and it goes into their weaknesses.”
Kitsch hopes Waco will give viewers a different perspective on the events than the one-sided story the media presented in the ’90s. “It’s just a matter of trying to find the whys,” Kitsch says. “Even after this, there’s going to be a lot of unanswered questions. But I hope we provoke it, and I hope we enlighten a lot of people, and I hope these questions are asked.”
Waco premieres on Paramount Network Wednesdays beginning Jan. 24 at 10pm ET/PT.
“If you think you know what happened in Mount Carmel, you need to think again.” WACO, a 6 part TV event, premieres Wednesday on Paramount Network. @60SecDocs #WACOuntold #ParamountNetwork pic.twitter.com/MGZiobAPVj
— Paramount Network (@paramountnet) January 22, 2018