In Waco, Texas, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided the headquarters of the Branch Davidians religious sect, beginning a 51 day standoff between the cult and the FBI, that resulted in a brutal siege of the property that left 80 cult members dead.
These true life events are prime material to be explored on-screen within the popular crime thriller bracket, and this story is now set to be adapted by The Weinstein Company for a new (as of yet, untitled) TV miniseries.
The religious sect was led by self-proclaimed prophet David Koresh from 1989 until it’s violent 1993 end. Koresh, like most famous cult leaders, had a sordid history including alleged child abuse and gun crime that had drawn the attention of the ATF and FBI. The standoff with law enforcement and subsequent siege ended with a fatal fire consuming the property’s church building where the majority of Koresh’s disciples were barricaded. Among the 80 dead were Koresh himself and 22 child members of the sect. The Waco siege has been the subject of two televised documentaries in the 23 years since the event, but this miniseries will be the first time it will be the inspiration for an adaptation.
According to Deadline, the miniseries already has an array of talent attached. On board as writer and director are writing/directing/producing brothers; John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle (As Above, So Below and No Escape). The two contrasting lead roles of David Koresh and head FBI negotiator Gary Noesner have been cast with Taylor Kitsch (True Detective) taking on the enigmatic Koresh and Michael Shannon (Man Of Steel) as his FBI adversary. Deadline is also reporting that the Dowdle brothers will examine the events from both perspectives, taking inspiration from two books written by survivors of the siege; “A Place Called Waco” by Branch Davidian David Thibodeau who was one of nine cult members that escaped the fire, and “Sinful Messiah” written by Noesner from his own experience.
The Waco Siege material should provide the series creators with some meaty concepts to work with. Audiences are often fascinated by cult related context and the micro-societies involved that usually turn from utopia to abusive living hell within a few short years. The events leading to the mass death of the cult’s subjects are murky enough to provide narrative conflict and the decision to cover both perspectives is a hint that this will not be a clear cut good guys against bad guys crime piece.
The casting of Shannon will not be the actor’s first cult related project as his role in the sci-fi film Midnight Special placed him on the opposite side of the fence as an ex-cult member. His particular elusive, cagey edge should be interesting to watch as this FBI negotiator character, under pressure to resolve a doomed conflict. The highly compelling character of Koresh should also be a chance for Kitsch to showcase his talent for complex characterization that was glimpsed within the ill-fated second season of True Detective. The production company are reportedly soon to be shopping for a network so hopefully news of a planned release date for this series will be forthcoming.
We will keep you updated with all news related to this new series as it develops.