The first look at Taylor Kitsch in Waco has officially arrived. The six-part mini-series, which premieres in January 2018, has been percolating for just over a year. It centers around the standoff between federal agents and the Branch Davidians religious sect at their Texas compound from February to April 1993.
Their infamous leader, a self-proclaimed prophet named David Koresh, had drawn the attention of the authorities following allegations of child abuse and gun crimes. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives initially attempted to raid the property, but the FBI initiated a siege shortly afterward, resulting in a 51-day stalemate that ultimately ended with a deadly fire. In total, 76 people were killed, including Koresh and over 20 children.
The event has been the subject of two televised documentaries in the 24 years since, but Waco will be the first fictionalized adaptation. It's based on two biographies: A Place Called Waco, by David Thibodeau, a surviving Branch Davidian, and Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator, from lead FBI negotiator Gary Noesner’s biography. Brother duo John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle (As Above, So Below and No Escape) are on board as writer/directors, while Kitsch (Friday Night Lights, True Detective) stars as Koresh and Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire) as Noesner. Rounding out the cast are John Leguizamo (Bloodline), Andrea Riseborough (Nocturnal Animals), Rory Culkin (Electrick Children), Melissa Benoist (Supergirl), Paul Sparks (House of Cards), Shea Whigham (Kong: Skull Island), Camryn Manheim (Person of Interest), and Julia Garner (Ozark).
In the photos, Kitsch bears a near spot-on resemblance to Koresh, with curly, shoulder-length hair and wire frame glasses. He told People he did over four months of preparation for the role, including losing 30 pounds, listening to hundreds of hours of phone calls and FBI tapes, and spending time with Thibodeau.
The show itself is aptly timed: It hits in the midst of TV's obsession with true crime, though it's more a retelling than a whodunnit, and on the heels of American Horror Story's cult-focused seventh season. In fact, franchise mainstay Evan Peters will also play Koresh in a later AHS episode. The small screen has been flushed with adaptations and reimaginings as of late, especially in the true crime arena, but Waco is the first to approach this particular saga from this angle, and its source material is certainly rich. As with any project, it could go in either direction, but as of now, things look promising.
Waco premieres January 18, 2018 on the Paramount Network.