Taylor Kitsch Is Going To Play Branch Davidian Leader David Koresh In a New TV Miniseries

We haven’t even begun to reach peak nineties nostalgia, but this is quite an announcement.

By Comments

(Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

The nineties are very in right now. Not only do we have an election that pits the guy from second-best cameo appearance from Home Alone 2 against the First Lady who spent most of the decade in the White House, but the O.J. thing was out of control for the first half of 2016; Pokémon Go is the internet’s favorite fad; and friggin’ Crystal Pepsi is back on store shelves.

So it’s probably inevitable that a TV miniseries about David Koresh and the Branch Davidian compound near Waco would be on the horizon. And it is! The Hollywood Reporter broke the news on the project Tuesday night:

Friday Night Lights grad Taylor Kitsch will star as Branch Davidian leader David Koresh in Waco, while Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire) is set as lead FBI negotiator Gary Noesner. Ludacris is being eyed to portray Branch Davidian member Wayne Martin.

The limited TV series, which is currently in development, will be based on the harrowing true story of the 1993 FBI siege of the religious sect in Waco that resulted in a deadly shootout and fire. The 51-day standoff ended with an FBI assault on the compound, which was burned down and ultimately killed 76 people inside — including Koresh.

Brothers John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle (No Escape) will pen the potential series, which does not yet have a network. John Erick Dowdle will direct the project, with both on board to exec produce alongside Shannon and Kitsch. The Weinstein Co. plans to take the series out to networks next month. The project is based on two biographies: A Place Called Waco, by Branch Davidian David Thibodeau — who was one of the nine survivors of the April 19, 1993, fire; and Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator, penned by FBI special agent in charge of negotiations Noesner.

The casting of Kitsch as Koresh makes a lot of sense. Not only is he good at playing Texans (Texas forever, y’all), but he’s not really very good at playing anything else, so if we want to live in a world where Kitsch still matters, it might be Koresh or nothing. At the very least, the charismatic-yet-frustrated persona he brought to Tim Riggins ought to make people who identify strongly with #33 uncomfortable as they understand how people might get sucked into the orbit of someone like Koresh, and that’ll be fun.

Details on the series are sparse—there’s no network attached yet, but with Kitsch, Shannon, and Luda all attached, plus the weight of the Weinsteins behind it, it shouldn’t be hard to get one on board. The premiere date, number of episodes, and approach to the material is all similarly a big question mark—although the Hollywood Reporter notes that “it will be told from several perspectives of those who were involved—from both sides of the conflict.”

That’ll be important in understanding what happened at the compound, which the national media will almost certainly refer to as “Waco” even though it was more than ten miles outside of town. Regardless, the situation at the Branch Davidian compound turned out to be much more complicated than it seemed in 1993, whether or not one believes the conclusions in the controversial Danforth Report. Ultimately, that’s the point of much of this nineties nostalgia—it’s been more than twenty years since the events at the Branch Davidian compound, and since O.J., and almost that long since the death of JonBenet Ramsey (who is the subject of a series of forthcoming projects, the first of which premieres in September), and our understanding of these events is much more clear and developed than it was when they played out in real time.

The long-form narratives that we’re using to tell stories on television now are perfectly suited to take advantage of that additional context, which helps the projects transcend nostalgia and become insightful into things that, at the time, we only partially understood. If it takes turning Tim Riggins into Vernon Howell to make sense of what happened outside of Waco in 1993, that’s probably a better use of Taylor Kitsch than anybody’s done since before Battleship.

Related Content

  • rikki buff

    One of my good friends was Steve Schneider , hes the one who died last with koresh in a supposed suicide pact , they were the last two in the building and David was his right hand man. We used to meet at the low bridge crossing on the Leon river in Gatesville Tx right on the border of ft Hood and get stoned and fish a lot. Every couple days for about two years, He never talked about Waco and only once or twice brought up religion. He was a very nice guy. Last time we hung out was about a month before the craziness. I dont believe they voluntarily took their own lives. I was stunned when i saw him on tv during the siege…as i said i had no idea.
    The whole thing was a massive screw up by law enforcement .
    Just curious of your thoughts and if they will tell the truth in this movie
    I will always miss my friend, he loved life.

    • JP

      This should have been left to local law enforcement to handle…

  • Julie Langford

    By the way, Taylor Kitsch has played several great roles besides his FNL character. He was intense and excellent in Savages, The Lone Survivor, and the Emmy-winning The Lonely Heart, to name a few. He is a terrific choice for this complex, charismatic and flawed character.