A little more than three months after the moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars on Feb. 14, NBC’s launching the new summer series “Aquarius.” David Duchovny trades tracking aliens for chasing mass murders as a Los Angeles detective trying to do his job in a world of free love, long hair, cheap drugs, police brutality, rising crime, protests, Black Power and the Vietnam War.
It’s also during the two years leading up to the Tate-LaBianca murders that made Charles Manson a household name. “Game of Thrones” star Gethin Anthony plays Manson in the years when the convicted killer was a budding musician and manipulator.
“My first and strongest reaction to reading the script was that I felt an attraction to the authenticity of dialogue written for Manson and the people around him,” Anthony says. “It felt authentic and made me want to dig deeper.”
Anthony not only started reading books about Manson but began watching films from the late ‘60s. He went so far as to buy vinyl albums of Beatles music to give him a feel of the era.
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After all the research, Anthony says he would have liked to have lived during the ‘60s — well, except for all of the flared trousers.
The great thing about playing one of the most notorious men in history is there was no shortage of material to research. Anthony found recordings Manson made during the time he was trying to start a career in the music industry. That recording helped him find the voice for the character.
One thing Anthony thought about briefly was reaching out to Manson. He opted to listen to the suggestions of others and not take that approach. He did realize that meeting an 80-year-old Manson would not help him that much in playing him as a young man.
His research has given him some solid ideas as to what made Manson become the person he did. Those elements included how Manson spent most of his early life in institution-like homes and some of tips he got from books like “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
“In prison he would listen to the pimps of how they controlled their women. When he got out of prison there was a lot of liberation in the air,” Anthony says.
Duchovny’s character, Sam Hodiak, gets drawn in when that liberation pulls in the 16-year-old daughter of an old girlfriend. Hodiak agrees to find her with the help of a young, idealistic undercover vice cop.
They have to get past the generational gap conflict to save the young girl after she’s joined a small but growing band of drifters under the sway of a career criminal with a dream of being a rock star, Charles Manson. Season one will not include the murders committed by Manson’s followers.
All of the information about the era was new to Anthony, who was born in 1983. He started his professional acting career after school with roles in TV, film and with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
On “Game of Thrones,” he played Renly Baratheon, the younger son of House Baratheon who was assassinated by a shadow creature created by his brother’s adviser. Anthony was only a recurring character in the first two seasons — enough to help him land more auditions.
“It was a huge privilege to be part of it,” Anthony says.
He’s equally excited about “Aquarius,” despite a slightly strange start to filming. The day he arrived on the set, a shaman cleared the aura in his trailer and throughout the set. His only concern was what bad they thought was going to happen if there hadn’t been a blessing.
“Aquarius” debuts Thursday, May 28, but all 13 episodes will be available immediately on other video-on-demand platforms.
“Aquarius,” 9 p.m. Thursday, May 28, NBC (KSEE, Channel 24.1)