Danger and imminent devastation are omnipresent in the first teaser trailer for Paramount Network’s Waco miniseries, released exclusively to PEOPLE.
Taylor Kitsch stars as — and looks eerily similar to — cult leader David Koresh, alongside Michael Shannon as lead FBI negotiator Gary Noesner, in the six-part limited series, which follows the 51-day standoff between the fanatical leader, his followers the Branch Davidians and the FBI and ATF.
The events ended in tragedy and the death of 75 Davidians, including Koresh and 25 children, on April 19, 1993.
“You’ve looked to me to be your leader, to guide you on this journey. But I’m no leader, I’m a follower, just like you,” Kitsch-as-Koresh says over the intense and cinematic teaser, which features quick glimpses of the action set to unfold, along with its major players. “God has instructed me to stay here and wait for his sign. This is our time to prove through suffering that we are worthy of the miracle that’s to come. The kingdom of heaven is coming, I promise you.”
Waco will explore the untold story and true life details from multiple perspectives leading up to and during the siege. Kitsch, who did extensive research for the role, tells PEOPLE that he was unaware of most of the details about the 1993 tragedy and hopes that people learn more about what really happened from all sides.
“I learned a lot about myself as well through learning both sides and formulating an educated opinion on it,” he says. “I was like 99-plus percent of the people who are going to start watching this [and don’t know the whole story], in the sense of we only knew or know what we were told and what they want you to know. The deeper I got into this, the more it unfolded of what exactly happened from the civil rights to the $50 warrant that they had, to the lack of jurisdiction – there are literally jaw-dropping things that happened that the FBI and ATF did during that 51-day siege, it’s genuinely hard to believe that this happened only 25 years ago.”
The Friday Night Lights star’s prep included reading (and re-reading) survivor David Thibodeau’s book, as well as a 30-pound weight loss.
“It was four-plus months of prep for me,” Kistch says. “From losing just around 30 pounds, to listening to hundreds of hours of phone calls of the tapes with [FBI negotiator] Gary Noesner and the FBI and the ATF to Child Protective Services, to reading David Thibodeau’s book a few times.”
Kitsch, 36, says he was able to lose weight gradually with proper diet, nutrition and exercise.
“I’m educated in nutrition and training, so the beauty of it is that I had four months to do it,” he explains. “So on Jan. 2, 2017, I started dieting. I didn’t have a lot to lose, but you have four months to lose 6 to 7 pounds a month. It wasn’t as difficult as it had been in the past, when you didn’t have the right amount of time – you can hurt your body if you lose that much weight that quick.”
The actor also learned to sing and play the guitar.
“I loved it,” he says of seeing himself in full costume as David Koresh the first time. “The wardrobe was huge, losing the weight changes your walk, your style, and I think listening to Dave for so many hours – I’d run while listening to these phone conversations and stuff, it’s a different cadence, there’s a higher pitch that he had and not that you want to emulate or copy it, you always want to make it your own.”
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Waco also stars John Leguizamo, Paul Sparks, Rory Culkin, Melissa Benoist, Andrea Riseborough and Julia Garner.
The miniseries, produced by Weinstein Television, will premiere on the Paramount Network in January 2018.