Tonight is the highly-anticipated premiere of Waco, starring Michael Shannon, John Leguizamo, Andrea Riseborough, Rory Culkin, Melissa Benoist, Paul Sparks, Shea Whigham, Camryn Manheim and Julia Garner.
The series will attempt to offer an accurate portrayal of what FBI agents were dealing with, as well as what members of the Branch Davidians were up against, during the 51-day stand-off at the Mount Carmel Center in Waco, Texas.
Gary Noesner Negotiated for the FBI During the Waco Siege
The series is partially based on Stalling for Time: My Life As An FBI Hostage Negotiator by Gary Noesner, as well as A Place Called Waco by Branch Davidian survivor David Thibodeau. Noesner was a hostage negotiator during the Waco siege and will be played by Michael Shannon in the series. In a 2010 article in Time magazine, he elaborated on his experience negotiating during the ordeal.
“I was only there the first half of it, but what was really challenging was I had a great team of negotiators who were able to accomplish so much in a really challenging case where there had already been significant loss of life. But… I had a tougher job because I had to deal with a very emotionally volatile on-scene commander and a very strong-willed tactical-team leader. It’s frustrating when you feel really secure about pursuing a particular strategy, and are seeing that even achieve some of your goals, and then have that — albeit unintentionally — eroded and neutralized by someone else’s perception on how to proceed.”
Noesner was present during the first half of the stand-off, but was removed from the picture because of a difference in opinion of how the stand-off should proceed. In an interview with The Today Show recently, Noesner said, “In addition to the conflict inside the compound, there was conflict within the FBI. There was the negotiation team, who basically wanted to engage in dialogue and convince them to come out… and there was part of the FBI that wanted to force them out. Those two things were in contradiction and created a lot of problems.”
In total, 76 people died, including Koresh. Noesner’s negotiation team was able to get out 35 people, including 21 children over the first half of the 51-day siege.
He Spent Many Days on Set of ‘Waco’
In an GQ interview with Michael Shannon, the actor says that Noesner was on set often and “we all got pretty close to him.” He said for himself, it was very helpful to have Gary around; for Kitsch, it was helpful to have Branch Davidian David Thibodeau around.
Discussing the siege and his character further, Shannon said, “Gary was always finding himself in situations that were kind of impossible. It’s pretty rare that somebody’s able to be effective at [hostage negotiation]. It takes a huge amount of empathy, and cunning, and compassion, and resiliency, and patience. All five of those things are in pretty short supply nowadays.”
Shannon added on that he believes there was some part of Koresh that wanted to escape the stand-off alive, and “Gary knew that was in there somewhere.”
According to his website, Noesner retired from the FBI in 2003 after a 30-year long career. Today, he has three adult children and lives with his wife, Carol, in Virginia.