Who’s afraid of Charles Manson?
Not Jeff Ward, who had the unique experience of slipping into the killer-commune leader’s skin for Manson’s Lost Girls, the latest retelling of how one man formed a “family” and convinced them to carry out a series of brutal murders in 1969.
“I wouldn’t have necessarily wished this on myself,” Ward tells TVLine of the high-pressure role. “But as a person, he’s got to be the most fascinating character study I’ve ever gotten to do. … On my first day of acting school, my teacher said, ‘If you’re playing Hitler, you don’t think you’re a bad guy — you think you’re a hero. I never try to judge my own character.”
Lost Girls, premiering Saturday at 8/7c on Lifetime, focuses on the “six or seven weeks leading up to the Tate/LaBianca murders.” (For the uninitiated, Ward is referring to the 1969 killings of actress Sharon Tate — girlfriend of director Roman Polanski — as well as supermarket executive Leo LaBianca and his wife Rosemary.)
“At the beginning of the movie, you get to see a slice of this beautiful, utopian, love-filled hippie commune,” Ward notes of Manson’s “family,” played by actors like Mackenzie Mauzy (Forever), Greer Grammer (Awkward) and Eden Brolin (Emerald City). “The Manson Family at the beginning is awesome, very supportive and loving. Of course, you’ll see Charlie fall off a cliff and descend into madness, which was a fun thing for me to play with.”
Because Manson never actually committed any of these murders himself — he was far too much of a coward — Ward’s challenges as an actor were more psychological than anything else. He calls Manson “one of the most impressive racists of all time,” and says that “going to that place of darkness and hate for days at a time was pretty difficult.”
Ward never got the opportunity to speak with Manson prior to filming — he’s currently serving a life-long prison sentence in Corcoran, Calif. — but he knows exactly what he would have asked him if he did:
“More than anything, I wish I could say, ‘Did you — or do you — believe in Helter Skelter?’ I know it started as a lie because it served his agenda, but I’m curious about the impending race war that he murdered these people to incite. Was he feeding them total B.S., or did he believe it himself? I don’t think it’s an answer anyone will really know.”
Will you be watching Manson’s Lost Girls tonight? Drop a comment with your thoughts below.