Aquarius: David Duchovny, Cast Talk 'Tragic' Charles Manson Drama

Aquarius Renewed

Google “Manson Family murders,” and — actually, on second thought, don’t.

Not because you’ll find horrifically gory photos, or because you’ll be reminded of one of the most terrible home invasions/murders in American history — though both of those are true.

The main reason the 1969 killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and seven others, perpetrated by Charles Manson and a gang of devoted followers, will mess with you is because the crimes made no sense whatsoever, Aquarius star Grey Damon says.

RELATED David Duchovny Deflates X-Files ‘Shippers, Nixes Gillian Anderson Dating Rumors: ‘Mulder and Scully Are Gonna Have to Be Enough’

“This thing just happened,” says Damon (Friday Night Lights), who studied up on the murders to prepare for his role as an undercover cop in NBC’s ’60s drama. The series centers on Manson — and the police pursuing him — and starts in 1967, two years before his “family” commits the random, heinous acts. “What’s really scary about it is just humanity, how unpredictable it can be.”

‘THE MYSTERY IS WHAT HAPPENS IN HISTORY’ | Woah. In the parlance of the time: Heavy, man. So before we go too far down the helter-skelter rabbit hole, let’s regroup. Aquarius, from John McNamara (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), also stars X-Files alum David Duchovny as Sam Hodiak.

Duchovny’s character is a clean-cut, old-school police detective asked to investigate the disappearance of a former girlfriend’s teen daughter (played by Bunheads‘ Emma Dumont). To that end, Hodiak partners with Damon’s shaggy Brian Shafe to infiltrate the counterculture and soon is on the trail of a shady ex-con/wannabe singer-songwriter named… Charles Manson.

RELATED Friday Night Lights‘ Gaius Charles Joins NBC’s Aquarius

Duchovny says that at first, his character has no idea what Manson and his group can do.

“Hodiak does not see him as murderer, for sure,” he tells TVLine. “He sees him as a punk, not even as a worthy adversary. He’s a pimp. He’s a con man. He’s manipulating very young women and young boys. Hodiak knows exactly what Manson is doing and how he’s doing it. It’s not a big mystery.”

He adds: “The mystery is going to be what happens in history. That, Hodiak does not see coming.”

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Aquarius Spoilers David DuchovnyA KILLER ROLE | Gethin Anthony (Game of Thrones‘ late Renly Baratheon), who plays Manson, wants to be very clear: He makes no excuses for his alter ego’s actions. But while trying to fathom them, the actor realized that Manson had been in one kind of prison or another from a very young age, only to find freedom in an anything-goes city at the height of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

“In no way does that condone any of the events that took place, but it does help you understand,” Anthony says. “This individual went through the most extreme switch of circumstances and was around very impressionable young people, as well.”

One of those impressionable kids is Dumont’s character — the fictional Emma Karn — who meets Manson at a party and is assimilated into his gang before she even grasps what’s happening. The scene of her official, not-so-consensual initiation, so to speak, is hard to watch. “Her life changes literally overnight,” Dumont says, maintaining that while shooting poor Emma’s descent into criminality, “There was never a time where I was like, ‘This is scary.'”

RELATED Former Bunhead Emma Dumont Talks Coming of Age in NBC’s Aquarius

Anthony can’t say the same. “Some of the moments, the headspace that [the script] put me into was quite a foggy, dark space,” he recalls, remembering one very dodgy sequence involving Manson and his mom. (You’ll see it in later episodes.) “I had to connect to family things that I didn’t want to connect to or create for myself.” He laughs. “I mean, I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who wasn’t out and about in L.A. on Halloween. I was happy just to kick back and have some M&Ms.”

Aquarius David Duchovny Spoilers

BLEAK SNEEK PEEK | The 13-epiosde season — which will be released in its entirety online immediately following Thursday’s premiere — is infused with a sense of dread: After all, Manson’s victims are going to meet their grisly ends in two years’ time, no matter what.

However, “We do have small wins,” Damon previews, “and some big wins, too. Manson is our main villain, but not our only villain.”

Duchovny’s take? The series’ dark, desperate nature is one of its most attractive assets.

“It’s very interesting to me that you have this murder looking on the horizon of the show that is inescapable, and your two ‘heroes’ who are put in charge of making sure that doesn’t happen, aren’t going to be able to do that,” Duchovny says. “So there’s something tragic about Shafe and Hodiak that I like a lot.”

Aquarius‘ two-hour series premiere airs Thursday (NBC, 9/8c).

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18 Comments
  1. wrstlgirl says:

    CAN’T WAIT!!!!!

  2. Does anyone else think the Shafe and Manson characters look too much alike? In the previews I have trouble keeping them apart. But am looking forward to the series.

    • Billie says:

      I thought the same thing. I keep looking at one then the other. I hope it does not confuse me while I am watching.

    • Carla Krae says:

      Yeah, they do. Wonder if it’s deliberate.

    • Drewer says:

      That was my first thought too, but the in the actual episode screen shots they look more different. And I watched the trailer and they sound absolutely nothing alike, so I think it will be OK.

  3. Joey Padron says:

    looking forward to check out the show.

  4. Dee Potter says:

    I lived through the real thing. I wish Manson, the scumbag, had been executed for what he did to Sharon Tate and her unborn baby, and others. I wouldn’t watch this crap if you paid me.

  5. Mr. Tran K says:

    Can’t wait to see him reprising his role as Fox Mulder in The X-Files revival come January 2016.

  6. B says:

    Dark and desperate, heading toward inevitable, gruesome, *real* murders is attractive? What? And this part: “the fictional Emma Karn — who meets Manson at a party and is assimilated into his gang before she even grasps what’s happening. The scene of her official, not-so-consensual initiation, so to speak, is hard to watch.” <– which sounds like they *added a rape* since she's a fictional character. Really? Maybe that's how it was in that "family" — I don't know. Just … I do not understand how anyone wants to revisit this. –I was a kid when it happened, but I knew about it and still feel sick at the thought. This isn't fiction (though I'm sure aspects will be fictionalized). It's not a cool murder mystery where no one really got hurt. This isn't the Red Wedding. Go watch the original Valley of the Dolls with Sharon Tate and remember, it happened to real people. Count me out.

  7. buckycore says:

    This is going to rule. I’m so glad some one has the guts to make this miniseries (or epically long TV Movie…depending on how you prefer to call your binge watchings)

  8. Polly says:

    Why don’t these articles even mention Claire Holt? This is the whole reason she left The Originals wasn’t it?

    • Evan says:

      No she left the Originals because she lives in L.A. and didn’t want to move to Atlanta full time!

      • anonymous says:

        No the previous poster was correct she wanted to try other projects and she couldn’t do that if she was still full time on The Originals. And also I don’t know where you got that info from but it’s bogus I’ve never heard of anything like that. The first time she took a break it was because she wanted to spend more time with her family and now she wants to try new projects.

        • Evan says:

          Sorry Claire herself has said multiple times she didn’t want to move to Atlanta full time since she would be missing so many opportunities that are in L.A.! She also said if The Originals was some how moved to L.A she would go back as a series regular!

  9. yurie says:

    Can’t get over how strange David looks with that haircut. Almost unrecognizable!

  10. Ed says:

    What’s with the southern accent? C. Manson was born in Ohio and raised in Indiana. Accent sounds like SWTexas. Why?