On April 19, 1993, the Mount Carmel compound in Waco, Texas, was set ablaze after a 51-day standoff between the FBI/ATF and the Branch Davidians, causing one of the most tragic and most disputed moments to take place in the 1990s. Waco, the 2018 Paramount Network series now streaming on Netflix, documents the story from both sides, with viewers learning more about the siege and what happened on that fateful day.
As viewers continue to stream the series, they might be wondering what happened with David Thibodeau, portrayed by Rory Culkin (you might know one of his brothers from a little movie called Home Alone, and another from HBO’s Succession) and one of the sole survivors of the fire. Here’s what we know about him and what his role was in the production of the miniseries.
Thibodeau and Koresh were actual friends, initially bonding over music.
In a 2018 profile with the Dallas Observer, Thibodeau discussed that when he first met Koresh, the two bonded over dreams of becoming rockstars, a scene depicted in the first episode of the series. After traveling to Waco a few times, he eventually moved into the compound. Despite being friends, he knew that Koresh had his own flaws. “I can’t be an apologist for David Koresh,” he told the publication, “but I feel for the people that have had negative experiences at the hands of David.” Thibodeau continues to pursue music on the side as the drummer for the Blast Addicts.
Thibodeau wrote a memoir detailing his experience living in Waco.
In 1999, Thibodeau published a book called A Place Called Waco: A Survivor’s Story, where he detailed his experience with Koresh and the Branch Davidians. The memoir, along with Gary Noesner’s account of the event, later became the basis for the miniseries.
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In the book, he detailed that although he technically lived at the Mount Carmel Compound, Thibodeau never considered himself to be a follower of the movement, nor did he think that Koresh was the messiah. He told the Dallas Observer that although he did think that Koresh had prophet-like qualities, the people who lived in the compound weren’t walking around worshipping the leader.
Thibodeau helped Taylor Kitsch and Rory Culkin get into their roles.
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As one of the consultants on set, Thibodeau assisted in the set design and wardrobes for the series. He also was there to help Kitsch and Culkin get into their characters, blown away when Kitsch stepped onto the set in full costume. “We had Thibodeau on set every day,” Kitsch told the Hollywood Reporter in 2018. “He helped me mentally, from like my 2AM texts to him while we were shooting to improvise the Psalms that [Koresh] liked to have.”
In a Reddit post from 2018, a fan pointed out that viewers could see Thibodeau in a cameo role in one of the last scenes of the series, sitting alongside Rory Culkin, the actor portraying him throughout the show.
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