Gethin Anthony has confessed that it was “challenging and psychologically complex” getting into character as US cult leader and mass murderer Charles Manson for TV series Aquarius, but that it was all worth it from an acting point of view.
The former Game Of Thrones actor, 33, took on the role of a young Manson in the drama thriller series – set in the late 1960s – for two seasons, opposite David Duchovny as fictional LAPD detective Sam Hodiak.
As challenging as it was for him to become the character for Aquarius – which includes versions of real people based around fictional events – Gethin also said that it allowed him to learn more about the man before he was imprisoned for his crimes.
Manson became notorious in 1969 as the leader of a roving “family” of young killers and he and a number of his followers were convicted in the gruesome killings of Sharon Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski, and four others at her estate on August 9 1969, and grocers Leno and Rosemary LaBianca who were killed the following night.
Gethin said, of trying to immerse himself into such a tricky and notorious role: “I was in some ways fortunate – it was a double-edged sword – I had about three weeks between knowing the job offer was there and starting filming.”
“I had to learn to drive as I was moving to LA where driving is an essential life skill and I had to learn to play guitar – I had no time to think about it really.
“I started reading biographies and watching YouTube and very quickly realised they didn’t want to focus on him, the man Charles Manson is now, but who he was then in 1967.
“So it meant going back and digging deeper and finding audio recordings of his speaking and documentary called Manson from 1972, which was very useful. And I changed my iTunes playlist overnight, from anywhere in the 1960s to the early 1970s and tried to immerse myself in the sounds.”
He said that he did have doubts about trying to portray Manson, as it was a “risk” to join a TV series based around such a controversial character.
He added: “As an actor, having trained and prepared, I’ve always wanted to do this to get as far away from myself as possible and try to walk in other people’s shoes – if I don’t take this opportunity I don’t know what I would do.
“It’s one of those things: you get what you ask for. You say to reps you want to play challenging, psychologically complex roles. In my mind there was no question I was going to go forward with it, once I’d read the first script and spoken with the showrunner and director and got a sense of what they wanted to do, it makes sense. There’s always a little bit of risk.
“In terms of dealing with the character? It was book learning, learning about his formative years. There was a lot about him I didn’t know. I knew obviously of his crimes but I didn’t know him as an individual.”
Gethin said he was “surprised” to learn that Manson actually had spent much of his life in prison and that he had been an active member of the Hollywood scene in the 1950s.
He added: “There were surprising elements to it, and he was married, he was trying to live ‘like a normal individual’ for a short period of time. All of the minor surprises were levelled by the more… OK, yes, he was extreme for any human.”
“It was helpful for me as an actor to connect to him as a person because its impossible to play someone without doing that.”
“But without those, before the heinous crimes in the later part of his life, it was difficult for me as an actor to try and build a depth there.”
Aquarius – which aired in the UK on Sky Atlantic – has not been renewed for a third season by its US channel NBC, but fans can grab the entire Season 2 box set, which is available buy now at Amazon, HMV and iTunes.