This is the dawning of “Aquarius.”
So goes the classic ’60s song by The Fifth Dimension but it also may be the dawning of actor Gethin Anthony, who plays infamous mad man Charles Manson beginning tonight in the new NBC drama.
In the series, set in 1967 before the Manson slayings that made headlines, police sergeant Sam Hodiak (played by David Duchovny) investigates a missing persons case that leads him into Manson’s hippie clan and its leader, Charles Manson. Grey Damon (“Friday Night Lights“) and Claire Holt (“The Originals“) also star.
And while Manson is someone we may think of today as deranged and psychotic, Anthony's portrayal shows us initially only a small glimpse of that and, instead, we see a charming, sexy man who has some dreams and goes about achieving them in less than conventional ways. As the series progresses, Manson is pushed to some of the more expected moves that later made him famous.
Anthony is best known for playing Renly Baratheon in earlier seasons of “Game Of Thrones” and when I talked to him recently he discussed playing a gay role in that epic series as well as how “Aquarius” portrays sexuality given the time of free love.
The thing that struck me in watching "Aquarius" is how Charlie is likable and attractive and not the psychotic guy we kind of think of when we hear his name. Can you talk about stepping into such a role?
Gethin Anthony: I certainly didn’t go out to play unlikable. In understanding as much as I did of what he was about and what experiences he had throughout his life and then applying that information to the story that the show shows. This is the Charles Manson before any of the stuff happened. You can hear some of what he’s saying is not unlikable. He wanted to be a musician and ultimately, within our story, you start with a guy who has committed some crimes, wants to be a musician and is pursuing that in the best way that he can and as the series develops and perhaps as the series may develop, he makes bad choices and the things he does become more and more in line with who we see him as now.
At least in the start of the series, what is his main motivation? Is it career? Is it power? Is it control? What would you say?
GA: I think what’s really interesting about how the series is his goal is to get a record contract but because of the lifestyle that he’s leading and the situation that he’s in and the experiences that he’s had, he hasn’t been able to do that in a conventional way. So he goes about it through unconventional means whether it be blackmailing people or getting into the mental psyche or strange behavior.
How do you see the sexuality in the show and with Charlie? This is the 'love is love' era but there is some content in the series that opens that door a bit with a few characters.
GA: I guess we absolutely saw those elements certainly to the world that he’s in. There was an atmosphere of freedom about sexuality and it seems very honest to reflect that in the show. It’s just truthful, ya know? It was a very exciting time to challenge institutions and sexuality was one of those institutions that was challenged by the hippie movement and Charlie is living in that world.
As with anything, he's opportunistic in using any possible tool that he can use to get power and using it to his advantage in any way he could. That explains, to a certain extent, what he does in the story…it was very interesting to explore.
It's hard to watch the show and not think about what happens later with Manson. In episode six, you have a line where Charlie says, 'You can be afraid or you can be the thing that makes people afraid.' And that was the first line that really gave me chills. It's a great line.
GA: It is and the writing on the show is so incredible. It’s one of the things when I first read the first episode for the audition that really struck me…you get these exciting lines and I think, again, he was always a smart guy and he grew up in prison, which he actually talks about in one of his biographies, about creating an air around him of being crazy because people would be afraid of him.
We're seeing so much on television about sexuality and different approaches to it and even your role on "Game of Thrones" was in that arena. Were you hearing a lot back then about that role?
GA: I think Finn and I, who played that story together, we’ve had such a great experience the last couple of years but it’s been such a positive reaction to playing those characters in that world and playing characters who are gay and these two men loved each other and had affection for each other. I thought it was really nice to see that affection in that story and also especially when there’s not a lot of genuine affection going around! People were really great about saying some nice things. One of the most amazing things we heard was from a chap who said he had the confidence to propose to his partner because of the story. It’s just a lovely thing to hear.
“Aquarius” premieres Thursday at 10pm on NBC.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.