7 'Aquarius' Characters Based On Real People, Because Not Everything About The NBC Show Is Fictional

It may be classified as historical fiction, but NBC's crime drama Aquarius has a lot of characters based on real people. Using the real history of Charles Manson's growing "Family" of followers as a base, the show adds and subtracts characters and embellishes their stories to suit the plot. Aquarius further fleshes out its universe by folding in other historical '60s figures and other characters who may be amalgamations of a few real participants is his story.

With so many different levels of reality co-existing on this show, it's tricky to work out whose truth is stranger than fiction. Good news: The homework has been done for you. Click through this slideshow to discover which Aquarius characters are based on real people.

Image: Vivan Zink/NBC

Charles Manson

I really hope you knew this one already. Charles Manson is unfortunately real, and is currently serving life in prison for first degree murder.

Image: Vivian Zink/NBC

Susan Atkins

We know her as “Sadie,” but Emma’s duplicitous and jealous “sister” is based on real-life Manson follower Susan Atkins. She was convicted of eight murders and spent almost four decades in prison before dying of brain cancer at 61.

Image: NBC

Bunchy Carter

Sam Hodiak’s reluctant witness, Bunchy Carter, founded the Southern California chapter of the Black Panthers and was killed at the age of 26 in a shootout on the UCLA campus.

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Ruben Salazar

The journalist pops up in Aquarius to pressure a detective pretending to be Irish to come forward about his Cuban blood. The real Salazar was killed by a tear gas canister while covering an anti-war demonstration, and is considered by some to have been a martyr for the Chicano Rights Movement.

Image: NBC

Kathleen Maddox

Manson was born to 16-year-old drifter Kathleen Maddox, who was an inconstant and distracted mother. While Maddox would pop up occasionally in Manson’s early life, there is no evidence that she ever visited his Family like she did in the show.

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Mary Brunner

“Mother Mary” is often referred to as the first member of the Manson Family. She met him when she was only 21, and stayed by his side while he recruited more followers. Brunner was in police custody during the time of the Tate/LaBianca murders and avoided the lengthy sentence several of her sisters served. She now lives in anonymity in the Midwest.

Image: Screengrab/NBC

Valentine Michael Manson

Mary Brunner did give birth to Manson’s son, who was given the name of Valentine Michael. But, the show took liberties here. The baby was not stillborn, and Susan Atkins did not steal a child from a hospital ward. Brunner regained custody of her son after she was awarded her freedom in the ’70s. He now goes by the name Michael Brunner and has only spoken of his infamous origin story a few times.

Image: NBC