Where Is David Thibodeau In 2018? The Waco Survivor Played A Vital Role In Making The Paramount Miniseries
It's been 25 years since a siege involving the Branch Davidians religious sect, their leader David Koresh, and federal agents took the lives of 76 people in Waco, Texas. The story, as it is adapted in the Paramount miniseries Waco (Sarah Nicole Jones, writer, 1 episode), follows one of the few people who lived in the Branch Davidian compound and actually survived the deadly standoff: David Thibodeau, played by Rory Culkin. David Thibodeau is still alive in 2018, and proved to be instrumental in bringing this retelling of the standoff to life.
Since the 51-day standoff ended in the compound being engulfed in flames, Thibodeau has gone on to document his experiences in the book Waco: A Survivor's Story, which served as source material for the Waco television dramatization. While the Branch Davidians still exist today, Thibodeau isn't a part of the group that still follows the teachings of Koresh. However, The Dallas Observer reported that Thibodeau also served as a consultant on the show, in addition to allowing his book to be adapted. His firsthand experience "[helped] with set design and wardrobe," as the production recreated the compound.
Thibodeau told The Dallas Observer that the show got "some small details wrong," but that he is "satisfied" with Waco (set decoration: Elaine O'Donnell) and how it manages to tell the story of what happened. The aspect of his involvement with the series that affected him most was revisiting the rebuilt Waco compound, which Thibodeau told TIME was akin to "going back in time."
Thibodeau told the Bangor Daily News, "It was a very profound and sobering experience, being on set. It was just like being back there." (His wife Michelle and daughter Serenity were among those who didn't survive.) The memoirist commended the level of detail that went into recreating the compound that was his home for over a year — from recreating "the room where I used to play music with David [Koresh]," to making sure that every person in the compound was represented in the series. "[Karyn Wagner], the costume designer, had a picture of every person that was there," Thibodeau said. "I spent five minutes with each photo, remembering them." He also told the outlet that he believes that the show's focus on those individuals who made up the ground makes Waco "the first time that all sides of the story have been told."
Thibodeau's endorsement of the series does not come lightly, as he has not been shy about criticizing the media for its portrayals of Branch Davidians. In his Dallas Observer interview, Thibodeau said that he found the 2018 ABC News Special Truth & Lies: Waco to be a "propaganda piece," despite his own on-camera involvement. Thibodeau has been critical of the media's coverage of the Branch Davidians, starting with the media's claim that Thibodeau himself was a member of the religious sect. He told the Observer that he never considered himself to truly be a Branch Davidian, and that while he "believed Koresh was a prophet," he — and even Koresh's more loyal followers — did not "worship" him.
Along with getting the facts wrong, Thibodeau also believes that the media dedicated too much airtime to dehumanizing the members of the Branch Davidian sect, especially those who perished in the fire that took the compound. "The spin was in, the demonization — all of it," he told TIME, regarding the sect's vilification. "It’s incredibly hard to fight against as an individual."
While Thibodeau claims that the media missed the mark when covering Waco and Koresh, he still acknowledges that the pain Koresh caused his followers and others was very real. "To all the people that [Koresh] hurt, I'm not — I can't be an apologist for David Koresh, but I feel for people that have had negative experiences at the hands of David," he said in the Dallas Observer interview.
Today, Thibodeau spends much of his time as a drummer in Maine with his band "The Blast Addicts." He told Bangor Daily News that following his experiences at Waco, he "had a lot of rage inside" of him. He continued, "Now I just hit the hell out of drums instead of raising my voice. That helps a lot." Music was what brought Thibodeau and Koresh together initially, when they met in Los Angeles.
Though he's 25 years removed from the events of Waco, Thibodeau's life is still affected by the tragic events that occurred there.