Aquarius' Gethin Anthony on 'Authentic' Charles Manson and the 'Tinderbox' of the 1960s

Rob Moynihan
Chris Haston/NBC

Hannibal Season 3

Scene Stealer Gethin Anthony

He Plays Aspiring musician and hippie-commune leader Charles Manson, who becomes the prime suspect in Det. Sam Hodiak's (David Duchovny) investigation into a missing teenage girl (Emma Dumont). "We're not trying to imitate Manson, but instead present an authentic version of him," Anthony says. "The liberation of the era, with narcotic substances and sexual freedom, put him in this atmosphere that was like a tinderbox for things to go wrong."

Where You've Seen Him The 31-year-old English actor, who attended Oxford University and served as president of its Dramatic Society, broke into the mainstream in 2011 as Renly Baratheon on HBO's Game of Thrones. "It was such a big experience that it's hard to contextualize, but I learned a huge amount on that set from incredible people," Anthony says. "It still boggles my mind that people are so engaged with it and some people have only just started watching it."

Why We Love Him Bringing an unsympathetic character to life is no easy task, but Anthony tackled the challenge through hours of meticulous research, from biographies to documentaries and even audio recordings of Manson's voice in interviews before he was imprisoned. "There was no second choice," says creator and executive producer John McNamara. "There was no one else other than Gethin who could be as scary, funny, dangerous, and vulnerable."

Anyone Can Play Guitar Because Manson was a wannabe rock star angling for a recording contract, Anthony signed up for guitar lessons in preparation for the role. "It's a good thing I wasn't trying to be Carlos Santana," he says with a laugh. He also embraced the fashion of the '60s by donning some seriously groovy duds. "As soon as you put on those costumes, you're not acting," Anthony says. "But I'm not a big fan of flared trousers in my own life, so I had to really get used to those."

Aquarius, Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC

AlertMe