From Tim Riggins to David Koresh: How Taylor Kitsch's 'Friday Night Lights' dimmed until 'Waco' lit them up again

In 2012, Kitsch had three high-budget films lined up: 'John Carter', 'Battleship', and 'Savages'—however, they all ended up failing at the box office


                            From Tim Riggins to David Koresh: How Taylor Kitsch's 'Friday Night Lights' dimmed until 'Waco' lit them up again
Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins in 'Friday Night Lights' (NBC), in and as 'John Carter' (Walt Disney Pictures) and David Koresh in 'Waco' (Paramount Network)

Let's go back to 2012—the world had just begun battling a similar coronavirus outbreak when the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) emerged in the summer of 2012. At the same time in Hollywood, a Canadian actor was waiting to take his household-name status to a bigger level.

Taylor Kitsch had just come off a five-year stint on 'Friday Night Lights' and had gained acclaim for his role as Tim Riggins. In 2012, Kitsch had three high-budget films lined up: 'John Carter', 'Battleship', and 'Savages'.

'John Carter' was especially promoted widely. The Disney film was hoping to create an 'Avengers' like success—with a total cost of $350 million, including an estimated production budget of $263 million, it is one of the most expensive films ever made. However, 'John Carter' made just $284.1 million and Disney canceled the planned sequel titled 'God of Mars'.

Next came 'Battleship' with a budget of $220 million—that movie, in spite of starring big names like Rihanna and Liam Neeson, just made $65 million at the United States Box Office. 'Battleship' was also widely panned by critics.

Arguably, the best of Kitsch's 2012 trifecta, 'Savages' directed by Oliver Stone—known for 'Scarface' (writer), 'Platoon', and 'Born on the Fourth of July'—also managed to fail despite receiving decent, albeit played down reviews.

However, Kitsch is nothing if not perseverant. The actor had once revealed to Buzzfeed that he was homeless in New York City when he was in his early twenties. Over the next few years, Kitsch racked up roles in 'Lone Survivor' (alongside Mark Wahlberg), 'American Assassin' (with Michael Keaton), and '21 Bridges' (with Chadwick Boseman). While Mark Wahlberg and Chadwick Boseman went on to become bigger names, Kitsch, unfortunately, remains at the same stature.

When Kitsch was cast in the second season of HBO's 'True Detective' in 2015, one might have thought he was reversing his fortune a la Matthew McConaughey after the actor was cast in Season 1 of the show. Yet again, critics admitted that Kitsch is a good actor, but that never translated to success in Hollywood. 

However, television has offered Kitsch more chances for success than films. In 2018, he was cast to play David Koresh in Paramount Network's 'Waco', a miniseries about Koresh and the 1993 standoff between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

For the role of Koresh, Kitsch lost 30 pounds and grew a mullet—he looks starkly different from the sexy, often-shirtless characters he plays in most movies. While 'Waco' itself received mixed reviews, Kitsch's performance was again praised for bringing the character "to life fully, with exceptional and emotional nuance."

Two years after it premiered on Paramount Network, 'Waco' landed on Netflix this week bringing to resurgence a new hope for Kitsch's career—fans have taken to Twitter to talk about it. One fan wrote, "I’m at the “OK, I’ll give ‘Waco’ a chance on Netflix” stage of the quarantine. It’s, well, Taylor Kitsch really dove into this role." Another tweeted, "For those who missed the opportunity to watch Waco or just want to rewatch, it was added to Netflix today! A Taylor performance you should definitely check out."

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