Paul Sparks Interview: ‘Waco’
“When I read the script, I was blown away by the humanizing of all of these people that were involved,” declares Paul Sparks in our exclusive webcam interview (watch the video above). Sparks plays Steve Schneider in “Waco,” the Paramount Network limited series that dramatizes the tense and ultimately tragic 51-day standoff in 1993 between the FBI, the ATF and David Koresh‘s Branch Davidian religious sect trapped within their Waco, Texas compound. The series explores both sides of the story in a balanced and truthful way, while not shying away from some of the unfortunate decisions made by the main players in the standoff, which ultimately led to the deaths of 76 men, women and children, including Koresh and his lieutenant Schneider.
“It was shocking to me,” the actor reveals when asked about how much he learned about Waco and his preconceived ideas were challenged, admitting that he realized pretty quickly that “it was such a complicated situation.”
For Sparks, “Waco” was also about so much more than just retelling the story of the standoff, making it particularly relevant to present day America. “It certainly speaks to the fact that when you don’t talk to each other, when you have this gulf between parties; entities on either side that are not communicating with each other, that paranoia of what the other is trying to do to you can spin out of control to a place that can be really tragic,” he says. “You’d like to think that as we’ve become a more integrated and diverse that there would be less of that, but you see it all the time that we are still very separated as people and still see people as ‘other’ and hopefully the lesson you can learn from this is that those people just need to talk … and this is a morality story about that.”
Sparks has become a mainstay in film and television in recent years, thanks to his breakout roles in “Boardwalk Empire” and “House of Cards.” He won two consecutive SAG Awards as part of the ensemble of the HBO mob drama in 2010 and 2011, and was nominated for his first Emmy in 2016 for his seminal role as the mysterious Thomas Yates in the Netflix political thriller. “For ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ that was really the beginning of my career outside the theater scene,” Sparks says when looking back at how much those ensemble prizes and his Emmy nod meant to him. “To be awarded with that group of people; we’re all still friends, I know all of those guys. That doesn’t happen very all the time on shows … we formed a bond there because it was the beginning for a lot of us, so that was really special,” he reveals. “It’s not lost on me that it is hard to get a pat on the back in life,” he adds. “Getting nominated for an Emmy is sort of the thermonuclear version of getting that pat on the back. It seemed absurd to me, and yet it was so delightful.”