The Friday Night Lights alum, 37, lost 30 pounds and had to study scripture, learn to play the guitar and take vocal lessons for the role of the Branch Davidian cult leader in the six-episode miniseries, which debuted on the Paramount Network in January. And that doesn’t begin to describe the psychological toll playing such a character for 10 months could have.
“Something that I learned through talking to other actors that have played guys that don’t have the best rap either, it’s tough because sometimes you let those things infiltrate into your head, even unconsciously if you’re talking to somebody,” Kitsch told PEOPLE at ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas. “Even now having played Dave Koresh, people are like, ‘Oh my god how are you not crazy right now?’”
When he finished filming, Kitsch needed some distance from the experience.
“I went on a motorcycle ride for a couple of weeks through Montana to not be right in it again, even just acclimating to reality,” he said. “I had an idea of what I was going to go through post, but this one kind of took over for a bit.”
While Kitsch said he’s doing well now, that bike trip didn’t totally fulfill his need to get away, so he headed out on a dream vacation riding through France, Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland with a small group of friends, including his Battleship costar Josh Pence.
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The highlight of that trip, he said, was visiting various national parks and discovering small towns. “I found this place that was straight out of a JRR Tolkien novel,” he explained. “This waterfall going through this tiny town that has four houses and you take this 800-year-old bridge to get over it and the waterfall goes into this river and it’s hard to get to, but that’s the beauty of it. That was worth the trip.”
The journey wasn’t without incident, though. “We literally drove into a blizzard which was really stupid… the weather just crushed us,” he admitted.
Waco is available to stream on Amazon.