So we were excited to talk with Sarah Minnich, who will be seen co-starring in the Weinstein Television limited series, “Waco”. The series chronicles the 1993 standoff between the FBI and ATF and the Branch Davidians, a spiritual sect led by David Koresh, told from several perspectives of those most intimately involved in both sides of the conflict. Sarah will portray Sharon Wheeler, the spokeswoman for the ATF during the incident. The series co-stars Taylor Kitsch, Melissa Benoist, and Julia Garner and is set to air on Viacom’s Paramount Network in January 2018.
Read our exclusive interview below.
Can you tell us a little bit about your role in WACO and about the series?
Spike TV’s original series “Waco” tells the story of David Koresh, the Branch Davidians and the horrible events that surrounded the town of Waco, Texas in 1993. I play one of the key characters from the Waco trials, Sharon Wheeler. Wheeler, was a cunning press secretary for the ATF who played a large role in the initial drama that took place before the FBI made it to the scene. Although I will save the details of the character’s journey for the show, I will say that she makes some pretty costly mistakes that affect the outcome of the initial ATF raid. These mistakes are paid for by many lives, making Wheeler an infamous character historically.
What was the most challenging part of WACO? What made it an important series for you to join?
I found the character research for this role to be fairly challenging. Because I was playing a character who actually existed and had historical significance in the Waco trails, it was necessary to portray her personality and demeanor as accurately as possible. This endeavor involved researching the actual woman and her involvement in the Waco events. Surprisingly, there was little info to be found. There are literally less than three photos of her on the internet, and even less video footage. We can see and hear actual footage of her during the ATF court hearings, but other than that, it’s as if she has disappeared off the face of the Earth. My guess is that she has, or her associates have, paid someone or some company a good deal of money to remove her likeness and corresponding information from the internet.
In terms of what made this series important to join; for me, it’s all about portraying historical events. As I’ve mentioned in past interviews, my favorite genre to work on is period or era specific. “Waco” takes place in 1993; although this is fairly recent in relation to other era-specific programming, I still find the process of re-creating the past to be exceptionally rewarding.
What do you like more – TV or movies? Why?
I definitely am thrilled to work on either film or television, but I tend to relish TV work a bit more… why? No idea. Maybe it has something to do with the long-form story telling structure of television, or maybe it has to do with the pace at which TV is shot? Who knows! I am early enough in my career, that I am still figuring myself out as an actress. If anyone tries to tell you that they know exactly who and what they are the first year in their career as an actress, they’re maybe getting ahead of themselves; I am convinced that an actor’s persona/preferences/style take time to form.
What TV role have you enjoyed the most and why? Movie role?
My favorite TV role so far was WGN’s “Manhattan”. I remember driving home from set one night after a long evening of filming and just basking in how epic the whole experience had been. The character VERA on “Manhattan” was my first guest-star type role. Although I was technically categorized as a co-star, the role was originally auditioned in LA as a guest-star, and followed very much the same scene set-up as a guest-starring role would have. There was an energy about that set that stuck with me, and my ultimate acting dream is to work on period pieces.
Education is important to you. We read that you want to get a PhD. In what? Why?
I was raised by two teachers; education was the driving force behind my existence for the first 16 years of my life. Everything I did in my youth was for the purpose of getting into ‘a good college’. I literally lived to get in to UCLA from the time that I knew what college was. Go figure, when I did get into UCLA in 2005 after having graduated Valedictorian from LHS, we couldn’t afford it, so I couldn’t go. This revelation caused an irrevocable, life-altering chain of events that took me down a very dark path for over two years. It wasn’t until 2008, that I was able to recover from the let-down of my unrealized college plans and apply to the University of New Mexico. With my academic record, I easily got in and started studying in August of 2008. In May of 2015, I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Communication. Although I am in NO rush to get back into the academic world for now, I do believe that I will resume my efforts at some point in the future. As far as subject matter goes… who knows what will spark my interests down the line; maybe natural sciences, maybe I’ll revisit communication, or maybe I’ll even transition into the arts, considering that is my career-field. Haha.
Besides acting, what are your passions? What gets you motivated?
I have three primary hobbies/passions: hot yoga, sewing (costuming), and nature. Hot yoga is perhaps one of my most important pursuits. I go to class between 3 and 5 days a week and use the practice to maintain mental and physical health. Sewing is how I transmute my creative mind into physical form, other than acting, of course. I thrive on making costumes that can be worn for era-specific films, specifically renaissance and medieval garments. Nature is how I keep my mind at peace and my hands busy when I am not acting. As I’ve discussed before, I typically work for my father 3 days a week in his cactus and succulent nursery. Working with the plants is rewarding, peaceful and methodical, and I am incredibly fortunate to be able to spend time with my father on a regular basis.
We read that you like to travel. What’s your favorite place in the world to travel to?
South America has been my favorite so far. I have been to different parts of Europe and I love the food, culture and people. But there is something to be said about the abundance of nature and wildlife in South America.
Tell us about Shot Caller and your character in the movie. Why should people go and see this movie?
Ric Roman Waugh’s “Shot Caller”, staring ‘Game of Thrones’ star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, is a film about a newly released prison gangster, who is forced by the leaders of his gang to orchestrate a major crime with a brutal rival gang on the streets of Southern California. I play Janie, a young gang-groupie type who gets caught in the crossfire when she attempts to seduce the head honcho ‘Money’, played by Coster-Waldau, immediately after his is released from prison. Oddly enough, I personally know two people who work in the prison system and both of them have said that this film is a pretty accurate portrayal of what goes on in there. If for nothing else, I would suggest that people go check this film out for the simple reason of seeing what that world is like. Not to mention that “Shot Caller” is a pretty stellar film with a killer cast and gritty storyline.
What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
Something that people are usually surprised to hear is that I was born and raised in California, but didn’t make a career for myself in acting until I moved to New Mexico. Most people believe that to have any success in this industry, you have to be IN LA. To that I say: bah humbug. I have learned that sometimes being too close to the action can stifle the creative flame; for some, it is necessary to take a step back in order for growth to take root.