This story is part of I'm So Obsessed (subscribe here), our podcast featuring interviews with actors, artists, celebrities and creative types about their work, career and current obsessions.
Almost 50 years ago, Charles Manson and members of the Manson family were convicted for a series of murders including that of actress Sharon Tate. At the time, it was called the trial of the century in part because it lasted nine and a half months. Five decades later, Manson and the family are still a part of our culture with depictions of them showing up in shows like Mindhunter, American Horror Story: Cult and the Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The new Epix documentary series Helter Skelter: An American Myth takes a visceral and revealing look at Manson in order to dispel the larger-than-life myths that grew around him over the years.
On CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast, Lesley Chilcott, who directed the six-part documentary, explained the importance of revealing Manson for who he really was.
"Instead of giving Charlie more credit by falsely saying that he was such a strong leader or that he had the ability to bring about a race war or that he was systematically planning for one, the reality is that none of that was true," said Chilcott. "He was not a mastermind. He was a small guy in stature and was a small-time con artist who had a good acid rap for a while. We look at the cultural factors in the late 60s that were present, and do a social history of the late 60s to explain why some people might have been charmed by him."
Chilcott is the award-winning producer of films like Waiting For Superman, An Inconvenient Truth and An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. She also directed the documentaries Watson and CodeGirl.
In an in-depth conversation about the series and Manson, Chilcott discusses finding never-before-seen footage of the Manson family and how this story eerily reflects the political and social issues of today. She also explains her obsession with wolves and how their protection became a political debate.
Listen to my entire conversation with Chilcott on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Helter Skelter: An American Myth is now out on Epix or available to stream via the Epix Now app. You can subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about work, career and current obsessions.