Evan Peters Was Scared To Play Someone As Dark As Jeffrey Dahmer

Netflix's "Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story" is the streamer's most controversial project in recent years. Created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, the limited series chronicles the brutal murders of men and underage boys by serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in the years between 1978 and 1991. It spent several weeks on Netflix's number one spot and is currently one of the most popular television shows on Netflix.

"Monster" dives deep into how the failure of police authorities to apprehend Dahmer for years allowed him to escape justice every time, causing the deaths of countless men who were predominantly Black and belonged to the LGBTQ community. Racism and homophobia played a crucial role in Dahmer being able to commit crimes for over a decade. 

In the series, actor Evan Peters starred in the leading role and spent months preparing for it. He was able to tap into the serial killer's terrifying psyche to portray him on the show, which by the way, is rather hard to watch. Peters is no stranger to dark characters — he has played his fair share of wicked roles, but none terrified him as Dahmer did.

'I was very scared'

In an interview with Netflix ahead of the show's release, Peters talked about what his research for the role entailed. The actor watched the serial killer's interview footage and read material about his crimes. For the actor, it was a harrowing experience to listen to Dahmer confessing to his murders. The show had a responsibility to tell the story as authentically as possible — Dahmer's crimes are terrifying already. The team had a responsibility to depict it in a way that wouldn't make the audience sympathize with a serial killer who changed the lives of countless families forever. Their success in the matter is debatable.

"Honestly, I was very scared about all of the things that he did, and diving into that and trying to commit to that was absolutely going to be one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life, because I wanted it to be very authentic, but in order to do that, I was going to have to go to really dark places and stay there for an extended period of time."

It's not about Dahmer's perspective

Peters continued, describing the challenge of playing a seemingly-normal person who was keeping a dangerous secret from the whole world. Ryan Murphy had ordered one rule for everyone in the series: "Monster" wasn't a story about Dahmer's perspective. It was about the repercussions of his crimes and how a corrupt system failed to stop him even when they had the chance.

"To get lost in that, it was a challenge to try to have this person who seemingly was so normal, but underneath all of it, had this entire world that he was keeping secret from everybody. So, we had one rule going into this from Ryan that it would never be told from Dahmer's point of view. As an audience, you're not really sympathizing with him, you're not really getting into his plight, you're sort of watching it from the outside. It's called the Jeffrey Dahmer Story, but it's not just him and his backstory. It's the repercussions. It's how society and our system failed to stop him multiple times, because of racism, homophobia... it's just a tragic story. Everybody gets their side of the story told."

The show hasn't necessarily had a positive influence

Playing a character this tricky is no easy feat — and Peters' phenomenal performance on the show is already making him a contender for the awards season. But there's more than the actor's performance being talked about — it's the after-effect of a limited series that has had a different mainstream interpretation than that which was expected. A larger audience has glamorized the show, causing Dahmer to evolve into something of a mythologized figure. 

It has led the general public to purchase Dahmer-centric Halloween costumes, not to mention the disturbing TikTok challenges it has given rise to. While the series promised to tell a faithful account of the struggles endured by Dahmer's victims, many of the victim's surviving family members have condemned the series, explaining it has "retraumatized" them. They've also revealed about not being informed of their fictionalized appearances on the show. Plus, it doesn't help that Netflix doesn't intend to stop making Jeffrey Dahmer-related projects.