“Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” star Niecy Nash didn’t meet the real Evan Peters until shooting wrapped because her co-star was so entrenched in his serial killer character.
At a Saturday press conference for the hit series, Nash remembered reintroducing herself to Peters after the 10-month rehearsal and shooting period, throughout which he remained in character.
“I respected his need to keep the distance and the tension so that it played out onscreen,” she said.
Though she didn’t spend downtime with Peters on set, Nash, who plays Dahmer’s neighbor Glenda Cleveland, kept him in her thoughts.
“I prayed for you a lot, for real, because this is weighty,” Nash told Peters during their conversation with showrunner Ryan Murphy and co-star Richard Jenkins.
Peters thanked her, recalling a helpful saying Nash had passed onto him from her grandmother: “Hang tough ’til you get enough, and when you get enough, hang tough.”
That mantra stayed with Peters while he prepared for the role by consuming all the books, interviews, footage and psychology reports on Dahmer he could find. To recreate his character’s stiff walk, he wore weights on his arm; to nail the voice, he worked with a dialect coach and assembled a 45-minute audio composite he listened to every day in order to mimic his speech patterns and “get into his mindset.”
“I wanted all these external things to be second nature while we were shooting,” Peters explained.
To decompress from his grueling process, the actor watched lots of rom-coms and comedies such as “Step Brothers,” and spent time with friends and family in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.
“Evan Peters, you and me in a rom-com right after this,” joked Nash.
Following its Sept. 21 Netflix premiere, “Dahmer” has become the streamer’s second most-popular English language show of all time, after Season 4 of “Stranger Things.” As of last week, it has accrued 856.2 million total viewing hours.
The fictionalized account of Dahmer’s life has also racked up its fair share of controversy: the family of one of Dahmer’s victims said that the series “retraumatized” them and that Murphy never reached out to them before or during the making of the show. Murphy disputed this account, insisting that he had attempted to contact about 20 friends and family members of the victims without success.
At the press conference, Murphy reiterated that “we really did our due diligence” throughout the 10-year process of making the show.
“We were desperate to sort of get other inputs and so we just really heavily relied on several sources and several magazine articles, books, etc. We just tried to be as true as we could and we tried to interpret the story,” he said. “But also going into that we definitely had something to say.”
He added, “We again aren’t telling the story of a monster, but [of] how the monster was made. That was always the DNA of the project.”