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Interview: ‘Boston Strangler’ Actor David Dastmalchian Discusses His Complex Evolution On DeSalvo

Over the last decade David Dastmalchian has become a go to actor for complex and often offbeat characters. In James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad he played Polka-Dot Man, a supervillain dealing with mommy issues. The character who would be easy to laugh off, until Dastmalchian finds a way to capture your heart in the wild antihero mashup film. That seems to be his knack, taking characters who should be easy to paint with one stroke and adding detailed finer strokes you would not expect and certainly cannot overlook.

I had the opportunity to speak with the actor about his work on Hulu’s Boston Strangler film. It tells the story stars two real-life reporters played by Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon who help hunt down a serial killer while challenging the sexism of the 19060s. Dastmalchian plays suspect Albert DeSalvo a finds a way to breathe an unexpected amount of humanity into a character who is certainly not a good person. During our conversation Dastmalchian discussed how he prepared for the role of DeSalvo, how he was capable to take on such a despicable character, avoiding getting into people’s theories about the crimes and more. It is a fascinating conversation which reveals an actor who digs deep into his roles, even when doing so challenges the man himself.

Below is a snippet of that conversation with Dastmalchian, followed by the complete audio interview. (Be warned: Mild Spoilers Ahead)

Steven Prusakowski: How much did your take on him (DeSalvo) evolve from the beginning of the process until now?

David Dastmalchian: No, I think it changed – it inevitably is always going to change. It’s hard, I think, for people to comprehend this, when you when you think about how much pain he inflicted on the world, how many women whose lives he destroyed, or at least, just violated in such a horrible way. It’s probably hard to hear this, but spending so much time learning about his life and his, for lack of a better term, struggles and who he was psychologically, psychiatrically, historically, carved space for – I wouldn’t say sympathy, but humanity. There’s no excuse for what Albert DeSalvo did. And there’s no explaining it away. But it is important for us as a society to continue to understand why there are these historical patterns of male violence against women, the many, many roots of what where that springs from, and I think Albert was the kind of perfect storm of so many problematic elements of our society. He was a mentally disturbed man who slipped through the cracks, resources were never given to him and in youth, that should have been he was a victim of intense domestic and sexual abuse as a child. He was also in incredibly ingrained with backwards thinking and ideas about women and anger towards women. And so his execution of power and the way that he armed women, I think is a reflection of so many of these ways that that we need to keep talking about, but also that for me, it helped me to get inside there and tool around with trying to bring someone to cinematic life who didn’t feel just like Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. Do you know what I mean?

The full interview can be listened to below:


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Written by Steven Prusakowski

Steven Prusakowski has been a cinephile as far back as he can remember, literally. At the age of ten, while other kids his age were sleeping, he was up into the late hours of the night watching the Oscars. Since then, his passion for film, television, and awards has only grown. For over a decade he has reviewed and written about entertainment through publications including Awards Circuit and Screen Radar. He has conducted interviews with some of the best in the business - learning more about them, their projects and their crafts. He is a graduate of the RIT film program. You can find him on Twitter and Letterboxd as @FilmSnork – we don’t know why the name, but he seems to be sticking to it.

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