When taking on a role there is a great deal an actor must take in to account. This is even more true for a series which touches on such as the sensitive and disturbing subjects found in Netflix’s DAHMER – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.
Richard Jenkins, who plays Lionel Dahmer, father of the infamous serial killer, sat down once again with Awards Radar (after previous conversations here and here with Joey) for an enlightening and thoughtful discussion about his performance in the limited series. One word the came up over and over was ‘human.’ Jenkins prepared for the role by reading the Lionel Dahmer’s memoir ‘A Father’s Story.’ allowing him to get inside the head, heart, and humanity of a parent who continues to love his son even after he committed such heinous crimes.
Jenkins ingrains layers of complexity into performance while exploring Lionel’s denial, guilt, and sadness of in a way that allows viewers to better understand the anguished father. When asked to describe his character in three words he chose: sincere, loving and, of course, human.
On why he joined the series:
“I read the three episodes and I immediately wanted to do it because I, like everybody else, didn’t think of what Jeffrey Dahmer is father was who he was, what he went through, until I read the scripts. Then it became human for me – it became a story not just about it not about Jeffrey Dahmer eating people, but it became about the if the far reaching effects of his acts, and how they ruined not just the lives of those who died, but the people around them – and how they changed so many lives for the worse. I thought was fascinating that it went on longer than it needed to. And, I don’t think that’s something that people knew about.”
On his perception of Lionel Dahmer:
I really like this guy. I really like this guy. And I like him because he never stopped loving his son. I think that’s the question for me playing is if Jeffrey Dahmer is your son, or if one of these mass shooters, what do you do as a parent? Do you start to hate them? Do you stop loving them? You know? I don’t know. I don’t think you do. And that makes it even harder. You know, it would be easy just to do they feel like everybody else does about your your son. Lionel Dahmer is really the only one who loved him – his mom and Lionel loved Jeffrey Dahmer. So it’s weird. And his father’s still cries about him today. I saw a little interview with him and he still teared up. I think that’s kind of beautiful. I think it’s just part of who you are as a parent. It’s just in you – it’s just who you are. You can’t you can’t bestill your son. It’s heartbreaking. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. Because for the rest of your life you’re Jeffrey Dahmer’s father. So yeah, there’s no off switch to turn off that parental instinct.”
Watch the full interview with Richard Jenkins below. You can watch his work in DAHMER – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story streaming exclusively on Netflix.