Jeffrey Dahmer 30 Years Later: From Evan Peters' Portrayal to 'Conversations With a Killer' Docuseries

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Dahmer Series
Netflix / Getty Images

Thirty years after Jeffrey Dahmer was convicted of 15 Wisconsin murders and subsequently sentenced to life in prison in 1992, the serial killer is now the focus of two unsettling true-crime projects on Netflix. As the troubling life and gruesome crimes of the “Milwaukee Cannibal” come back into focus, here’s what to know about the subject of Ryan Murphy’s scripted series, Dahmer - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, starring Evan Peters and the true-crime docuseries, Conversations With a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes, from director Joe Berlinger.

Jeffrey Dahmer’s Murders

From 1978 to until his arrest in 1991, Dahmer took the lives of 17 men and teenage boys, with many of his murders involving acts of necrophilia, cannibalism, and preservation of various body parts. His first killing took place three weeks after his high school graduation after he picked up a hitchhiker named Steven Mark Hicks. 

Over a 13-year span, Dahmer took to killing men he was sexually attracted to even though he viewed them as nothing more than sexual objects. Some of the dead bodies were subsequently hidden away at his parents’ Ohio house, his grandmother’s West Allis, Wisconsin, house, and his Milwaukee apartment. 

Jeffrey Dahmer
Curt Borgwardt/Sygma via Getty Images

Although Dahmer identified as gay, the LGBTQ scene in Wisconsin was largely still underground at the time. Additionally, the state was going through a phase of heightened racial tensions. Similar to the conditions surrounding John Wayne Gacy’s murder spree, the victims were mostly closeted gay men, often hitchhikers, runaways or people of color, which allowed for Dahmer’s crimes to go unchecked until his arrest in 1991. 

After he was arrested, Dahmer confessed to the murders related to the evidence found in his apartment. He eventually admitted to having killed a total of 17 men, 16 of them in Wisconsin and one of them, his first, in Ohio. Dahmer was subsequently charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder and, despite his attempt to plead guilty by reason of insanity, was found sane and convicted on all 15 counts. He was then sentenced to life in prison, where was later attacked and died two years later. 

Dahmer - Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story

Although this is not the first time Dahmer’s story has been told onscreen, with My Friend Dahmer being the most recent scripted project released in 2017, The Jeffrey Dahmer Story created by Murphy and Ian Brennan is the first scripted drama to chronicle the serial killer’s troubled upbringing and chilling life as a killer, with Peters portraying Dahmer during his murder spree. 

According to Netflix, Dahmer “is a series that exposes these unconscionable crimes, centered around the underserved victims and their communities impacted by the systemic racism and institutional failures of the police that allowed one of America’s most notorious serial killers to continue his murderous spree in plain sight for over a decade.” After opening with his final murder attempt and subsequent arrest, the series then jumps back in time to show his life leading up to and during his killings. 

In addition to Peters, the limited series also stars Richard Jenkins as Lionel Dahmer, Molly Ringwald as Shari Dahmer, Michael Learned as Catherine Dahmer and Niecy Nash as a Milwaukee neighbor named Glenda Cleveland. Portraying some of Dahmer’s victims are Cameron Cowperthwaite as Steven Hicks, Vince Hill-Bedford as Steven Tuomi, Rodney Burnford as Tony Hughes and Shaun J. Brown as Tracy Edwards, whose escape led to Dahmer’s arrest. Dominic Burgess, meanwhile, appears as Gacy, who murdered 33 men and teenage boys between 1972 and 1978. 

Evan Peters as Jeffrey Dahmer
Netflix

When it comes to his portrayal, Peters started “with a blank slate,” revealing that he was only familiar with images of Dahmer’s arrest and trial. To get into character, he watched Dahmer’s Dateline interview with Stone Phillips before reading various biographies and the police report of his confession. “Honestly, I was very scared about all the things he did and diving into all of that,” he said, explaining that he had to “go to very dark places” for “extended periods of time.” 

“It was so jaw-dropping that it all really happened,” the actor added, while also stressing the importance of being respectful to the victims and the victims’ families while trying to tell the story as authentically as possible. “You need to have certain plot points because he did do these things.” 

The series, meanwhile, marks Peters’ latest collaboration with Murphy after previously starring in nine installments of American Horror Story as well as Pose. It also follows his Emmy-winning turn as a detective on the HBO limited series Mare of Easttown, which was a notable departure from his work on AHS at the time. 

Conversations With a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes

Debuting on Netflix on Oct. 7, the newest installment in Berlinger’s true-crime docuseries shifts focus from previously unheard interviews with serial killers Ted Bundy and Gacy to unearthed recordings with Dahmer. Like the two previous seasons, the series will largely be told in Dahmer’s own words, with the interviews sharing his perspective on the crimes. 

Additionally, the three-part documentary will not only feature “never-before-heard audio interviews between Dahmer and his defense team,” but it will also “delve into his warped psyche” while attempting to answer questions about the police’s accountability, like how a person previously convicted of sexual assault was able to avoid suspicion for so long and how views of the gay scene or people of color at the time affected investigations into these crimes, through a modern-day lens.

“This idea that I had of retelling stories that had been told before, but seen through a present day, social justice lens seems to have worked,” Berlinger told ET about the first season, which was about Bundy and became a massive hit on Netflix. “So, I started thinking about who would be next,” he added, explaining at the time that Gacy was an obvious next choice and that “another season of Conversations was coming down the pike.” 

Berlinger added that after receiving the tapes that would serve as the basis for the Dahmer season, he thought “they were compelling.” 


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