Countless Americans love to unwind by watching true crime shows, choosing to turn off their brains by learning about heinous serial killers and other violent criminals. But while that kind of dark escapism has its place for many viewers, the people who work on true crime shows often feel very differently.
Count Evan Peters in that camp. The actor has recently earned strong reviews for playing Jeffrey Dahmer in Ryan Murphy’s blockbuster Netflix series about the vicious serial killer. But while playing Dahmer may have been the role of a lifetime, Peters was ready to move on when the cameras stopped rolling.
Appearing on a Netflix panel to promote the series on Saturday, Peters revealed that staying in the headspace of the lethal serial killer took a toll on his mental health. By the time he was done shooting, the last thing he wanted to do was watch other true crime shows. In fact, he went in the opposite direction.
“I wanted to give it 120% the whole way through, so I brought in a lot of darkness and negativity,” Peters said of the shoot. “And so really, it was just having that end goal in sight. You know, knowing when we were going to wrap. And finally being able to breathe and let go and say ‘okay, now it’s time to bring in the joy and the lightness and watch comedies and romances and go back to St. Louis and see my family and friends and just watch ‘Step Brothers.””
The lighthearted Will Ferrell comedy may have also helped Peters take his mind off the controversy that has surrounded the show after its release. Relatives of Dahmer’s victims have slammed the show as exploitative and unnecessary, pouring gasoline on the discourse about the ethics of producing true crime content. But Peters has been steadfast about defending the show against those charges.
“We had one rule going into this from Ryan [Murphy], that it would never be told from Dahmer’s point of view,” Peters said in a recent video. “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.”
Reporting by Marcus Jones.