“I was a Disney kid forever and everyone liked to pigeonhole me as that – as people will tend to do – and then this comes along and completely changes my life.” – Ross Lynch
There is a long history of Disney stars “breaking out” in more adult roles. The latest to follow in that tradition is Ross Lynch, who became popular on Disney Channel’s Austin & Ally and has recently portrayed serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in the biopic My Friend Dahmer. In an interview with The Guardian, Lynch spoke about the major shift in his career and what he learned from it.
Lynch admits that portraying Dahmer affected his personal life. He reveals, “Playing him definitely affected me socially. I wasn’t as happy-go-lucky as I normally am. That walk, the stoop-shoulders, it all helped me become the guy: awkward, totally alone, cold.”
Portraying Dahmer required research, so Lynch explains what he did to prepare for his performance. He says, “I knew very little, so I did a lot of research – his 60 Minutes interview [on the US network CBS] and other things – to get a sense of how he moved and walked and talked, a sense of how he presented himself. He was almost happy to get caught and get locked up, because it seemed like toward the end he was trying to stop what he was doing – he enlisted in the army and held down jobs and things like that.”
Not surprisingly, playing a real-life cannibal serial killer is a major departure from his Disney Channel Austin & Ally experience. On that change, he says, “It was certainly very strategic, done with a sense of expanding what I’m seen to be capable of, but not necessarily to tarnish anything I’ve done in the past, which I’m proud of. It serves its purpose, gets an audience – literally, it’s like Disney opens a door, you walk through it, a crowd is waiting and you’re immediately a star. But I always had a sense that one day I’d walk up to the line and just flip the script really hard. My idea was to do a darker kind of independent movie. And this fit perfectly.”
When talking about the role, Lynch explains that he was playing Dahmer before he committed his shocking crimes and details how that influenced his performance. He explains, “Any decent actor knows you can’t judge the character you’re playing. When it came to Dahmer, it wasn’t even really that hard, because he hasn’t done any of the bad things yet that he later did. Sure, he had some weird hobbies and was into some weird stuff. Just considering the family circumstances, his hellishly addicted mother and cold, distant father, and his loneliness, I didn’t really find it that hard to sympathize with Dahmer at that stage of his life. This is the becoming, all potential, nothing realized yet. This was as he was losing his innocence. The goal was just to watch him die from the inside out.”
Reflecting on his past experience, Lynch says, “I was a Disney kid forever and everyone liked to pigeonhole me as that – as people will tend to do – and then this comes along and completely changes my life. It’s hard to make plans, you know? But it seems to be working out.”