EXCLUSIVE: Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, a limited series co-created by longtime collaborators Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan, has been greenlighted by Netflix, with Richard Jenkins co-starring, Carl Franklin (Mindhunter, The Leftovers) directing and Janet Mock (Pose, Hollywood) writing and directing. Production is slated to begin in January.
The order comes on the heels of the strong launch of Murphy’s Netflix series Ratched, which has ranked No. 1 on the streamer in multiple territories around the world.
Monster chronicles the story of one of America’s most notorious serial killers, largely told from the point of view of Dahmer’s victims, and dives deeply into the police incompetence and apathy that allowed the Wisconsin native to go on a multiyear killing spree. The series dramatizes at least 10 instances where Dahmer was almost apprehended but ultimately let go. The series also is expected to touch on white privilege, as Dahmer, a clean-cut, good-looking white guy, was repeatedly given a free pass by cops as well as by judges who were lenient when he had been charged with petty crimes.
Oscar nominee and Emmy winner Jenkins (The Shape Of Water) will play Dahmer’s father Lionel, a chemist, who showed him how to safely bleach and preserve animal bones when he was a child, a technique Jeffrey later gave a sinister twist with his victims. Unlike Murphy’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace, in which he had only one choice for the role of murderer Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss), Murphy and the rest of the producers are casting a wide net to cast Dahmer, with a nationwide search underway for an actor to play the role. The producers also are meeting actresses for the lead female role of Glenda Cleveland, a neighbor of Dahmer’s who repeatedly tried to warn law enforcement of his erratic behavior, to no avail.
Franklin will direct the pilot episode. Mock will direct and write several episodes. The two executive produce with Murphy and Brennan.
Rounding out the writers room with Brennan and Mock will be David McMillan, who will serve as supervising producer for the 10-episode limited series that spans the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s and ends with Dahmer’s arrest in the early ’90s.
Rashad Johnson of Color of Change, a racial justice project, also will serve as supervising producer. Also executive producing are Ryan Murphy Prods.’ Alexis Martin Woodall and Eric Kovtun (Ratched, Halston, Hollywood); Scott Robertson (Halston) is a co-producer.
Known as the Milwaukee Cannibal or the Milwaukee Monster, Dahmer murdered and dismembered 17 men and boys from 1978-1991, many of them persons of color and some underage. Most of the murders also involved necrophilia, cannibalism and the preservation of body parts. Convicted of 16 murders, he was beaten to death by another inmate in 1994, two years into his sentence. He was 34.
In 1991, Cleveland sprung into action when her daughter and niece told her they spotted a teenage boy, Konerak Sinthasomphone, fleeing from Dahmer’s apartment and were rebuffed by police at the scene, taking Dahmer’s word that was actually an adult and his lover who had left after an argument. Cleveland called police numerous times and even tried calling the FBI, but got nowhere. Five of Dahmer’s 17 murders, including 14-year-old Konerak, came after Cleveland tried to alert police. She later said in interviews that she believed her being Black played a role in the police not taking her pleas seriously.
There have been multiple movies about Dahmer, in which he was portrayed by Jeremy Renner, Carl Crew, Rusty Sneary and Ross Lynch. (Lionel Dahmer has been played by Bruce Davison and Scott Cordes.) Unlike most of the previous treatments of the story, which emphasized its sensational nature and gory details, Monster’s approach is psychological and focuses on how the murders were allowed to happen over more than a decade.
Monster is the latest project to come out of Murphy’s Netflix overall deal, joining limited series Hollywood and Halston and movies The Boys In the Band, which was released yesterday, and the upcoming The Prom. Additionally, Murphy is behind the Netflix/ABC Signature series Ratched and The Politician, as well as Fox’s 9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star, FX’s American Horror Story and offshoot American Horror Stories, American Crime Story and Pose.
This is the latest collaboration between Murphy and Brennan. They co-created Hollywood, The Politician and Fox’s Glee and Scream Queens (all with Brad Falchuk). He also has been an executive producer on Ratched and the upcoming Halston.
Jenkins, who headlined the Epix series Berlin Station and won an Emmy for HBO’s Olive Kitteridge, can be seen in the features Kajillionaire and The Last Shift.
The project falls under Mock’s overall deal with Netflix, where she also served as executive producer and director on Hollywood. She became the first Black trans woman to establish an overall deal with a major studio. Prior to that, Mock was writer, director and co-EP on the Murphy-exec produced FX series Pose.