The harrowing series Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story was a big hit for Netflix, drawing in high viewership and critical acclaim. Even so, the series was not without its controversy, as it had been criticized by some family members of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims. Others had accused series co-creator Ryan Murphy of “exploiting” the victims for the sake of entertainment.
In the series, Niecy Nash plays Dahmer’s neighbor Glenda Cleveland, a role that earned Nash a Critics’ Choice TV Award along with a Golden Globe nomination. While speaking about the backlash to the show with Variety, Nash recalled how she also lost a close family member to murder, knowing the pain that comes along with such a tragic loss. With that said, her hope was that the Dahmer series would bring some solace to the victims’ loved ones, showing that they were more than just “faceless, nameless” statistics.
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As Nash tearfully explained:
“My brother was murdered on his high school campus. And you never forget. You’re reminded if you pass a cemetery, by a favorite song, a smell, memory, photo. If you have had a loved one die in a horrific way, it is going to be with you for the rest of your life, not just from a TV show, so the goal would be — how do people remember them? Hopefully, there is some solace in us introducing your loved ones to the world, and not just having them just be a faceless, nameless person connected to this case. That was what I prayed for.”
Nash went on to explain how what helped draw her to the series in the first place was Murphy’s approach to the story, which went deeper than Dahmer to shine more of a light on not just the victims, but others who’d been heavily affected by the serial killer’s crimes, such as his own family and neighbors like Glenda Cleveland. As Nash says:
“There were so many nameless, faceless people that got all lumped together because Jeffrey Dahmer was at the forefront of the story. What I appreciated about Ryan Murphy was that he said this story will not be told from his point of view. He really wanted people to see the collateral damage to these victims. And even though Glenda was not killed by Jeffrey Dahmer, she was, indeed, one of his victims.”
Niecy Nash Felt a Connection to Glenda Cleveland
The real Glenda Cleveland passed away in 2011. While Nash wasn’t able to meet with her personally, she still feels a certain connection to Cleveland. As depicted in the Netflix series, Cleveland had become suspicious of Dahmer, but her pleas for the police to properly investigate were not taken seriously, allowing the murderer to continue with his killing spree. Nash says she knows what it’s like not to be believed, but she hopes that her portrayal on the Netflix show will help the world know how much of a hero she was.
“Her torture lasted long. I didn’t know her pain. It almost brings me to tears when I think about it is because I am so grateful that I was a conduit for her voice being heard. I’ve been in spaces in places where I was not believed. I’ve been in spaces in places where I just never felt heard. There’s always something that you take with you from a character. I went home and I told my children, ‘You speak your truth — and you speak it loud and you speak it often, even if your voice shakes.’”
Meanwhile, despite the backlash, Netflix has renewed Monster for two more seasons. The second season will focus on Eric and Lyle Menendez.
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