Paris Barclay (‘Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ director): ‘These victims were people, they’re worth telling the stories of’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

“In every shot, I developed a love for Tony Hughes. That, I think, is part of the reason why it ends up being so painful, is because we ended up being so attached to him,” declares two-time Emmy-winning director Paris Barclay about making the victim the protagonist in the sixth episode of “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” For our recent webchat he adds, “in this particular episode, we took a turn. The whole series took a turn to really be about what we wanted the whole series to be about in totality, which is that these victims were people, they’re worth telling the stories of, they’re worth elevating.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

SEE Why you shouldn’t sleep on ‘Dahmer’ standout Rodney Burford Jr. at the Emmys

“Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” is the first iteration of the “Monster” anthology series from co-creators Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan and explores the dark and disturbing story of the titular serial killer and sex offender (played by Emmy winner Evan Peters). While the show dramatizes the life and heinous crimes of the infamous mass murderer (who killed 17 boys and young men between 1978 and 1991) it also delves into the stories of some of his victims,  as well as into the police incompetence and apathy that allowed the nefarious psychopath to go on a multiyear killing spree. Barclay directed two episodes of the series, including the acclaimed sixth outing “Silenced,” written by David McMillan and Janet Mock. The episode boasts a star-turn by Rodney Burford Jr. as Tony Hughes, a deaf and gay Black man with big ambitions whose life comes to a tragic halt after he encounters and is killed by Dahmer in 1991.

Barclay has been one of the most prolific directors working on television for the last few decades, including on a number of Murphy productions. But he was understandably hesitant when Murphy approached him to join the show. “I got a call from Ryan about doing a series about Jeffrey Dahmer,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to be a part of a story that made him a more famous or infamous than he currently is. I thought, enough about Jeffrey Dahmer. But then he started telling me about this particular episode that he wanted me to do,” Barclay explains. “Ryan can be very seductive, and he won me over, saying, ‘this is where the series shifts’ and the focus clearly leaves Dahmer and goes to, in this particular case, this young, gay, Black man, who we spend time with, living in his world. Eventually he meets Dahmer, and although they develop a relationship that seems like it might be positive, it ends up being tragic. But he really wanted to focus on this victim and his story and as he told me more specifics about the story, I was moved. I thought, this is something that’s worth the struggle of doing it.”

“We were going to have an opportunity to really take deaf actors that the world hadn’t seen before, introduce them to the world, bring them into this gay, Black, deaf culture and really do something that’s beyond just another story of a serial killer, that really made these people human and real, and made people who are hearing understand that there is a language, and there is a culture, and there is a way of communicating that’s just as vibrant as what we do with our voices,” he explains. “That was super exciting. As I dug more into that and realized my challenge would be to take Jeffrey Dahmer and move him into the background — which I was gleeful about — and really elevate the story of this young man and make him the protagonist.”

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