Niecy Nash-Betts opens up about ‘Dahmer,’ personal loss

The actress spoke to Variety about the hit Netflix series and what she hopes for the victims' families.

In a recent profile, Niecy Nash-Betts opened up about her role in the controversial Netflix hit “Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story,” and how her own personal loss served as a connection for her with the series and more.

Nash-Bett’s latest role in Ryan Murphy’s anthology series earned her both a Critics’ Choice Award and an NAACP Image Award, as well as SAG and Golden Globe Nominations. The actress plays Glenda Cleveland in the series, the neighbor who lived next door to the titular serial killer responsible for the murders of 17 men and boys, most of whom were gay and people of color.

28th Annual Critics Choice Awards – Show
Niecy Nash-Betts accepts the Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Made for Television award for “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” on Jan.15, 2023, onstage during the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)

The series became a hit for the streaming service, quickly breaking ratings records and becoming one of its most-watched series.

“It’s a phenomenon I didn’t see coming,” the actress told Variety. “This story is timeless. We are going backwards in our laws right now. Today, there are people, based on just how they look, who are not believed and are abused, misused, taken advantage of and murdered, even by police.” She added, “A lot of the themes of the series, you can go outside and find them right outside the front door.” 

The series, as theGrio previously reported, was not without controversy, receiving mixed reception from critics and many viewers and writers questioning the exploitative and potentially harmful nature of true crime shows in general. Rita Isbell, the sister of one of Dahmer’s victims,  Errol Lindsey, spoke out about the series when it aired, revealing that Netflix never reached out to her about the program.

“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?” Nash-Betts said when discussing the criticism of the series. The actress experienced her own immense loss in her life, losing her 17-year-old brother Michael Ensley in 1993 to gun violence. “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.”

Speaking to what she hopes for the victims’ families, she told the outlet, “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.” 

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!