When it comes to transitioning from child to adult actor, some make a complete one-eighty; take former Mouseketeer Ryan Gosling, who had played a teenage serial killer and a neo-Nazi by the time he made The Notebook. That said, when it comes to molting one’s Disney exterior, Ross Lynch may be the most extreme case study yet.
If you’re familiar with Lynch’s previous work, you are probably a tween; Lynch, 21, is best known as one half of the musical duo from Disney Channel’s series Austin & Ally. But for his first feature film role, Lynch chose the gonzo, gore-tinged coming-of-age tale My Friend Dahmer—in which he plays the titular role.
Based on a graphic novel by one of Jeffrey Dahmer’s real-life high school classmates, the film tracks the killer’s rocky adolescence just before his 17-victim spree began.
Most young actors might have resisted the prospect of humanizing a serial killer, but not Lynch. “I made a self-taped audition with my band R5’s tour photographer, and he was like, ‘You’re going to get this; that was really good,’” says Lynch, who had never heard of Dahmer before reading the script. “The self-tape was just sort of an exploration. I just put myself in the headspace and took a whack at it.”
And despite his high profile as Austin (who inspired a wax figure in the character’s likeness at Madame Tussauds Orlando), the character of Dahmer was harder to detach from once he started filming. “Dahmer’s harder to shed then most of the other characters that I’ve played. I found myself going home at night and just sitting in the shower for a little longer than usual to sort of decompress and steam out,” he says. “I had this hair dye in my hair everyday, which I use as a metaphor. When I watched the hair dye going down the drain, that was my version of my shedding Dahmer from the day.”
Next up, Lynch will return to lighter fare as the lead in Status Update, a teen comedy from the team behind 17 Again. But, he says, he wants to keep audiences guessing. “I like being one of those guys where you can’t really predict what I’m going to do next,” says Lynch. “I think that’s kind of cool, whether it’s a teen comedy film or an indie film where I play a serial killer. I like that.”
Main photo credit: Brooklin Rosenstock