David Dastmalchian Reveals The ‘Extensive Toolbox’ He Brought To His Unsettling Boston Strangler Performance

David Dastmalchian in Boston Strangler
(Image credit: Hulu)

Ever since making his feature film debut in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, David Dastmalchian portrayed numerous unsettling characters who send a shiver down your spine. Over the years, he’s done this in movies like Prisoners, the incredibly popular Netflix original Bird Box and Dune, to name a few. All of those characters and their unnerving mannerisms and disturbing actions have helped the actor shape what could be his most sinister role yet: Albert DeSalvo in the new Hulu movie Boston Strangler.

In a recent interview in support of the 2023 movie's release, Dastmalchian opened up to CinemaBlend about his portrayal of the man long suspected (only one of the murders was attributed to DeSalvo) of being the Boston Strangler, a serial killer who claimed the lives of 13 women in the early-to-mid 1960s. During our conversation, the actor touched on a number of aspects of his performance, including the “extensive toolbox” he’s developed to bring characters like this to the screen, saying:

Every role that I’ve ever portrayed and gotten the opportunity to bring to life has informed my work in some way. I am an actor who has developed a pretty extensive toolbox at this point for how I got about bringing characters to life. ... So all of the work that I’ve done has led me to believe that people aren’t interested in seeing stock stereotypes. I believe that audiences really want complexity in the characters that they’re watching, and I think that people want to see humanity even in some of the darkest characters. So that’s a goal for me, and I tried to do that with Albert [DeSalvo].

Unlike a lot of Dastmalchian’s previous characters, his role in Boston Strangler was based on a real person; someone who allegedly killed more than a dozen people and hurt even more while terrorizing the city of Boston for three years way back when. That being said, the gravity of the situation, as well as his own responsibility to the victims, was not lost on Dastmalchian while preparing for his take on the character, as he pointed out:

It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of responsibility. You’re going to bring a guy to life who hurt a lot of people, who ended women’s lives, who terrorized people. You have to approach this, I think, with a great deal of responsibility. It’s with a heavy heart that I was creating this character.

In order to create this character, Dastmalchian read a lot about the real Albert DeSalvo, including the letters he sent while in jail because “that’s a really good insight into a person’s psychology.” He also studied the late killer’s physicality and voice in an attempt to “latch onto the manner of speech” and “the way that he behaved.”

And though Dastmalchian plays the titular character in Matt Ruskin’s true crime thriller, he made sure to point out that this isn’t a story only about a serial killer, nor is it a story about terrifying moments of violence. Instead, he sees it as one about two female journalists – Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) and Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) – who refused to back down from telling a story to prevent the Boston Strangler from claiming the lives of even more innocent women. 

Anyone with a Hulu subscription can watch David Dastmalchian and the rest of the Boston Strangler cast bring their characters to life in what could be not only one of the best crime dramas of the year, but also an all-time great journalism movie

Stream Boston Strangler on Hulu.

Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.