A child actor shedding their G-rated image with a mature role is almost a rite of passage in Hollywood.
Brooke Shields, Drew Barrymore, Vanessa Hudgens – all took on racy, sometimes crazy roles to expunge a squeaky-clean image in the minds of the public as well as casting directors. But no turn is as seemingly dark as the one Ross Lynch, former star of Disney’s “Austin & Ally” and frontman for the pop group R5, takes as teenage Jeffrey Dahmer in the forthcoming film, “My Friend Dahmer.”
Lynch, who plays The Underground with R5 Wednesday, says he considered his current image…“for a split second,” before accepting the role.
“I want to be a lead actor that’s very versatile,” he says. “I want to go into different roles and do different types of films. I want that to reflect in the music, too. Even if we do pop music, we can still do an alternative song or a country song. I don’t want to be trapped in one genre.”
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It’s safe to say few Disney or R5 fans are familiar with Dahmer, who died in prison in 1994; Lynch didn’t when the script first floated his way. Dahmer was convicted of murdering 16 men and boys between 1978 and 1991; his notoriety in the serial-killer canon stems from the grizzly, gruesome nature of his crimes and the evidence of cannibalism and necrophilia discovered upon his arrest.
On screen, Lynch plays Dahmer as a high school senior, weird and clownish, but part of a group of friends that reveled in his oddities. Based on an acclaimed graphic novel by one of those classmates (Derf Backderf), “My Friend Dahmer” generated major buzz at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and distributor FilmRise is planning a theatrical release this fall.
R5 – which he shares with siblings Riker, Rydel and Rocky, and friend Ellington Ratliff – were writing and recording the new EP, “New Addictions,” before and after he filmed the movie. The songs on the EP don’t reflect the experience.
“It did take a toll on me for a second,” he says. “I’m not gonna lie. It wasn’t a conscious thing or I (was) in a bad mood, but I did find myself being more reserved and a little less social than my normal self.”
And he hasn’t had to defend the decision, yet.
“I’ve not had any negative feedback from anyone, including parents,” he says. “I was at Frameline (an international LGBTQ film festival) in San Francisco and there was this dad and his 17-year-old daughter. He was a bigger fan than his daughter. They came to see the movie and said they were coming to the show in L.A. It was cool to see this father-and-daughter relationship, to see families bond over art in general.”
Lynch is 21 now, but he has no desire to change demographics when it comes to R5’s audience.
“If anyone says they want anything else from a fan base, they’re lying,” he says of the throngs of screaming girls that greet R5 on stage. “I would take them a million times over some lazy crowd that just stands there. I love this fan base. I hope we have that same fan base forever.”
He reconsiders for a moment.
“Not discriminating against any age or anything else,” he adds. “Ideally, we want everyone to enjoy our show. We want people to be a part of the show and forget about their problems, but teenage girls are the best fans.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Where: The Underground, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd.
Details: 704-916-8968; www.livenation.com.