Netflix series ‘Dahmer’ gains notoriety for actor from San Juan

Rio Grande Valley native David Barrera has been acting for 28 years in roles big and small, from “NYPD Blue” to “The Big Bang Theory” to “Selena: The Series,” most recently in the acclaimed hit movie Hulu “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. But it’s safe to say that he has reached another level of notoriety playing Chief Arreola in the new Netflix series, “Dahmer-Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.”

The rest may be history for the San Juan native as he is embarking on familiar but uncharted waters with his new opportunities thanks to the acclaim and attention the show is receiving.

Barrera quickly pursued a career in acting after graduating from PSJA high school in 1987 and following a fully paid scholarship to study theater at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She then earned her master’s degree at UC San Diego, where she also earned a paid scholarship.

These days, and after nearly three decades of building a prolific acting portfolio with some 113 credits to her name, Barrera is seeing a once-fledgling career soar.


Although it was a hit on Netflix, the Dahmer series has stirred up some controversy that Barrera addresses when speaking to fans.

“We talked about how he’s trying to do some good and he’s trying not to glorify a serial killer. It’s basically trying to correct the mistakes that were made by showing it through the focal point of victims and witnesses,” Barrera said.

To prepare for his role as Chief Arreola, he spent weeks investigating the real Milwaukee Police Chief in the investigation, Philip Arreola. He explained that he watched various interviews and interactions he had with the public to study both Arreola’s gestures and speech.

For Arreola, it was necessary to carry out an exhaustive investigation of the person, since it was about Barrera “to understand how they see the world.”

“When you play a real person, it’s very important that you treat them with respect,” explained Barrera. “You want to portray the whole person because the person I’m playing is still alive and could see this show, so you always want to make sure you give him the respect that you would give any human being.

“The way that I give them that respect is by making sure that I have a complete and complete idea of ​​what the person is and what they represent.”

After investigation, his next step in the process was to find similarities between himself and the character.

“Once you find out who they are, you really try to get your own personal stuff out. Your childhood, your education, your training, your interactions with people, understanding where maybe people have said something good about you, understanding where maybe people have said something bad about you,” Barrera said, adding that connecting with a character allows you to better portray the necessary emotions.

He believes this approach allows for a more authentic overall performance that will resonate with viewers. And his performance has resonated in his hometown.

Since the show’s launch, Barrera has garnered support from South Texas fans on social media.

“That’s a Valley thing, they’ve always been very supportive of me in my career, even before Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,” he said.

Barrera has also gained recognition among casting directors and fellow actors. She hopes that through the success of the series it will open doors to other roles.

On working with Evan Peters, who stars in the title role, Barrera had high praise for his co-star.

“I think Evan Peters is an amazing actor. I really think that when it comes time for the Emmys, he’s really going to be considered for an Emmy and he’s probably going to win it,” Barrera said.


For Barrera, the hardest part of her job is finding one.

“If you book 5% to 10% of the jobs you audition for, you’re doing very well,” he said, adding that even though it’s an industry with a 90% rejection rate, the effort is worth it. the achievements. “A lot of training is needed. You have to be good at what you do and then it just takes perseverance and a positive mindset to keep going.”

He gleaned his positive outlook from a family that supported all his efforts. Although she said her family struggled with money, his parents continued to support his dream.

As a senior in high school, he attended the Texas Educational Theater Association, where he auditioned for the drama departments of every university in Texas. It was through this association that he was introduced to Southern Methodist University.

“To me, that was amazing because I wasn’t even sure I could afford college in the first place, and to be given a fully paid theater scholarship, that was just amazing,” Barrera said.

The college experience only helped solidify her love of theater and acting, believing she would be successful doing this “for the rest of her life.” At least that’s the mindset she said was necessary to achieve her goals and be successful in a highly competitive industry.

After graduating from college in 1994, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting in the film industry instead of Broadway.

Now, nearly 30 years later, Barrera believes there are two methods of measuring acting achievement, and further believes that there is talent in the Valley capable of reaching those heights.

He wants future actors to know that there is a difference between fame and success, two terms that are often conflated, explaining that there is a middle ground.

According to Barrera, one can be a successful actor without being famous. He explained that people become famous for various reasons that do not necessarily mean that they are successful.

“If you’re a working actor, you’re in the top 1% of actors… you’re definitely successful, but you’re not necessarily famous,” Barrera said. “Ultimately, if you’re doing what you love in life, then you’re successful.”

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