Interview with the Vampire, AMC’s new adaptation of the first installment of Anne Rice’s best-selling Vampire Chronicles, debuts October 2, and in advance of the premiere, we’re sharing further reflections from our press day with the cast and creatives, along with our general review of the show’s first five episodes.
This advance review contains mild spoilers for season 1 of Interview with the Vampire.
Truly, I’m living my younger self’s television adaptation dreams. I mean, if I had a nickel for every one of the beloved book series I read as a teenager that has gotten a big-budget TV adaptation 30+ years later, I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird it happened twice!
The first was Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time, based on the long-running book series by Robert Jordan. AMC’s Interview with the Vampire is the most recent adaptation pulled directly from my teenage bookshelf and in spite of the fact that I consider myself too worldly and grown up to let my emotions get in the way of enjoying a stellar adaptation, I have already had a tumultuous journey through this particular one.
If teenage me had known that not only would two of my favorite book series eventually be adapted for television, but that I would get the chance to go to San Diego Comic-Con as a member of the press and listen to the creators talk about those adaptations, I think I probably would have never shut up about it. There would be a trail of failed relationships littering my personal history, because I would have been so unbearable that no one would have been able to withstand my friendship for long. I also probably would have kept up my obsessive re-reads so that I never had to go, “Wait, how did this happen in the book?” while watching, but that’s an entirely different issue.
AMC’s Interview with the Vampire was adapted for television by Rolin Jones (Perry Mason, The Exorcist, Friday Night Lights) and stars Jacob Anderson as Louis de Pointe du Lac, the novel’s titular character who’s sharing his life story, Eric Bogosian as Daniel Molloy, the human journalist doing the present-day interviewing, Sam Reid as Lestat De Lioncourt, Rice’s seductive, stunning and infamous Brat Prince, the vampire who steals the heart of a disillusioned human Louis and gives him the “dark gift,” and Bailey Bass as Claudia, the young girl that Louis and Lestat turn and then adopt as their daughter.
I’ve already had the chance to discuss my journey from first learning about the Interview with the Vampire tv show in my Comic-Con coverage. In retrospect, my hubris jumps out. At the show’s Comic-Con panel, and afterwards, at AMC’s intimate press conference and cocktail mixer on the roof of San Diego’s Nolen Hotel, I fell in love with everyone involved in the Anne Rice adaptation. I fell in love with the way they spoke about their love of the source material and their love for making this project.
That high led me to believe that I would be able to stow away all of my particular baggage with the books and just be able to appreciate the show without any intellectual or emotional reactions that may have come up, not from the quality of the adaptation itself, but perhaps from the cognitive dissonance between my experience as a reader and my experience as a viewer. I really thought I could go into AMC’s Interview with the Vampire with a clean slate — oh my sweet summer child.
AMC offered the first five episodes (of the season’s seven total) for review, and it’s important to point out that the same day I got access to these screeners, my father died. Because humor is how we deal with trauma in my family, after we had dealt with all the initial decisions and travel planning I said to my husband, “I think it was really rude of my dad to die when I had these Interview with the Vampire screeners I wanted to enjoy.” Don’t worry, my dad would have laughed… I’m… pretty sure.
I bring up this personal circumstance because when I finally did get to sit down and watch the first episode, I found myself overly critical in ways I did not expect to be. We bring so much of ourselves to the art we read or watch or experience and I was definitely in a weird headspace to watch a show about family and life and death and regrets and life after death.
Anyway, I had been fully prepared to love Interview with the Vampire unconditionally, and I did come out the other side of this emotional rollercoaster loving it, but I really had to unpack some of my own initial reactions. In that way, the title of the first episode, “In Throes of Increasing Wonder,” is very apt, because there was a painful aspect of me working to discard my expectations in order to allow myself to experience “increasing wonder” at this really very, very good adaptation.
The success of this adaptation doesn’t hinge on any one thing. So many circumstances had to come together to make it work, so I don’t want to undervalue the writing or the artistic designs or any other behind-the-scenes craft that went into making it. The Comic-Con panel featured, alongside actors and EPs, production designer Mara LePere Schloop, a rare inclusion for such an event, and star Eric Bogosian said, of her role bringing New Orleans to life, that “her work can not be over-praised.”
But without a doubt, the flashiest reason for its success is the chemistry between Louis and Lestat. Even when I was struggling with my internal issues during the first episode, Jacob Anderson as Louis and Sam Reid as Lestat were transcendent. I now absolutely cannot imagine a version of this adaptation with anyone else.
Having heard Reid talk about how much he loved the book series prior to casting, it is no surprise that he manages to capture Lestat’s contradictions so well. Speaking to Subjectify and others during the press event, Reid’s answer, when asked about the research he had done for the role, really spoke to his love of not only the source material, but the way showrunner Rolin Jones used that material to craft this adaptation.
“I grew up with the books myself so it was pretty extraordinary to read a script of something that I already knew and then to have the opportunity to play a character that I admired for years. It’s very intense to try and approach something that you have so much reverence for, to go back to the source material and examine it in a way that you know that you need to bring this in through interpretation. I have to say when I was there, it was French lessons, piano lessons, singing — it was extreme, but really Rolin’s writing was so transporting as an actor. He has this extraordinary way to weave the literal words from Anne Rice into the script so you’re speaking from actual language. […] It’s just so transporting, so in a way it was like a gift. It was actually incredibly easy, as scary as it was, it was like we were just given such a gift with this extraordinary script. I can’t wait for people to hear his dialogue.”
Reid’s Lestat is also a gift to viewers. He’s charming, funny, and loving while also being brutal and cruel. Reid also said “You have to constantly have empathy for the sociopath, the killer, for the monster, for the demon inside you and that is very challenging for an actor,” and the Australian actor makes every version of Lestat appealing in its own way.
As a fan of the books, I think that Anderson has the more difficult job. He is stepping into a very different version of Louis, but still has to capture the heart of the original. Where is our melancholy rich white boy profiting off the labor of others and still managing to whine about his life being so difficult while still pretty much in control of his own situation? Our new Louis is given life circumstances and obstacles that more clearly delineate why he might feel alienated from himself and under pressure to conform in ways that cause a deep, hidden and perhaps more valid unhappiness that Lestat can exploit. Anderson brings this version to life so completely. There is a subtleness to his performance that I really love.
Anderson also spoke of his deep connection to the Louis that Anne Rice created. After reading the novel, he said “I personally was very struck with the similarities that I have to Louis. I think that’s what most actors do, it’s like a narcissistic thing, you go “That’s me!” I really feel like I understood him and that he understands me, in quite a deep way. So a lot of it, I think, was that I felt that between Anne Rice’s portrayal of Louis and Rolin’s writing of Louis, and then what I was bringing to it — you find something in the middle.”
Anderson also talked a little bit about how the changes in Louis’ backstory (his version is a Black Creole man born in the late 1800s, rather than the white, mid 1700s-born heir to a family owning indigo plantations, and this Louis has regained some of the family’s squandered sugarcane fortune by building a small brothel empire in New Orleans’ red light district) created a different internal drama for Louis that Anderson had to embody when he was creating the character.
“Because we’re seeing Louis over the span of a century, my big thing for 1910 through to 1939 Louis was that in his human existence he’s constantly having to code switch. So it was finding subtle ways for him to behave differently around different [people], in different environments. Some of those I think — I hope — would be kind of uncomfortable to watch, especially as you get to know him.”
Having seen a portion of the show, I can confirm that Anderson is on the money there. Some of Louis’ masks are hard to watch! It was definitely something that gave me pause over and over again and is part of what created a cognitive dissonance while I viewed the episodes. Being forced to confront this issue of Louis’ race and how it confines and inhibits him was challenging, both in general regarding prejudice, and specifically, in terms of how uncomfortable it was to watch a new jarring perspective on a character I once had a set of fixed ideas about. His performance is so good that it makes me want to re-read the novel simply so I can picture him as book-Louis to see how it changes my perceptions of the story.
However, although I’m already sold on Anderson as Louis, apparently the screeners supplied haven’t given me a chance to appreciate the full scope of his performance. In the first five episodes, we are given hints at the hidden emotional depths of Anderson’s Louis, but he spends a lot of time protecting and projecting himself away from his interior life. But at the press conference, Anderson assured us that the more visceral feelings that his character is known for are on the way, and Jones also teased that fans in the know need to hold on until episode 6 for that classic book-Louis misery.
Jacob Anderson: It’s there. The brooding is there. The melancholy is really there. […] People exist in multitudes and I think that I love Louis in the book because he is this representation of grief and melancholy, but I think if you did that the whole time it might not work in this kind of format. But also he’s really sad in the beginning! It’s just that he has to put on this mask of like, “I’m the man about town” because it’s a protection. And then when he’s at home with his family he has to be like, “I’ve got everything in control.” […] I think part of the crisis of his former existence is he’s constantly having to pretend to be all these different things. I think that manifests sometimes in anger and he’s a little bit hard in it. He’s a human going through an identity crisis who is handed an even bigger one in being turned into a vampire.
Rolin Jones: For fans of the books that are really looking for the melancholy Louis, if you can get to episode 6, you will see [that] Louis. All we tried to do was just go, there’s a journey to get to it. It’s set up for him to go on another way to reclaim joy and beauty later on. Now if people watch the show and we get to write more about it, there’s a really beautiful arc for Louis […] So basically there’s a little more spine, there’s a little more grit, there’s a little more fight in Louis than was in the novel, but eventually don’t worry, you get there.
One of the things I was most curious about leading up to the adaptation was how the story, in this particular medium, was going to handle the very different versions of Louis’ tale that we get in the novels Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat. Jones talked a bit about integrating Lestat’s personality from The Vampire Lestat back into Interview during the Comic-Con panel, but at the press conference I got a chance to ask if we would still see elements of Louis as an unreliable narrator in this version. Both lead actors and the showrunner chimed in to offer insight, and their answers seem to imply that this line of thinking has been a crucial one for everyone involved.
Sam Reid: It’s been really fun to explore Lestat from Louis’s perspective, particularly after their relationship gets to where it gets to by the end of season 1. It’s not necessarily Lestat’s point of view so certain things happen from your partner’s point of view and it doesn’t always go that way, so there’s a lot of room to play and I think Rolin has done a wonderful job exploring the contrasting point of views.
Jacob Anderson: Look, I started to get really defensive about it, like, just occasionally Sam and Rolin would be like, “Yeah, but did that happen?” Yeah! Stop! Not everything that Louis says is a lie!
Sam Reid: I think it will be interesting for people watching to go, “Is that real, or is that Louis’ memory?”
Rolin Jones: Molloy in episode 2, very early on, has a line “Memory is a monster” — that is the keystone for what we’re up to in this.
AMC’s Interview with the Vampire frames the “interview” portion as a do-over, almost 50 years after Louis sat down with a young Molloy. When they meet again, it’s almost immediately established that the first interview was nowhere close to accurate, a fact both parties agree on. What we see in these episodes feels like Louis’ attempt to correct his earlier position as an unreliable narrator, and Molloy is constantly needling at his story in an attempt to see through to the truth, but for the most part, in the interview 2.0, Louis doesn’t seem to waiver. So based on those comments from Reid, Anderson and Jones, I’m still interested to see, as the series moves forward, how we might learn more about how this version is unreliable. This version is still being told from Louis’ perspective, so what will we uncover or subvert as we move more into Lestat’s world?
Another comment that I was reminded of when screening the episodes was, when asked what makes this adaptation special, showrunner Rolin Jones replied, in a rather self-deprecating way, “I was never going to out-think anyone, but I thought we had a shot, me and the writers I assembled, at out-feeling every show and there are “Feels” with a capital F on our show.”
Anne Rice’s whole oeuvre thrives on feels. When I was reading her books as an angsty teenager, as a teenager in love, as a broken-hearted teenager, I was able to read these novels and weep and rage and dive deep into the seething range of emotions that sometimes felt too big to contain inside my human body. One of the delights of this adaptation is seeing that exact whirlwind of emotions embodied by Claudia, played by Bailey Bass.
AMC Interview with the Vampire’s Claudia is 14, rather than 5, when she is turned into a vampire. Jones has said that his choice to age up Claudia was born out of several factors, from the practical to the emotional. When you factor out using a very young actor for practical reasons, you’re faced with the challenge of finding something new that can still honor the original character.
Of that process, Jones said: “For Claudia, I think we felt Kirsten [Dunst] did really good work in [the 1994 movie]. There’s no need to repeat it. It’s already out there. And especially for folks who knew these books really well, you don’t want to do a thing where they’re already caught up. […] So, in the writers room, we came up with an idea that we thought will take everything that Anne is doing and and just give it a back door, a side door way in, and give Bailey the chance to kind of go and present something interesting.”
And what Bass does with that is truly “go big or go home.” At the Comic-Con panel she said of her role: “Claudia is a big, big character. She feels so much. Being 14 and she’s trapped in this 14 year old body, you know her mind will never be able to fully develop, which means that she is always going off emotions that she feels so deeply. I’m really excited for women, especially, to see her because I got to play 14, then 17 then 20, 25 all the way up to 30. And because it’s a show, we got to really take our time and see who Claudia is at those stages.”
Nothing could have prepared me for Bass’ performance. I don’t quite know what I was expecting, but there is such a wildness to her. I heard Bass describe her as feral yet I was still shocked. At one point, Bogosian talked about how amazing it was to watch Anderson and Reid’s performances because they gave 100% and “went all the way,” but the same can be said for Bass. She is fully committed to the bit — the “bit” being trapped forever in the emotional turmoil of being 14. She grows and matures in some ways, which does change the performance throughout her first few episodes, but she retains a certain wildness in her choices and her judgements and it is always teeming just below her surface.
Once Claudia joins the family, a certain humor and campiness is unlocked that is extremely enjoyable, while also setting up the tragedy of her creation, the tragedy of how she deals with her circumstances and her rage at being trapped in this unaccommodating body. Honestly, Claudia’s new characterization feels like an homage to all the teenagers who have fallen in love with Louis and Lestat over the years.
A review of Interview with the Vampire not really complete if I don’t discuss how gay it is. Guys, it is for real gay, not gay-adjacent. I’ve watched the episodes so many times now that it’s easy to forget how I felt when I first heard about this adaptation. While I guessed it might lean into the book’s homoerotic longing more than the defanged (sorry) movie did, I honestly didn’t think we would get a solid reframing of Louis and Lestat’s relationship to be, on screen, what we all know that they are. After all, in the book, in spite of all the subtext, it is Louis and Claudia whose relationship is described to be like lovers, though later installments seem to make the nature of Lestat and Louis’ love much more clear.
Even once I started to hear drips and drops about it being a “love story,” I still doubted. We’ve all heard that before. I had to hear it spelled out, several times, in person, literally from the showrunner’s mouth, before I could believe they were giving us a relationship that wasn’t just love, but an explicitly romantic and sexual love. It is a terrible, toxic, no-good, very bad romantic and sexual relationship, but there is no doubt that that is what it is.
At the height of their dysfunction, Claudia refers to Louis as “the dutiful housewife” and herself as “the mistake,” firmly planting Louis and Lestat, not just as lovers but as a married couple trapped in their circumstances unable to break free of each other, but also unable to be happy together. The full breadth of their relationship is, of course, heightened because of the supernatural elements, but at the heart of it, what makes it work, is the grounding of those emotions in this very human relationship drama.
While the queer relationship element exceeded my expectations, the biggest thing I struggled with was actually the “interview” portion between Louis and Molloy. The show has obviously taken pains to create very distinct and opposing visual styles for the two halves of the show, the present and the past, and the problem is that I feel jerked back every time we switch to the interview scenes. They’re very disruptive. This may be intentional, and I’m not really sure how else they could have approached it, but while the interview element is obviously necessary, five episodes in, I’m finding I still don’t love the way I’ll be really settling into the immersive experience of the past only to thrown out with an obnoxious question or a gotcha quip from Molloy. Jones did give some context for their goals with the interview portions, explaining that due to the structure of the show, they felt that they needed to keep coming back to the present interview, more than the book or the movie adaptation does.
“I felt really strongly about figuring out the interview. In the book it’s really lovely, [but] the second half of the book the interviewer falls out on us completely. I knew that that [worked] really well for a novel and it worked really well for a movie, but when you get into seven hours, thirteen hours…So it was always the hardest part of the writing, the script, because Dubai, where our interview takes place, we wanted to make it active and that there was always a reason to go back — there was something going between the two of them — sort of like a mini little play that was going on.”
On an intellectual level, I can see why they are doing that and how it contributes to the overall narrative, but on an emotional level, it is not working for me. The setting itself is also unsettling. I don’t like the life Louis is living now. I don’t think the narrative expectation is that I should, he does, after all, admit to Daniel that he’s bored, but I can’t quite tell where we are going with his bizarre lifestyle. In my wildest fantasies, I hope that it is this cold, aloof self-contained world that Lestat will eventually crash back into to disrupt and to make Louis live passionately again. Uh… so… fingers crossed for me, personally?
Despite that element, five episodes in, I feel like I can say the adaptation is a win. It captures the heart of Rice’s immersive, emotionally-heightened, morally complex world. The writing is thoughtful. Reid and Anderson are absolutely perfect and Bass brings an instability and fire to an already questionable family dynamic. The major changes might take some book-loving viewers a few episodes to adjust to, but they make sense and work in the larger context of what Jones and AMC are trying to create, and I think most readers will eventually agree, and the changes are so grounded in solid storytelling that I don’t think that non-readers, viewers new to this world, will even question them.
‘Interview with the Vampire’ airs 10pm Sundays from October 2 on AMC. Episodes can also be viewed on AMC+ in available regions, including Australia.