Interview With the Vampire: Does Lestat Deserve His Punishment?

Vampire families deal with dysfunction old school, but not all lessons are the same on Interview with the Vampire.

Sam Reid as Lestat De Lioncourt - Interview with the Vampire _ Season 1, Episode 7
Photo: Alfonso Bresciani | AMC

This INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE article contains spoilers.

Fans of Anne Rice’s book series, and viewers who only know the characters from AMC’s Interview with the Vampire, will be equally shocked by the season 1 finale, “The Thing Lay Still.” If you haven’t seen it, stop reading now. The vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) is given a vampire time-out by those he gave the Dark Gift to, Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson), and Claudia (Bailey Bass). As further punishment, his newly sanguine-fueled mistress, the singer Antoinette (Maura Grace Athari), performs her final torch song.

The first season delved deep into the traumas and abuses of a dysfunctional family, made more dynamic by the unique kinship of never-aging beautiful predators. People in similar circumstances have at least some forms of community support, inadequate as it may all too often be. Vampires have no such safety nets, and Lestat, of all the players, could use one. He has the Cloud Gift, which means he can levitate. When he dropped Louis from a great height, it took grueling rehabilitation to restore the younger vampire. Lestat’s fall is much further.

The vampire world is different from the human one, and if the rules of Newtonian physics don’t apply, parental discipline is completely off the rails. With this in mind, did Lestat deserve the undeath death sentence Claudia instigated, or should he just have been told “to go and sit in the naughty coffin and think about what he’s done,” as Jacob Anderson admits to Den of Geek.

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I admit, I am biased. I don’t believe the vampire in Dracula warrants the lethal punishment Van Helsing metes out. The mighty ape’s death in King Kong mortified me. I root for the monsters, mobsters, creatures from black lagoons, the shark in Jaws. This is why Anne Rice’s world is so appealing: it’s appalling, these characters who kill indiscriminately, and play with human lives so indelicately. Lestat’s jealousy, concealments, and tyrannical rule are certainly criteria for a coup, but an execution? Count Dracula as a person impaled thousands, as a vampire who knows what deeds never found their way into Bram Stoker’s book? Lestat’s crimes pale in comparison, from the vantage point of the bloodsucking minority. Even in the novel, Interview with the Vampire, this writer did not think the punishment befitted the crimes. Most do, and many will applaud Lestat’s sentencing in family court.

“I hope he earned it, and I hope people feel that was earned,” Reid tells us during the post mortem interviews. “I really hope the audience feels that he should have died. I mean, God, what other choice do these people have, but to kill him?” 

But this is the actor speaking, his character is the vampire with the most seniority in the house. He was the one who got played.

The player says Lestat is perceptive to group needs. “I think he knows that too,” Reid says. “Lestat, particularly at the end when he realizes it’s Louis with the knife and not Claudia, he feels like, ‘Okay, I’ve gone too far. And I need to die.’”

Bailey Bass, who plays Claudia, who instigated, planned and executed the plot, agrees whole-non-beating-heartedly. “Claudia is definitely, like: ‘Yes, he should have died.’” The eternally young immortal knows more than anyone how misfires can happen. While laying the Mardi Gras trap, Claudia sensed Antoinette’s film noir presence among the apothecaries and balconies, and similarly notes how other witnesses might render different verdicts.

“I’ve been watching every episode as it airs on AMC+ so I can live it with the fans,” Bailey says. “When I’m watching it as a fan, I see why people don’t want Lestat to die. But then I also played Claudia, and I know how her brain works. And of course, he deserved to die.”

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Lestat’s lover, the one whose interview is at the center of the story, expresses a butcher’s regret, and he’s the one who left the vampire to rot with the rats. “No, I think Louis doesn’t necessarily feel like he wants him to die,” Anderson tells us. He is the most torn character, saddling a center position in the front seat, and sees more sides.

“I think a lot of it is about freedom,” Anderson explains, cutting the vampire overlord as much slack as artery. “They’re trapped in his house, and Claudia and Louis are essentially prisoners. The only way they’re going to be able to escape the situation they’re in is for Lestat to be off the board for a little bit. He needs to go and sit in the naughty coffin and think about what he’s done.”

During the season finale, the journalist who is chronicling the vampire’s story, Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian), foreshadows the upcoming season by getting a truer admission to the incident. But, as always, the story is more nuanced.

“It’s like they’re on a break, essentially,” Jacobson says. “That break will facilitate Claudia and Louis being able to explore their existence a little bit more, and explore their relationship, and their lives outside of this house. They’re not going to be able to get out of that house, unless Lestat is also out of that house.”

Eviction notices are always brutal reminders of the savagery of life, family breakups are far more difficult. Tough love is always a rough solution, especially in the harsh world of supernaturally gifted natural reborn killers.

“It’s also a very kind gesture, in a way, for Louis to do it because Lestat doesn’t really develop that much as a character over the first season,” Reid says. “He’s got a lot of issues that he doesn’t really deal with. Sometimes the nicest thing a monster partner can do is kill you to instigate a bit of personal change.”

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Anderson likens it to “any relationship. Sometimes you just have to have the big argument that completely changes how you perceive your relationship. Without that, how can you move on, and establish something new?”

Reid agrees, saying “Hopefully, this is the first step in a character arc for Lestat.”

Interview with the Vampire season 1 has wrapped. All seven episodes are available to stream on AMC+.