Interview with the Vampire Episode 3: Who Is Raglan James?

Justin Kirk interrupts the meal of a hungry vampire chronicler, as Interview With the Vampire taps the Body Thief for inside information.

Eric Bogosian as Daniel Molloy - Interview with the Vampire _ Season 2, Episode 5.
Photo: AMC

This article contains spoilers for Interview with the Vampire episode 3 and Anne Rice’s VAMPIRE CHRONICLES novels.

AMC’s Interview with the Vampire episode 3 “No Pain” introduces a character from a future book in the Anne Rice Immortal Universe. In the opening scene, Daniel Molloy’s (Eric Bogosian) ongoing study of the undead is intercepted by “a live one.” The stranger implies knowledge of dubious doings behind the scenes in the insular vampire world. The long-form journalist wonders who this interloper is, and even scribbles “MI6?” on his notepad. He’s not that far off. Raglan James (Justin Kirk) certainly does belong to a secret organization, but he could also be anyone.

Anne Rice lets the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) tell the story of Raglan James, the title character of The Tale of the Body Thief, the fourth book in The Vampire Chronicles. It begins in Miami, a “city of water, city of speed, city of tropical flowers, city of enormous skies,” in the year 1990, the author’s chosen voice teases, before drifting into recent dreams. Lestat’s nocturnal visions include Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson), who is a character in the book, and Claudia (Delainey Hayles), who had “been destroyed over a century before.”

The little vampire was a five-year-old dying orphan in 1794 when Lestat gave her the Dark Gift. Sixty years later she rose against him, saying “I’ll put you in your coffin forever, Father.” In the passing years, Lestat “had been transformed into a dark god of sorts, thanks to suffering and triumph, and too much of the blood of our vampire elders.” While this is a very vampirish distinction to presume, his nocturnal vulnerability is almost human. This draws the Body Thief, and an offer for Lestat to experience how it feels to be human again after so many centuries as a vampire.

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Through innate psychic ability, and a touch of psychosis, Raglan James can switch bodies with other people. After an elusive connection in Miami, Raglan “screwed up his courage” to approach Lestat in Paris. The nerve, indeed. The immortal vampire is affronted by the “little mortal bastard,” as Lestat calls Raglan, who has stalked him “like some cheap vampire-hunter in a bad movie, with no respect for the mysterious at all.” But the meeting reveals a deeper mystery, a message the vampire needs to decipher.

David Talbot is the Superior General of the Talamasca, the secret organization which has been investigating paranormal phenomena since the Middle Ages in Rice’s works. Though he is not, at least yet, in Interview with the Vampire, the character may appear in AMC’s Talamasca series. The group, introduced in the 1988 novel Queen of the Damned, keeps both the vampires and the Mayfair witches under surveillance. In The Body Thief, the vampire and the aging scholar discuss the possibilities of body switching, referencing H. P. Lovecraft’s 1933 short story, “The Thing on the Doorstep,” and Eyes of the Mummy by author Robert Bloch.

David does not believe in the practical application of consciousness trading, telling Lestat: “When it happens, we call it possession. It’s a psychic accident! The soul of a dead person takes over a living body; a spirit possessing a human being; it has to be persuaded to let go. Living people don’t go around doing it deliberately and in concerted agreement.”

Of course, Lestat being who he is, the more Talbot warns him not to consider an offer, the greater the temptation becomes. This brings us to the “thief” part of the Body Thief. Raglan is a conman and a kleptomaniac. Everything he owns is either stolen or coerced. He loves to steal. It’s gotten him everything he could want, including a kind of immortality. It’s also gotten Raglan a few things he could do without, like prison time, and expulsion from the Talamasca.

“’They kicked me out of it,” Raglan confirms in the book. “’They accused me of using my powers for gain. What else is there, Monsieur de Lioncourt? What do you use your powers for, if not for gain?” But what would profit even a vampire to gain the whole world, if he loses his soul?

Raglan plans to remain in Lestat’s godlike immortal body permanently, and sticks the vampire in a body dying of pneumonia. It’s a shell game, like the one he’d pulled on a tall, handsome young  inmate of a mental institution years before. Raglan had been dying of cancer, and conned the man in a bait and switch.

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When Lestat first meets Raglan, this is the body his consciousness is in, and it is an ill-fitting skin suit. “That isn’t his body,” Lestat realizes early. “That’s why he can’t use its musculature or its height. That’s why he almost falls when he runs. He can’t control those long powerful legs.” This was the detail which confirmed Lestat’s belief in the original claim, and made the offer irresistible.

The most interesting aspect of Raglan’s appearance in the episode is that he doesn’t survive the 1990s in The Tale of the Body Thief. He’d entered the elderly body of Talbot, and was about to be given the Dark Gift by Lestat, when the vampire uncovers the switch, and crushes the imposter-David’s skull with Raglan’s consciousness inside it. He enters the series as a mysterious specter offering insider documents, stories of dead authors, and the seeming ability to hack into Daniel’s laptop notes as easily as The Body Thief can access a physical being. Coming back in the Prague timeline as someone who can be anyone, we have to wonder: How real is Real Rashid (Bally Gill)?

Ultimately, Lestat does indeed give the Dark Gift to David Talbot, now in the body originally stolen by Raglan. In later books, David will do for Armand what Malloy is doing for Louis. It may happen in a future season of an AMC Anne Rice Immortal Universe series.

At the 92nd Street Y second season premiere screening in Manhattan, series creator and executive producer Rolin Jones told the audience Justin Kirk would be appearing across the Ann Rice Immortal Universe. The audience, some dressed in character, others just themselves, represent the core fans of a show missing a larger audience. Despite traditionalist quibbles about Interview with the Vampire, those Anne Rice fans appreciate how much work and art actually goes into this adaptation. Every laugh, each gasp, and all the shudders come from an underserved source. Even diluted, it is expansive, and the response is similar to those we witness at Théâtre des Vampires. But don’t worry about theater-trained Kirk joining the live repertory of the undead. The departure would be too divisive, and a Body Thief might steal the show.

Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC and AMC+.