AMC is infusing new blood into old wounds. Its Interview with the Vampire series stays loyal to Anne Rice’s novels in spirit, but the flesh is weak. Some characters have aged, others are shifted in time. The origin story begins in 1910 New Orleans, and the demographic of the city, a century later than the book, is more accurately portrayed, even if some of the more delicate points are rounded up.
The 1973 San Francisco interview, which was the basis for the 1976 book, was conducted 50 years prior to the events of the series. Everyone has moved on, but the titular vampire calls Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian), the formerly young journalist who conducted the half-century-old interviews, to Dubai for some refinements he’s sure will present a much more nuanced story.
Debuting after the final season premiere of The Walking Dead, Interview with the Vampire ushered in an Anne Rice multiverse for AMC, already adapting her The Lives of the Mayfair Witches book series, and the author’s purists are as fiercely protective as they have ever been. The 1994 film adaptation of Rice’s book starred Brad Pitt as Louis, but led to a backlash over the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat, and the overridingly straight-jacketed sexualization of the novel’s fluid eroticism.
Series creator and writer, Rolin Jones, is not toning down the novel’s progressive and inclusive features. He also has good reason to believe the cast will be accepted as the definitive representations. Sam Reid, who plays Lestat de Lioncourt in the adaptation, previously starred in the 2019 film Waiting for the Barbarians, and Australian series The Newsreader, Lambs of God, and The Hunting. Louis de Pointe du Lac is played by Jacob Anderson. He played one of the young “Pucks” actors on Showtime’s Episodes, will star in the upcoming season of BBC’s Doctor Who, and put out two albums under the name Raleigh Ritchie, but is best known as the unsullied Grey Worm in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
The two actors spoke with Den of Geek about staining the television landscape with the blood of literature’s least innocent creations, and keeping vampires true to their nature.
Den of Geek: Were you aware of the books going into the projects, and did the novels have any impact on you prior to being cast in Interview with the Vampire?
Sam Reid: Yes, I had read the novels when I was a kid. So, I was very aware of them. I had heard about it being made into a television series for a very long time. When I heard that AMC had the rights, I really hoped I’d have the opportunity to be in that. So yeah, it’s a dream come true, really.
Jacob Anderson: I came to the books through the show. I saw the film when I was a teenager. Initially, I was like, “Oh, it’s another TV show based on a book and there was a film in the 90s.” And I was like, “Okay, I’m not sure. I have a look at this.” Then I was just blown away. I’ve read Rolin’s script first, his pilot, and then instantly started reading the first novel, and just fell in love with Anne Rice’s world and her characters. I was late, but I’m a very avid fan now.
Which passage from the book gave you the initial insight into the character?
Sam Reid: In The Vampire Lestat, he is with Nicki [Nicolas de Lenfent] after one of their late-night sessions. He has an existential crisis and Nicki’s violin playing, and music, takes him out of it. He is very detached from humanity and has no desire to be a part of it, because he’s obviously dealing with what happened to him. He got ripped out of this. It’s basically just that dynamic. I thought it was so fascinating, so well-written: Holding on to the parts of humanity that you love, that you can’t let go of, but you have no choice but to embrace your monster nature. I thought it was such a really interesting question.
Jacob Anderson: To me, it’s a conversation that Louis has with Daniel about moral versus aesthetic. He talks about the painter who steals the paints but makes a beautiful piece of art that then inspires somebody else to become an artist. Are you moral because that’s inherent good that you’re putting into the world, or do you behave in a moral way because of how it makes you look? Are you doing it for the rest of society? It just felt like something that really tortured Louis, and sort of tortures me as well. In lots of ways. Why do we do good? Why is it important to us?
There’s a great quote that Anne Rice wrote that Louis says that I’m going to butcher: It was as if you saw morality as a great glass world that could be shattered with one act. And I love that. I just love that as an idea, how brutal that is. If you become obsessed with that, like, what does that do to you if you live forever? That is your preoccupation for the rest of your days. That is torturous, especially if you’ve done some things.
What passage brought you out of your comfort zone?
Sam Reid: We’re not there yet, but in The Vampire Armand, Marius is a wonderful character. I found that to be sort of confronting, to see that adult-and-child relationship really examined in that capacity. That was a little bit out of my comfort zone. But that’s the extraordinary ability of Anne Rice, to be able to put so much humanity in something that feels so wrong. It’s fundamentally wrong, but yet you’re somehow with them. That ability of putting the psychology in the eyes of the monster, and you having empathy for them, is pretty amazing.
Jacob Anderson: A lot of Anne Rice’s characters do some really awful things, at least in a human context, things that are just unacceptable, but she somehow puts humanity into them and empathy. In the first book, Louis’ relationship with Claudia can occasionally tip in something that I’m not comfortable with. But we don’t explore that in the show.
The series takes on the inconsistencies from the book. Louis is very open about revisionist history and the “odyssey of recollection.” How does it change the inherent character of Louis?
Jacob Anderson: That was one of my favorite things in the show, because it kind of breaks the show. In some ways, it’s the point where Daniel says “Hang on, what is this? What are you bringing me here for? Do you really want to tell the truth? Or is this a kind of indulgent exercise? Is this narcissism?” It forces Louis to question his own memories. That’s almost the first instance that he is suddenly, like, “Oh, what is? What is this for? Why am I doing this? Why do I need to explore this particular period of my life?” It makes Louis question himself.
Sam, did you have to learn to study piano and speak French?
Sam Reid: Yes, lots of studying French and piano and Italian. Yeah, it was a lot, but what a fun thing to be able to do.
Jacob, I love the dance sequence (in episode one), did Raleigh Ritchie help with prep on that? And you can say what you mean.
Jacob Anderson I’ve never done any kind of choreographed dance sequence before, as Raleigh Ritchie or on a show. I’m very uncoordinated. I just jump around. I’d like to do a punk show, which you wouldn’t necessarily know from listening to my music. Learning that tap routine was just drilling every day, but in the beginning, it felt like learning to walk for the first time. It was really hard. And we did a lot of it over Zoom.
The revisions have gotten accusations of the show being “woke”, but Anne Rice’s Interview was very woke. Do you feel it is a necessary part of progression?
Jacob Anderson: I think that what is happening is that we’re being representative of the world we live in now, and of the world we lived in then. The show is set in 1910. Louis and Claudia’s race is reflective of the demographic of New Orleans at that time, so it’s not revisionist. It makes sense. I’m loath to feel like I need to justify it to anybody that is resistant to that, but in our case, certainly that is it.
Interview with the Vampire airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC and AMC+.