Interview with the Vampire Isn’t Eric Bogosian’s First Interview with a Vampire
The interviewer in Interview with the Vampire talks back as Eric Bogosian talks brining Anne Rice's words to life.
This article contains light spoilers for Interview with the Vampire through episode 4.
Based on Anne Rice‘s iconic 1976 novel, AMC’s Interview with The Vampire follows Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson), the first eternal creature who subsisted on the blood of other living creatures to go public as a vampire. He told his story to a young, unnamed reporter in 1973, and it set off a chain of events which led to The Vampire Chronicles. The series is set 50 years later, in the current COVID-19 pandemic era of 2022. The interviewer, Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian), is no longer the young, drug-fueled, ace reporter wannabe. He crashed, dropped his family along the way, and is teaching classes about revisionist history on Zoom feeds.
The series tackles the problem of rewrites head-on in its very first scene. Louis would like to remix those tapes. He isn’t comfortable with the first telling, calling it, in the second episode “a cautionary tale.” The loquacious vampire invites Molloy to Dubai, to rewrite the story of his life, and the life that came after. Older, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, and far more cynical, Daniel Molloy comes primed to call bullshit.
No one calls bullshit like Eric Bogosian. For 20 years he went out alone on stage for one-man shows speaking truth to power. His Tony and Pulitzer Prize-nominated play Talk Radio was adapted to the screen by Oliver Stone, his play SubUrbia was adapted by Richard Linklater. As an acting veteran, Bogosian’s versatility makes him a perfect fit whether in the 1995 Stephen King psychological thriller Dolores Claiborne through Beavis and Butt-Head Do America to Uncut Gems. He brought his special quality to TV’s Succession, Billions, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
Bogosian gave Den of Geek a good talking to, reminding viewers how he finds his truth on the page, and beauty in the words.
Den of Geek: Daniel Malloy isn’t your first vampire interviewer, Bentley Tittle wanted to know about the at-large Vampire Killer in Blade: Trinity.
Eric Bogosian: I barely remember it. Although I did recall the other day that, “of course I had done a vampire before,” although in that case, a very glancing thing. I should have gone back and watched that. I don’t know how to even do that. But yeah, I’m being interviewed in that about vampires or something. Part of my acting thing is to completely forget things that I’ve done in the past and get ready for the next thing. I’m like some kind of computer that we wipe the memory and then we move on.
Meat Loaf called it transcendental amnesia. Had you read Anne Rice books before being cast?
Oh, yeah. I didn’t read all of them, there’s a lot of them. But I read it when this came out in the 70s, and I was a huge fan right away. But I have to say that, just like in the story we tell, there was a young Daniel, there was the young Eric. The young Eric read Anne Rice and didn’t really appreciate what he was reading. The old Eric read Anne Rice again, of course, when I was doing the job, and I was just knocked out by her tremendous skill at evoking atmosphere and storytelling. You always want to know what’s going to happen next. It’s really terrific.
When I do a job, I go to the script. That’s what I’m going to have to be saying. No matter what the pedigree is of the script, it doesn’t really make any difference because it’s either on the pages or it’s not. In this case, I felt that Rolin just did this amazing amalgamation of his own genius with her genius, and actually took literal lines out of the books and put them in our mouths.
I didn’t expect it. When they came to me to say that I would be doing this, I thought I was just going to be like, “so tell me the story.” And then he would tell me the story. And at the end of each episode, I would go, “Hmm, and stay tuned for the next episode.” Instead, it turns out to be this big, complex mishegoss of things which only gets more and more complex as the season goes on.
Would you be as confrontive as Molloy if you were interviewing someone who just might bite back?
Well, what you see in this first episode is pretty much what you will see a lot of in the season. It’s a strained relationship. I am also in the period we’re in now. The actor playing Rashid, Assad Zaman, is just a wonderful, wonderful guy. The chemistry for all of us. I don’t know how they did this, but this is a show that’s chemically perfect, and things work really well between people.
One of the reasons I did the job was because I wanted to work with Jacob. Because as an actor I recognized, and excuse me for being an I-know-things-that-other-people-don’t-know kind of person, but watching Game of Thrones, I noticed this young man right away. Because what he was doing was so subtle and so challenging for an actor. People often get off on yelling and screaming and fighting. People get Oscars for that stuff. But that’s not the hard stuff. The hard stuff is the kind of stuff that Jacob does. Then he came to do this and his skills are crazy. They’re great. I had a great time working with him, and gazing into his vampire eyes.
I was struck by the comedy all of you bring. Tell me about that, because it’s so important in dramatic works.
Well, (showrunner) Rolin (Jones) has a great sense of humor, and he brings it. I guess he knew my work pretty well, so he knew how to capitalize on what I can do best, which is to be- I don’t even know what that is. I was doing a movie 35 years ago and I was completely perplexed as to how I would even break down the scene. And this actor, Scott Sowers, who has since passed away, said, “They just want you to do that Eric thing that you do.” Whatever the hell that is, it made sense to me then, and I’ve kind of had to live with that ever since. That is a lot of what’s going on in terms of the humor.
I was at a screening the other night where there was an audience, and they laughed at something I said, and I don’t know why they were laughing. I just talk the way I talk, and I think the way I think. When I’m doing things like interviews, I get all earnest and serious and very unfunny and uninteresting. But fortunately, Rolin puts words in my mouth that make me seem smart and sharp and sarcastic. I’m nobody’s fool. That’s the idea. That’s the Daniel Malloy thing.
The project began with Anne Rice’s direct involvement. How is her presence still felt on the production?
I was brought in around March, so she had already passed away by then. That’s an interesting question because this work, and definitely where my head is at these days, is very focused on immortality. We are here for a brief amount of time and then we’re gone. Writers, artists, they emanate their aura into their work and then it’s just there. We have actual literal lines from the books in the work that Rolin very skillfully wove into the story that he concocted. And that’s her presence.
First of all, she was in love with New Orleans, and the flavor of New Orleans is special. I was going to New Orleans anyway. I already had a ticket to New Orleans before they brought me in on this show. I was going down for the French Quarter Festival. I love New Orleans. I love the vibe of that place. She captured it. Anne Rice is one of the great heroes of New Orleans because of that.
Then there’s her humanizing of vampires. The vampire is not this austere, scary, otherworldly person, but a human being with feelings. These are the things that she bequeathed to us. Also, reading the books, again, her storytelling skills are off the hook. You always want to know what’s going to happen next. And it only keeps amping up. You want to know what’s going to happen with these two guys. Then the girl shows up, and you’re hooked in even stronger. That is the stuff that she left to us.
The series takes on the inconsistencies directly, which I think is brilliant. Will the audience or your character ever regret the burning of the original tapes?
He regrets it already. Every actor has a different way of approaching a character. Mine is whatever’s on the page, that’s what I play. But I have to spend some time really making sure I understand what’s on the page. If it’s not on the page, then I don’t think about it at all. There’s this completely erroneous notion about acting that has to do with somehow, you’re imitating life or you’re trying to get as close to life as possible. I don’t have any truck with that. I don’t believe it has anything to do with anything.
My thing is about creating a contrivance, and contrivance consists in what you bring, and also what you subtract. The rest is to your imagination, how you frame it, what’s in the foreground, what’s in the background. I am the servant of the writer who’s doing that construction. This is a very complicated answer to your simple question. Sometimes we do plays and there’ll be a Q&A afterwards. People will ask “so what happens to these people after the play?” Nothing happens to them. They’re characters, they’re not real.
There’s so much to think about with this role, I don’t have any extra time to think about other things. This role encompasses nostalgia, it encompasses regret, and it encompasses passion and desires and ambition. Maybe he’s going to get this story and he’s going to be a big, cool guy again. So many things that I have to hold on to when I’m playing this guy. But I’ll think about that. I’ll think about those tapes. Maybe next season we’ll find a way to bring that up. I’ll mention it to Rolin.
Were you inspired at all by Anthony Bourdain for the character?
I didn’t even know who Anthony Bourdain was, and one day I was doing a show on Broadway and I was running in Central Park between shows, and somebody said, “Hey.” People are always saying “hey” to me in the street, and he said “hey chef.” And I was like, who’s chef? Then found out who he was. I thought he was an amazing artist and talent. His end was very sad.
Barry Champlain came a long time before Anthony Bourdain showed up on the scene. In terms of who gave birth to who. I think somebody has to look at the timeline for that one.
Interview with the Vampire airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET on AMC and AMC+.