Why Claudia Is Interview with the Vampire’s Most Feral Vamp
Interview with the Vampire’s Bailey Bass knocks the Twilight out of pre-teen vampire angst as Claudia.
This article contains light Interview with the Vampire spoilers through episode 3.
Series creator Rolin Jones is lovingly and painstakingly adapting Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire to a faithful recreation of the novels while reframing the story. Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) is no longer the white, slave-owning plantation runner, but a well-connected, closeted Black man in the deep south of the early jazz age. Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) is not quite the cruel mentor, tossing his protégé into undeath with callous disregard, but a true lover and soulless soulmate. The couple share one important tie to the book, however. Louis and Lestat are literature’s first vampire same-sex parents.
“Claudia, for me, personally, is her greatest creation,” Jones told Den of Geek about Rice’s most provocative and personal character. “I think authors get maybe two or three times in a career where you land on something aggressively, wildly original. The five or six-year-old girl permanently trapped in that body is so aggressively original.” The character was based on Rice’s daughter Michele, who died in August 1972 of granulocytic leukemia at the age of 5. The book was the author’s therapy.
It is an unspoken rule amongst vampires that children are not to be turned into immortal bloodsuckers, almost as strong as child labor laws. In the 1994 Neil Jordan film starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, Claudia was played by Kirsten Dunst at the age of 11. Bailey Bass, who was 19 during her shooting, plays Claudia as a 14-year-old. But not as advanced for her age as Bass, who was 13 when cast as Tsireya in James Cameron’s Avatar.
Bass spoke enthusiastically with Den of Geek about diving headfirst into deviltry, and splattering the most blood.
Den of Geek: Were you aware of the books before the project came up?
Bailey Bass: I was not. I read the books after I was cast. I did a lot of research, and I annotated them. I immediately fell in love with Claudia in the audition process, and then when I read the books, I fell in love even more.
The idea of Claudia, an immortal creature trapped in a five-year-old body is one of the creepiest concepts in the history of horror. How does eternal puberty rate on the fear factor?
The fear factor? Like, really, really high. Because her brain never develops. Especially now, I play Claudia when she’s stuck in a 14-year-old body. So, she’s stuck prepubescent, or going through puberty, so she has all these raging hormones.
Claudia, because her brain never developed, her prefrontal cortex, the thing that helps us make decisions, will never finish developing. So, she’s always going for emotion. She’s like: I want it, I need it now, I’m gonna take it, and that’s terrifying.
Which passage from the book gave you the first spark into the character?
I would say when she’s turned, because that’s when the fire is like [snaps fingers], and immediately Anne Rice introduces her as a vampire in such an exciting way that it’s like, dang, she does whatever the hell she wants.
What takes you out of your comfort zone?
I do so much research ahead of time that I feel very, very prepared when I get on set. Playing Claudia is a dream role because I get to be free. I get to escape into her world in her mind. When she feels rage, it’s so real and so grand. When she’s happy and elated, you see the butterflies in her eyes. Because of that, it’s exciting as an actor. I’m always out of my comfort zone playing Claudia, because we don’t have a lot of similarities. But because I do so much research, it’s almost like I’m stepping in her shoes, and I’m becoming her. So, it’s very nice.
When you first won the role, did you get the feeling you just might live forever?
I think I was just excited. I had so much fun playing Claudia in the auditions. Then playing her, the chemistry in the read with Jacob and Sam was also fun because they’re such giving actors. Because of that, it was honestly a dream. I was so excited to get the opportunity to continue playing such a beloved character.
Have you had any contact at all with Kristen Dunst about the role?
I have not. But I know Mark Johnson, the producer of the show, saw her at the Golden Globes or the Emmys. And he spoke to her and she was excited to see the show.
Congrats on the series being renewed before it even premieres. Does your Claudia come to the same predetermined end, or will she be extended somehow?
That’s something that I’m excited for audiences to be on the journey, because she goes through so much. We have so much more time to really see Claudia on the screen. I’m excited for audiences to really see the way she grows, the way her time in New Orleans affects who she is, and the people that she meets. We definitely have seven beautiful episodes where we get to show the Anne Rice universe in this grand way, and I’m excited for audiences to come on this journey.
Is the relationship with Madeline changed and what does Claudia get from her that she doesn’t get from Louis and Lestat?
In the books Madeline is a mom figure. Claudia doesn’t have any girlfriends. She doesn’t have any female to look up to. It’s really hard because she’s a little girl, especially in the beginning. Little girls need some female to look up to. You see, in the show, how she dresses like the woman that she sees on the street. When she sees Madeline, it’s someone that she can have a closer relationship with. She gets that female bond that she doesn’t get from Louis and Lestat.
What do you learn from this that you won’t get in any acting classes?
Being on Interview with the Vampire is like an acting intensive. It’s great because I’m thrown into this environment with these incredible actors that are so giving and give me everything I need to be in a scene.
I remember one time I needed to look at a tennis ball to act, because of the eyelines, and Sam leaned as far as he could, close to the tennis ball, so I could react to his own performance rather than a tennis ball’s. I’ll remember that throughout my entire career because it’s one thing working with really nice people, but to work with people that are as hard-working as you are, that are as happy to be on set and play these characters as I am, is such a gift.
Do you work through wires or things like that? Are there any issues and are there any excitements?
It’s all exciting. I love stunts. I love getting to do these action sequences. Claudia is so feral. People see it in the trailer already. She is just ready to go! She is going to take that kill, and she is going to do it as viciously as possible.
This is interesting because, in the show, we see how she has similarities with Louis, of course, that’s something that’s so obvious in the book. But she has a lot of similarities to Lestat. As I was playing Claudia, acting and living the scenes opposite Jacob and Sam, I started to realize that she gets changed at such a young age. You are a product of your environment, and she’s surrounded by, not just Louis but Lestat, and the dramatic kills that he has, Claudia enjoys as well. Getting to do those scenes, getting to have the lenses, the nails, and really be Claudia in the grandest form, was really fun.
What happens when you put on those things?
We’re doing a scene and then we stop, put the things in, and then continue the scene, which is really fun. Or we would stop, put the fangs in and put some blood on, and continue the scene. It’s just another thing like costume, hair, and makeup that helps me become the character.
I know that setting and costumes are big things, but are prosthetics a different kind of acting tool?
What’s exciting about Claudia, she has four fangs as opposed to two. It’s just another accent of how she’s much more feral than the guys. She kills the most people in the show. There were times where they’re like, “Okay, we have this kill” and they have to decide who has more blood on us. And they’re like: “We need to know which one of you killed,” as a backstory, so they can add more blood on someone. The guys look at me, I look at myself. Who else is going to do it but Claudia? Claudia is going to kill the most people. She did it in the show. It’s obvious. It’s great.
What’s the most alluring part of playing a vampire?
People have always loved vampires. I grew up loving vampires. I was a huge Twilight fan growing up, I still am. You just get drawn in by them. Part of that is their beauty, but they’re so stoic, and they’re so ancient. Even though Claudia is 30, you see this intense maturity that you don’t see in humans, because they are monsters, but they’re beautiful monsters. I think that’s why people have always enjoyed watching them.
Do you see the diary as an extension of your character?
The diary is a character itself. That’s Claudia’s best friend. We see that and we see how connected she is, even the way the diary looks. It evolves as Claudia evolves in the show. It’s a character of its own. What’s nice is, I got to create a relationship with an object, which is different. I just love that she had a best friend that wasn’t two men.
If given a chance to be bitten by a vampire, live forever and take blood, would you be tempted?
No. I don’t want to live forever. Life is precious because we have a limited amount of time.
Are there any things in the book’s character that changed that you might have liked to explore as an actor?
No, Claudia’s essence is in this show, everything that you see in the book. I actually have had fans come up to me and be like, “what you’ve done with Claudia is what we needed.” Honestly, as an actor, I was tearing up while they were talking to me because I did all the work ,and they connected to this Claudia that was in the book because Rollin Jones, the writer of the show, did such an incredible job. He loves the book so much. He really does. You see that in the show. He writes for actors. Anne Rice loved her characters. Because of that, you see Anne Rice all over this show.
Even the crew. We filmed in New Orleans, so most of the crew read the books, or were very familiar with Anne Rice. So, the excitement was there on set. You see it in the show. All of Claudia in the book is in the show, and I’m excited for audiences to see that.
Interview with the Vampire airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET on AMC and AMC+.