Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire premieres on AMC on Oct. 2, 2022.
Apart from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Anne Rice’s 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire is arguably the most influential inspiration for the modern vampire canon. The two-episode premiere of AMC’s Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire makes an excellent case for its continued relevance by serving as both a retelling of and sequel to Rice’s literary debut, showing a deep understanding of the source material even as it rewrites the story to deepen its central conflicts.
The show imagines that the young journalist referred to only as “the boy” in the book never published the interview he conducted in 1973 with the weary vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson). Now an isolated old man, Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) is given a second chance to tell the story of how a New Orleans resident met the seductive French vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) and became a creature of the night.
Not just the times have changed, but so has the story itself. Some of the lines are taken straight from the book, but the show takes major liberties with the plot. The timeline is pushed forward and Louis has been changed from a white plantation owner to the Creole proprietor of a brothel in New Orleans’ Storyville red light district. The queer subtext has also evolved into a fully developed homosexual relationship between Louis and Lestat.
Those rewrites provide rich ground to further develop the setting and characters. Series creator Rolin Jones previously worked on Boardwalk Empire and his version of Louis shares a lot in common with Michael K. Williams’ Albert White. Both are Black men who managed to earn wealth and status in a segregated city by becoming vice purveyors to powerful white men. While they’ve brought prosperity and respectability to their families, they also struggle with the limits of what they’re able to accomplish.
Lestat feeds upon that turmoil, with Episode 1 largely focused on the protagonists’ exhilarating courtship. Louis is repressed in every way, hiding his sexuality and constantly forced to contain his rage and disappointment with the way he’s belittled by the men he works so hard to impress. Lestat flaunts his money and vampiric abilities to show Louis how little power they actually have. The show takes a light touch with special effects by making those powers chillingly subtle. During a poker game, Lestat seems to drone on in polite conversation, but he’s slowing time so he can simultaneously have a private conversation with Louis and manipulate the cards to give him a winning hand.
Lestat offers Louis a look behind the curtain at another way of life — or unlife — seducing him in every possible way. The show leans into the eroticism of vampire stories with explicit sex scenes while exploring the inherent power imbalances between the two that come from Lestat’s age and abilities as well as the privileges he enjoys just by being a white man. Lestat tries to cheer up the perpetually brooding Louis with opera tickets even though they’re more a gift for himself. That’s not because Louis doesn’t enjoy the music but because he’s infuriated that he has to pretend to be Lestat’s servant to get into the segregated theater.
Yet the love between them feels genuine, a dynamic developed by spicing the show’s drama and horror with humor. In a beautiful bit of scene setting, their coffins are shown side by side after they’ve had a fight, Lestat’s disembodied voice asking Louis to talk to him because he doesn’t like going to bed angry.
These characters were played by Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in the 1994 film Interview with the Vampire, and it’s a testament to the show’s actors that their performances in no way feel like a downgrade. Reid nails Lestat’s swagger while also seeming to channel a bit of Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal as he revels in luxury and shows contempt for everyone around him except the man who has captured his obsessive interest. Anderson deserved more screen time as Gray Worm Game of Thrones and his soulful and passionate performance in Interview with a Vampire demonstrates just how wasted his talents were. A monologue where Louis confesses the lies he tells himself and his fears about Lestat could easily come off as an overwrought cliche, but Anderson’s delivery is electrifying.
Borgosian is the third star of the show, stepping into the role previously played by Christian Slater. This version of Interview with the Vampire does significantly more with the frame story, with Daniel constantly pushing back against Lois’ accounts. When Lois gushes about the indescribable joy of first experiencing a vampire’s enhanced senses, Daniel dismisses it as being just like any other high. When Lois describes the horrifying temptation to feed on a newborn, Daniel urges him to cut to the chase and tell him whether or not he ate the baby. Borgosian’s dry delivery adds humor to the scenes while also providing a clever twist on the audience stand-in as he asks questions with analytical detachment.
Daniel seems to know Louis almost as well as Lestat, baiting him with his stubborn refusal to be shocked or impressed even as the vampire works hard to do both. While the show is accessible to newcomers, it’s worth reading the book or watching the movie first just to see how much the writers have changed the characters by having Louis revel in the vampiric nature he once abhorred. His posh home in a skyscraper in the United Arab Emirates is almost as lush a setting as the series’ version of New Orleans, staffed by so many servants that it hints at an unsettlingly vast infrastructure the vampire has built around meeting his needs. An extended dinner scene where Louis enjoys several courses of blood while Daniel watches has the same mix of decadence and cruelty as one of Hannibal’s dinner parties.
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