This story contains spoilers for AMC’s Interview with the Vampire. If you’re not caught up yet, check out our spoiler-free premiere review.
In many ways, the Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) of AMC’s Interview With The Vampire is nothing like the one in Anne Rice’s book. But after the season finale, it seems clear that it’s exactly these character changes that have made showrunner Rolin Jones’s adaptation so true to the spirit of the books.
A lot has changed in AMC’s Interview with the Vampire, to the point that I, having recently watched the 1994 movie starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, was instantly a little skeptical. It isn’t just the obvious changes that stand out—Anderson’s Louis de Pointe du Lac is a Black brothel owner in the early 20th century rather than a white plantation owner in the late 18th century—but also the framing of the story. Rather than being a young man who happens to meet a vampire one night and decides to interview him, this time Daniel Malloy, played impeccably by Eric Bogosian, has already met Louis once as a young man but their interview was never finished. AMC’s story begins when Malloy is invited by Louis to continue their interview in a compound in Dubai.
What follows emphasizes the themes in Rice’s novels that have made them endure for so long. Although the 1994 movie is an iconic piece of 90s blockbuster film culture, AMC’s adaptation ultimately feels truer to the spirit of what Rice wrote. When I revisit the novel, what keeps me enthralled in the story is not always the moment to moment story beats, but the beauty of Rice’s prose and the way she is able to convey the depth of Louis’s sorrow. Anne Rice’s vampires feel everything at eleven out of ten. Every insult, every heartbreak, every moment of joy, every instance of pleasure, all of it is heightened. They’re also eternally frozen in the moment of their death, still recovering from the trauma of their lives centuries into their undeath. The injustices that Louis feels have been done to him—by his vampire maker Lestat, by the world, by God—weigh on him like a rock in his gut. To read Interview with the Vampire is to really understand Louis’s point of view; the punishment of immortality, where he is eternally drowning in his own grief.
Watching AMC’s Interview with the Vampire, I do feel transported to the headspace of Louis again, still drowning in his own grief. Anderson’s Louis is the deeply troubled vampire he was in the novel; Lestat (Sam Reid) is as deranged; their surrogate daughter the vampire Claudia (Bailey Bass) is still a killer that menaces as only a child can. None of them show up in exactly the same way they do in the book. The ways in which they’ve been changed for the screen is what allows the story to highlight each of the things that make these characters feel so alive.
25 Best Vampire Movies of All Time
Although there are many kinds of adaptations of varying kinds of success, adaptations from one medium to another fit into two categories: faithful or unfaithful. M. Night Shyamalan’s Avatar: the Last Airbender is understood by fans to be an unfaithful adaptation; while the later seasons weren’t exactly adaptations (or as highly regarded), Game of Thrones is generally thought of as a faithful adaptation of the books on which they are based. Sometimes making changes to the sour material can evoke a reactionary response from the fans, like it did when House of the Dragon cast Steve Toussaint, a Black man, to play Corlys Valeryan, who in the books is pale skinned. But by the end of the season, the specific ways these changes were made make a lot of sense. In a story about bloodlines and lineage, making one character immediately visually different can get the point across much faster than explaining it in dialogue.
This is how changing Louis’s race can illuminate the themes and ideas already present in Anne Rice’s text. Before Louis even meets Lestat, he’s already living in two worlds. His life as a brothel owner is at odds with his own religious family. His brother, who struggles with mental illness that has caused him to drive further into his faith, won’t allow him to forget the contradictions of his own life. And then, suddenly, he meets and starts spending time with a wealthy French man, their attraction to each other unnatural and all consuming. Just seeing them sit together over the decades in Lafayette Square, it’s immediately apparent what their differences are. As time passes from 1910 through the 1930s their open affection for each other becomes stranger not just because they are two men, but also because as Jim Crow laws are enacted the racial difference between them is impossible to ignore.
Changing Louis’ race also serves to further highlight the conflict between Lestat and Louis. Lestat is a white Frenchman, while Louis is mixed race, Black, and has to work not only to maintain his income but also his reputation in polite society. Throughout the show, Lestat refuses to break off a relationship he has with a white woman, Antoinette (Maura Grace Athari), despite professing his love repeatedly to Louis. As viewers, we can sense the unspoken hurt beneath the further pain of being cheated on. Lestat, if he wanted, could carry on a relationship with Antoinette in public without currying any scandal. Louis says in the very first episode that he knows that the debauchery in New Orleans allowed him some leeway, but society would not be able to accept him as an out gay Black man. As time moves on, the movements of history make this distance even more apparent. In the finale, when Louis, Lestat and Claudia board a bus, the two Black vampires are forced to ride in the back while Lestat sits in the front.
Those racial differences further emphasize the things that keep Louis and Lestat from having a healthy romantic relationship. All the moments of conflict from the text are made immediately visible in ways they would not have been if Louis had remained a straight white character. If Louis remained a plantation owner, part of society’s upper class, if the changing racial relations did not narrow his options as Lestat entered his world, the depth of Louis’s loneliness would not have been as immediately apparent.
Even though the show’s narrative conceit as an interview allows Louis to narrate his own tale, nothing he says can convey his pain the same way that his miserable walks through Storyville, surrounded by his own people but completely apart from them. While Claudia, Louis’s surrogate vampire daughter that he saves from a race riot, and Louis are already bonded through blood, they being the same race further highlights the ways they relate to each other that Lestat will never be able to understand. It’s a shortcut to Louis’s mental state. He’s a Black man lost without community, trapped in a world where he will always be otherized.
The 31 Best Modern Horror Movies
Interview with the Vampire has been well received by fans, but it is not immune to backlash. As revealed in the finale, the show hasn’t finished making changes to Anne Rice’s text. The vampire Armand, who in Rice’s books is a cherubic redhead, is being played by the desi actor Assad Zaman. Armand fans note that they’re specifically aggrieved because in the 1994 movie, which hews more closely to Rice’s text, Armand’s role was greatly reduced and he was played by Antonio Banderas, who was also not a cherubic redhead. It’s a small number of fans, but it does speak to a basic desire anyone has when something you love is adapted to a new medium. You want to see the things that you saw in your head, and in Rice’s books, Armand has red hair.
What comes through in Interview with the Vampire is how much the people working on it love the source material. You can tell when the characters quote Rice’s lush prose. In the finale, in one of the last moments of harmony between the doomed vampire family of Louis, Lestat and Claudia, they say to each other, relishing the words, “Let the flesh instruct the mind,” one of the most evocative quotes from Rice’s novel. The show rearranges Rice’s description of New Orleans as being “desperately alive and desperately fragile,” to come out of Lestat’s mouth, drenching it with subtext because of how much Lestat associates the city with Louis. Of course, Lestat tells Claudia with a flourish, “You irritate me. Your very presence irritates me,” in the same way that Tom Cruise’s Lestat said it in the 1994 movie and in Rice’s novel. Each episode is named after a different quote from Interview with the Vampire, and each quote is spoken aloud by the characters in the episode.
Interview with the Vampire has made me reconsider what it means when one says that adaptation was “faithful.” AMC’s version of this story, with its attention to detail in production design, its beautifully written dialogue and smart plot, a cast of actors who are giving everything they have to this story, makes me feel the way I feel when I read Anne Rice’s books . It isn’t just that it recreates everything I’ve seen before in the same order, just like I imagined it. It shows me the sides of Rice’s story that I never imagined, but that were always there. The changes made in this adaptation are the way that Rolin Jones as showrunner show their reverence for the source material. In AMC’s Interview With the Vampire, even longtime fans get to see this story from all new dimensions.