Since the release of Bram Stoker’s Dracula In 1897, vampires were an almost constant object of pop culture fascination, with each creator putting their own stamp on the… condition? infirmity? Lifestyle? Vampires can be monstrous, as in The strain. You can be sexy as in True Blood, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries. They can be funny as in What we do in the shadows. They can even be cute, as in monster high, a Toy Line/upcoming live-action children’s film on Nickelodeon and Paramount+. AMC’s Interview with the vampire The series, which premieres October 2, reminds us of what many romantic versions of vampire “life” politely keep out of the picture: vampires can be psychopaths.
Adapted from Rollin Jones (HBO’s PerryMason) from the book series by Anne Rice, the show revolves around the titular vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson). In 1973 he is said to be dating journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) to tell his story. Almost 50 years later, Molloy – who has entered the online masterclass phase of his writing career – receives a surprise delivery of the original cassettes: Louis is alive (or “alive”) and wants to reconsider their collaboration. Molloy travels to Louis’ lavish apartment in Dubai to interview him again and learns that Louis’ opinion of his father, Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), have evolved.
While the book (and the 1994 film based on it) sets Lestat and Louis’ first meeting in 1791, the show introduces us to the still-human Louis in 1910. The setting remains New Orleans, although this Louis is no longer a widower, his wife and child did not survive labor (as in the film, the book Louis mourns his brother); nor is he a plantation owner with dozens of enslaved workers; neither is he white. The show’s Louis is a Black Creole red-light owner who runs several “sports houses” in Storyville, the city’s red-light district. One night, a recently arrived Lestat sees Louis adeptly (and violently) defending his business interests on the street, and as he later tells Louis, is forced to buy a townhouse in the French Quarter to stay close to him. Louis becomes competitive when Lestat outbids him for the sex worker Louis visits to quell his “latencies,” but soon understands that Lestat is most interested in seducing Louis. A threesome becomes a twosome. Lestat feeds on Louis, and soon after a crisis in Louis’ family, Lestat makes the offer Louis can’t resist: “I can trade this life of shame – trade it for a dark gift and a power that you don’t have you can imagine.”
In the run-up to the 1994 film’s release, Rice was vocal in speaking out against the casting Tom cruise as her “Brat Prince” Lestat (although she stopped by when she saw him in the role). But while a contemporaneous Cruise profile in vanity fair described the character as “bitchy” and “bisexual” … You know, a 2022 viewer might see the former more than the latter in Cruise’s performance. There’s a lot of queer subtext in the film, but that’s about it; the only traversable kiss, aside from all that involves necks and fangs, comes when tween vampire Claudia (Kirsten Dunst, 11 at the time of filming and disagrees with it) bestows her “father” Louis (Brad Pitt). But the new show is Not shy about the nature of Louis and Lestat’s relationship: After transforming his lover, Lestat invites Louis to share his coffin, grinning, “It’s okay. You can be at the top.”
Vampirism has metaphorically represented today’s fading notions of queerness – a forbidden desire indulged in ecstatically and as a result ending up outside the confines of society. Making Lestat and Louis’ sex life a distinct part of this story unravels Louis’ horror at the collateral damage of his thirst from the shame other versions of the character have displayed about sexual interests that were only (largely) hinted at. Between hunts, Louis and Lestat settle into domesticity and have the same arguments that all couples have. How do you reconcile the demands of the family of origin with the needs of the family of choice? How do you cope when one partner adopts a new diet (like when Louis decides he will stop taking human life and will survive by drinking animals) and the other feels condemned (jk, Lestat doesn’t care, what Louis thinks his murders)? When is the right time to have a child and how should it be raised? How often is too often to go to the opera?
Months before the film came out and detailed her (then) objection to Cruise’s casting, Rice recounted movie line‘s Martha Frankel that Lestat “should be a stunning person… very blond, very tall, very athletic, very full.” We end up seeing almost all of Reid and he is So “Very athletic, very full,” that one shirtless shot made me gasp out loud. (He also apparently grew his strawberry blonde hair for the role, and at a time when bad TV wigs are a pressing problem, we have to applaud the engagement.) Lestat is an esthete, a womanizer, a charming dinner guest, a map sharp – whatever he needs to be to achieve his ultimate goal as a serial killer. Not since Mads Mikkelsen‘s Hannibal Lecter killed a fictional character with such intent and artistry.
Jacob Anderson has the tougher job: As Louis, the tone he has to play most often is tortured fear. This is especially true after he saves Claudia (Bailey Bass) from a fire – too late for her to escape injury, so Lestat saves her life by fathering her, bringing Louis more fully into her chosen family in the process. (You may not be shocked to learn that a girl whose mind continues to mature while her body remains 14 turns out to be a handful of sorts.) Today’s Louis is less active but shows more emotional depth as he’s about moved a century, through his resentment of Lestat and his desire for “truth and atonement”. This Louis has the leisurely manner of someone who’s felt his every year, which is why Bogosians can rub Molloy as his primary scene partner. We are told that Molloy has his own regret and urgency: an addict, now long in recovery, is being treated for Parkinson’s disease; Even boarding a plane during the COVID-19 pandemic is a risk in his condition. I think the choice was made to make Molloy seem extra modern versus a character who came of age in another century, another world, but his mischievous, sarcastic dialogue feels like it belongs on a different show. Despite the series title, the interview scenes are from Interview with the vampire comprise comparatively little of its content; Sam Reid’s Lestat delighting in each of his scenes makes the show unmissable.