June 13, 2024

AMC’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel embraces the opulence of the source material while adding a few modern flourishes of its own.
AMC’s Interview with the Vampire shifts the action from the late-18th century milieu of Anne Rice’s beloved novel of the same name—and Neil Jordan’s film adaptation—to 1910, but the Louisiana setting and the narrative outline remain more or less the same. A vampire named Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Andersen) is interviewed by a journalist, Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) and slowly unspools the story of his life, his death, and the hundred years he’s spent walking the Earth since. Mostly, though, he talks about his maker, Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), and the decades of love they shared together in the shadows.
The series—created by Rolin Jones and co-executive-produced by Rice’s son, Christopher—takes the queer subtext of the novel and pulls it to the center of the proverbial page. It is, above all else, a love story. Even without its supernatural elements, the push-pull of Lestat and Louis’s relationship would be transfixing. Reid swans through each scene with the absolute self-certainty of someone who felt invincible even before they became immortal—a rich, white European walking the streets of the New World. He’s reminiscent of the alluring protagonist from The Talented Mr. Ripley; like Dickie Greenleaf, Reid is the most charming person in any new room he enters and the cruellest one in the world once the attention begins to fade.
For his part, Andersen expertly conveys both sides of Louis: the pugnacious young pimp and the ethereal interviewee. As a moderately successful Black man during the Jim Crow era, Louis stalks the Louisiana streets as a tightly coiled mass of inexpressible resentments. A century later, he tells his tortured story to Daniel—and, by extension, the audience—with the languid elegance of a man who’s had decades to sand the rough edges off his words.
As in Rice’s novel and its prior adaptations, the story’s driving force is the Faustian bargain that the vampire’s curse presents: Is a life of blood and darkness a fair price to pay for immortality? By recasting Louis as a Black man and recentering his sexual identity, the series finds an intriguing new angle from which to approach this question. There are already plenty of thresholds Louis can’t cross because of his skin color, huge swathes of the living world that he’s denied participation in, and no sense that this will change any time soon. The incremental march of human progress is so easily outpaced by the rapid clip at which a human life declines that Louis knows he won’t live to see a world in which equality exists. A half-life is all he can hope for, whether he chooses to live in the light with his human peers or in the dark with Lestat.
This reframing is supported by a lavish production design that helps situate us in Louis’s precise moment in history. New Orleans on the brink of the Jazz Age really makes the perfect setting for a vampire story. If your lead characters can only go out at night, what better place to have them spend their time? The series paints its milieu as a cavalcade of boisterous bars and brothels, alive with lambent color and booming music. And thanks to those flickering gas lamps, even its brightest rooms are beset with pitch-black shadows for Lestat and Louis to creep through.

This decadent design extends to Interview with a Vampire’s action scenes, which spill blood as freely as Lestat spends money. While the gore isn’t especially frequent, it features some deliciously disgusting effects as our heroes remind us why vampires are the stuff of horror stories as well as melancholic romances. And their vampiric powers also provide some of the show’s most swooningly romantic imagery, like the sight of two men rising off the floor, suspended in an embrace that briefly defies both time and gravity.
But while large portions of this Interview with a Vampire operate as a two-hander, its subtly played third hand is every bit as important to the show’s success. While Rice’s novel refers to Molloy, the present-day journalist tasked with recording Louis’s tale, as “the boy,” Bogosian’s version is no youngster, having already lived through more than his own share of career highs and lows, along with multiple marriages and addiction issues. In fact, the interview around which the series is framed is a do-over of an earlier one from the 1970s, an attempt to set the record straight and a final chance for Daniel to write the story he ran from all those decades ago.
Daniel’s withering cynicism is the perfect foil for a grandiloquent tale of doomed love and damned souls. The character is used sparingly—the bulk of each episode is spent in the world of Louis’s recollection, with only occasional interruptions from our narrator—but he keeps the series tethered to reality. Too many deadpan interjections from Molloy could have left the series feeling self-conscious, while too few might have reduced it to a supernatural soap opera. Thanks in part to the cunning charm of the period story, balanced by its present-day sections, Interview with the Vampire meaningfully comments on identity, intersectionality, and abuse, while still managing to be an intoxicating series about guys with gigantic incisors who sleep in coffins.
Ross McIndoe is a Glasgow-based freelancer who writes about movies and TV for The Quietus, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Wisecrack, and others.
Hey Ross, you don’t need to capitalize ‘black.’ Also Rae Dawn Chong is not in this.
I’m all for being inclusive, but there should be some limits… For instance if you have to completely change the story line just so you can recast the main character as a different race, then it’s probably not a great option. The original story is a master piece, why try and change it. Louis back story is everything, and he’s a slave plantation owner, why make him a gay black man and completely change the story line when you don’t need to? The original story line is perfect, just follow the books. If you want to have a retelling and change the story line and the plots and the characters, then fine, just call it something else, don’t insult the fans of the novel.
I have seen the first two episodes released and so far I think it is much better than the Cruise/Pitt version. I really like the changes that were made and the main actors are really mesmerizing. I suspect though, that making Claudia not a child is going to be a loss – I totally understand how difficult it is to cast a child actor (very few kids can act, let’s face it) but the charm and horror of Claudia is largely that she was turned at something like 7 years old. But I will withhold judgement for now, who knows maybe it will work out fine with this version.
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