The updated TV series adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel “Interview with the Vampire” and its many sequels is finally here. I’m trying to find ways to sound like a grown up about it, but I first read the novel when I was 16 and that girl needs to gush and scream for a minute: Aaaaahh!!! It’s so good!!! I love it!!! Louis and Lestat are perfect! They are the people I’ve always imagined and interact in the ways I envisioned when I read the books over and over. They have so much chemistry. And it’s gorgeous, so lush and beautiful to listen to and watch. ❤️❤️❤️
Okay. Moving on. Now for a more adult review.
Season 1 of Interview with the Vampire is a 7 episode series on cable channels AMC and BBC Amercia and also streaming on AMC+. It’s based on the 1976 novel of the same name by Anne Rice, with influences from the rest of The Vampire Chronicles, her universe of follow up books. The series is created and executive produced by Rolin Jones (Weeds, The Exorcist, Friday Night Lights). Anne Rice was also an executive producer until she passed away midway through production. Other executive producers include her son and frequent coauthor Christopher Rice, Mark Johnson and Alan Taylor. The show stars Jacob Anderson as Louis, Sam Reid as Lestat, Bailey Bass as Claudia and Eric Bogosian as Daniel Molloy.
The book and series tell the story of Louis de Pointe du Lac (my favorite vampire name EVER, so romantic), a Louisiana plantation owner who meets French vampire Lestat de Lioncourt during a difficult period in his life. They become close and eventually Lestat turns Louis into a vampire. Their relationship is volatile from the start and that doesn’t change after Louis is turned, but they also find something with each other that neither has found with anyone else.
I read this book when it was first released in paperback in the 70s and never thought the romantic relationship was subtext. Instead, I always thought Louis was a stand in for Anne Rice, the way Lestat is a stand in for her husband, Stan, and Claudia is a stand in for the young daughter she lost to leukemia before writing the book. She wrote the original novel the way forbidden and many sanctioned relationships were written at the time, and still are, without putting the emphasis on sex, but rather on sensuality and romance.
There’s plenty of passion in the novel without it becoming explicit. What many seem to miss is that the actual forbidden character was an adult female vampire who was Lestat’s equal. Ann Rice had to wait until the 1980s and the novel’s sequels to write those characters. She got her revenge with Queen of the Damned, in which her anger is so powerful and intense (and triggering for me) that I’ve only been able to get through the entire book once.
The producers’ real challenge in adapting the first novel is the change in tone in the universes of novels that came later. As in the TV series, the first novel is told in the first person in the form of an interview given in 1973 by the vampire Louis to journalist Daniel Molloy. Molloy is in his twenties in the book. The series has cleverly updated the present day of the show to 2022 by including the original interview as canon, but tweaking its outcome.
Instead of publishing the interview and seeking out other vampires, in the series Molloy became frightened and botched the original interview. He was also so stoned that he doesn’t remember it- or so he says. I suspect there could be some dissociation involved as well, since Louis bit him and the supernatural can be difficult to accept as reality. Or so I hear. 😉
Nearly 50 years later, Molloy is nearing the end of his journalism career, his health is failing and his marriages have ended in divorce. Louis is also in a different place- specifically, an expensive penthouse in Dubai, customized to his needs. The events of Interview with the Vampire take place when both Louis and Lestat are going through rough patches in their lives and they are both alone and depressed. These shared feelings of despair and self-destructiveness bring them together to form a permanent but tempestuous bond.
They also turn Louis into an unreliable narrator in the book.
This is clear even within the novel, if one reads closely. Louis isn’t quite as passive or innocent as he’d like to believe. He tends to lie to himself and skim over details that would reflect badly on him. (But don’t get me wrong- I have been in love with Louis him since I was 16. Lestat is the evil villain here and I will believe that until my dying breath, no matter how many books and series retcon the truth. Team Louis 4Ever😉) In the book, Lestat is going through a difficult time for his own reasons, and he’s a monster at the best of times, but it’s also true that his charm, bravery and generosity don’t come through the way they do in later books.
The TV series, which will hopefully continue past the first novel, needs to stay true to the spirit of the original but also incorporate Louis and Lestat’s full personalities, as filled out in the later novels. This is where a filmed adaptation is not the same as a book and we fans need to accept that some changes have to be made for continuity’s sake and because what works in one medium doesn’t necessarily work in another. Thankfully, we don’t lose Louis’ narration, which is such an integral part of the story. He’s given a fresh perspective that allows him to recall what he felt at the time while also being more objective now that he’s had extra time to process his experiences.
The setting remains in New Orleans, but the time period when Louis and Lestat meet has been updated from 1791 to 1910. Following his father’s death, Louis has taken over the family’s finances and has found it necessary to supplement their sugar plantation income with the more liquid cash he makes from owning brothels.
Another change the producers made is to turn the du Lac family into mixed race Creoles, living in the Jim Crow South, which limits Louis’ options and adds to his existential dread. Racism doesn’t end when he becomes a vampire and it becomes one of the many sources of contention between Louis and Lestat.
The first episode shows the life Louis’ is living before Lestat’s finds him, then follows their relationship from the first time Lestat spots Louis in the street to the night Lestat turns Louis into a vampire. Louis’ human life and family and his state of mind is explored much more fully than in the book. Jacob Anderson finds just the right balance in Louis’ complicated personality, letting his intelligence, humanity, humor, misery and recklessness swirl together until he’s overcome by desperation bordering on insanity.
Lestat’s background isn’t explored as clearly, but his entire story shouldn’t be told yet, since it’s reserved for later books. Lestat has a love of mystery, danger, excitement and power, which all lead to him withholding information from Louis in order to control and toy with him. We do get Easter eggs and tidbits of his history here and there, enough to explain, but not excuse, his attitude and need for control. As he says, he has a cruelty that’s all his own, which he loves to flaunt. But he also has a joie de vivre that Sam Reid brings to life from his first moment on screen, making his hold on Louis understandable despite his glaring flaws.
After watching the first two episodes, I’m excited to see where the rest of this season goes (and season 2, since it’s already been renewed). The series seems to be maintaining the basic structure of the book but expanding and adapting it to suit the new time period and fill in gaps in the book’s narrative. I wasn’t sure that it was possible for anyone to manage the True Blood meets historical gothic romance novel tone of the books, but I think Rolin Jones might have done it.
Season 1 of Interview with the Vampire airs on AMC and streams on AMC+ starting 10/2/22. The finale will air 11/13/22.
Image courtesy of AMC.