This story contains spoilers for AMC’s Interview with the Vampire. If you’re not caught up yet, check out our spoiler-free program Premiere review.
In many ways, Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) from AMC’s Interview with the Vampire is nothing like the one from Anne Rice’s book. But after the season finale, it seems clear that it was precisely these character changes that made the Rolin Jones showrunner adaptation so perfectly in the spirit of the books.
So much changed in AMC’s interview with Vampire that, having recently watched the 1994 movie starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, I was immediately a little skeptical. It’s not 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. Instead of being a young man who happens to meet a vampire one night and decides to interview him, this time Daniel Malloy, played flawlessly by Eric Bogosian, actually met Louis once as a young man but their encounter never ended. The AMC story begins when Lewis invites Malloy to continue their meeting at a Dubai compound.
What follows emphasizes themes in Rice’s novels that have made them last for so long. Although the 1994 movie is an iconic piece of ’90s movie culture, AMC’s adaptation ultimately feels more true to the spirit of what Rice wrote. When I go back to the novel, what keeps me fascinated by the story isn’t always the moment in which the story strikes, but the beauty of Rice’s prose and the way her ability to convey the depth of Lewis’s grief. Anne Rice’s vampires feel everything in Eleven out of Ten. Every insult, every heartbreak, every moment of joy, every state of pleasure, it all festers. They are also forever frozen in the moment of their death, still recovering from the trauma of their lives over the centuries in their deaths. The grievances Louis feels done to him – by the vampire maker Lestat, by the world, by God – weigh him down like a rock in his gut. Reading Interview with the Vampire means to really understand Lois’ point of view; The penalty of immortality, where he will forever drown in his grief.
Watching AMC’s Interview with the Vampire, I feel transported into Louis’ headspace again, still overwhelmed by his grief. Louis Anderson is the very troubled vampire featured in the novel. a deranged Lestat (Sam Reid); Their vampire surrogate daughter Claudia (Billy Bass) remains a murderer as menacing as only a child can be. None of them appear the same way they do in the book. It’s the ways in which they’ve been altered on screen that allow the story to highlight each of the things that make these characters feel alive.
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Although there are many types of adaptations for different types of success, adaptations from medium to medium fall into two categories: faithful or insincere. Picture M. Night Shyamalan: The Last Airbender is understood by fans as an insincere adaptation. While subsequent seasons have not been subtle (or highly regarded) adaptations, Game of Thrones is generally seen as a faithful adaptation of the books on which it is based. Sometimes making changes to sours can lead to a backlash from fans, as happened when House of the Dragon cast Steve Toussaint, a black man, to play Corlys Valeryan, who in the books was pale in complexion. 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 making it in dialogue.
This is how changing Lewis’ ethnicity can illuminate themes and ideas already present in Anne Rice’s text. Before he met Louis Lestat, he was already living in two worlds. His life as a brothel owner is at odds with his religious family. His brother, who suffers from a mental illness that made him fall deeper into his faith, will not allow the contradictions of his life to be forgotten. And then, all of a sudden, he meets and starts spending time with a rich Frenchman, and their attraction to each other is unnatural and all-consuming. Once you see them sitting together for decades on Lafayette Square, it’s immediately clear what their differences are. As time passes from 1910 through the 1930s, their open affection for each other becomes strange, not only because they are two men, but also because when Jim Crow laws are enacted, it is impossible to ignore the racial difference between them.
Louis’ race change also serves to highlight the conflict between Lestat and Louis. Lestat is white French, while Louis is mixed-race, black, and must work to maintain not only his income but also his reputation in polite society. Throughout the show, Lestat refuses to break off his relationship with a white woman, Antoinette (Maura Grace Athari), despite repeatedly professing his love for Louis. As viewers, we can feel the unspoken pain beneath the added pain of being cheated on. Lestat could, if he wanted, continue his affair with Antoinette in public without causing any scandal. Lewis says in the first episode that he knows the debauchery in New Orleans has allowed him some freedom, but that society will not be able to accept him as a gay black man. With the passage of time, the movements of history make this distance more apparent. In the end, when Louis, Lestat, and Claudia board a bus, the black vampires are forced to ride in the back while Lestat sits in the front.
These racial differences emphasize the things that prevent Louis and Lestat from having a healthy romantic relationship. All of the incongruous moments from the script are immediately visible in ways that would not have been if Lewis had remained a straight white character. If Louis remains a plantation owner, and part of society’s upper class, if changing race relations do not narrow his options with Lestat’s entry into his world, the depth of Louis’ loneliness is not immediately apparent.
Although conceiving the narrative exposition as an interview allows Louis to tell his own story, nothing he says can convey his pain in the same way as a hapless walk through Storyville, surrounded by but completely apart from his people. While Claudia, Louis’s surrogate daughter to the vampire he saves from a race riot, and Louis are indeed related by blood, being of the same race highlights ways in which they relate to each other that Lestat will never be able to understand. It’s short for Louis’ mental state. He is a black man lost without a community, trapped in a world where there will always be another.
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Interview with the Vampire has been well received by fans, but it’s not immune to backlash. As revealed in the finale, the show isn’t done making changes to Anne Rice’s script. The vampire Armand, who appears in Rice’s books as a cherubic redhead, is played by actor Asaad Zaman. Armand’s fans noted that they were aggrieved precisely because in the 1994 film, which closely aligns with Rice’s script, Armand’s role was greatly reduced and he was played by Antonio Banderas, who was also not an angelic redhead. It’s a bit of a fan favorite, but it speaks to a basic desire anyone has when something you love adapts to a new medium. You want to see the things I’ve seen in your head, and in Rice’s books, Armand has red hair.
What comes through Interview With the Vampire is how much the people working on it love the source material. You can tell when the characters are quoting from Rice’s lush prose. In the end, in one of the final moments of harmony between the doomed vampire family of Louis, Lestat, and Claudia, they say to each other, amused with the words, “Let the body guide the mind,” one of the most evocative quotes from Rice’s novel. The show rearranges Rice’s description of New Orleans as “desperately alive and very fragile,” coming out of Lestat’s mouth, and floods it with subtext because of how closely Lestat is connected to the city and Louis. Of course, Lestat tactfully tells Claudia, “You bother me. Your presence bothers me,” the same way Tom Cruise says Lestat in the 1994 movie and in the novel Rice. Each episode is named after a different quote from Interview with the Vampire, and each quote is spoken out loud by the characters in the episode.
Interview With the Vampire made me reconsider what it means when someone says an adaptation was “faithful.” AMC’s version of this story, with its attention to detail in production design, its beautifully written dialogue and clever plot, and a cast who give their all to this story, makes me feel the way I do when I’m reading Anne Rice’s books. Not only does it recreate everything you’ve seen before in the same order, exactly as you imagined it. It shows me aspects of Rice’s story that I would never have imagined, but that was always there. The changes made in this mod are the way Rolin Jones as showrunner has shown his reverence for the source material. In AMC’s Interview with the Resident Evil, even longtime fans can see this story from all new dimensions.
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