Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles has never shied away from showing the savagery of being a vampire. However, the stories also heavily rely on the reader’s romantic interest in a life of immortality. Early episodes of AMC’s new series, Interview with the Vampire, showcase how perfectly it balances these two sides of her popular novel.
Jacob Anderson (Game of Thrones) stars as Louis, with Sam Reid (Belle) as Lestat and an absolutely brilliant Bailey Bass as Claudia. The three actors move through their scenes together like a perfectly timed orchestra. They’re not trying to outshine one another, they’re all working together to create a beautiful symphony.
The series revolves around an older, wiser Louis telling his life story to famous reporter Daniel Malloy, played by Eric Bogosian (Law & Order: Criminal Intent). It all starts with Louis, a human, living it up in early 1900s New Orleans working at a brothel/bar. His upstanding, religious family doesn’t like how he makes his money so there’s a lot of judgment, but they love him anyway. A family tragedy changes everything and sends him into Lestat’s waiting arms, ending his mortal life and beginning his vampire one.
What’s apparent from the moment Louis and Lestat meet, is that the series is not going to shy away from how their different races factor into their life experiences. In fact, it perfectly blends race into every period of Louis’ life, highlighting in subtle and not-so-subtle ways how it never goes away, no matter how rich and powerful a Black man becomes.
Lestat has lived a very long life of privilege and sees racism toward the Black community as a curiosity. He thinks it’s a stupid way to live, but in his very condescending “all humans are food” kind of way. Their cultural differences add a fascinating new element to Louis and Lestat’s relationship. When Louis kills a white man for calling him an “exceptional Negro,” Lestat cannot understand how disrespectful and demeaning that term is.
It’s the freedom of being a vampire that Lestat seduces Louis with. Freedom to be openly gay and freedom from the humiliations thrust upon him by the city’s white politicians. It’s a fantasy that the two are able to live in for a while, but the ugly racism of the human world is still prevalent in their lives.
As the season progresses we finally meet Claudia, the couple’s adopted vampire daughter. Deviating from previous adaptations, Claudia is 14 years old when she’s turned, so after she gets past the fun of remorseless killing, she must deal with the idea of being stuck in puberty forever. That sounds like a living nightmare, and that’s exactly how Bass portrays it.
She deftly takes us through the roller coaster of emotions she is permanently stuck in. Louis and Lestat are obviously no help because fathers rarely know how to handle it when their daughters grow up. Except in this case, family drama takes on a slightly more dangerous meaning.
This is such a compelling version of a complex character, she instantly becomes so much more than just a child vampire. I hope the series decides to defy the source material and keep Claudia around for the recently announced Season 2.
If you’re a fan of The Vampire Chronicles and feel some kind of way about Louis being Black, let me tell you that Jacob Anderson enhances his story in ways I never could have imagined. Whether you have all the novels memorized or you’re new to the universe, this is the vampire story that puts all the others to shame. The passage of time represents more than the despair of immortality, it’s a commentary on how for Black people, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Interview with the Vampire premieres Sunday, Oct. 2 on AMC and AMC+.