I read the first five of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles novels with all the fervor of a youth who had always been fascinated by the supernatural. This was, it should be noted, around the time the film adaptation came out, just as I was heading into high school. As such, I consider myself uniquely qualified to discuss AMC’s Interview With The Vampire adaptation and how it has deviated from the source material.
For the benefit of those who want an informed opinion without spoilers, let me say that the show is true to the spirit of The Vampire Chronicles, if not the letter of the original text. Some of the vampire rules have changed, but the main story is still intact. Things that were hinted at in subtext are now made blatantly clear. If you are an Anne Rice purist, you will likely have a bad time watching this. Think of this as a “What If?” however, and you will do fine.
(SPOILERS TO FOLLOW)
Describing AMC’s Interview as a “What-If?” may be a bit on the nose. The first episode makes reference to the events of the book, albeit with an altered outcome. Rather than publishing his interview as a work of fiction, writer Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) went on to become a respected journalist and teacher, who doesn’t think of that night in the 1970’s where he interviewed a vampire until he is mailed a package containing the tapes of that interview and an invitation for “a do-over” with Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) at his private apartment in Dubai.
The first two episodes jump between Louis telling the story of his life to Molloy in 2022 and flashbacks to the Storyville district of New Orleans in 1910. The first episode centers around how Louis came to meet a Frenchman named Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) and was offered, after a torrid romance, “the dark gift” of vampirism. The second episode shows how Louis adjusts to unlife as a vampire and comes to realize that Lestat is a true monster, rather than the bewitching scoundrel he seemed to be when they first met.
I understand the reasoning behind the changes to Louis’ history, though I am unconvinced they are less problematic than in the novel, where Louis owned two indigo plantations. Making a slave owner into a sympathetic protagonist is difficult, even allowing that Louis did free his slaves. Unfortunately, making Louis into a Black man and a pimp who owns a string of Storyville brothels introduces a whole host of problematic elements and negative stereotypes.
This brings us to the show’s other major problem and the issues brought about by making it clear that Lestat and Louis enjoy a romantic relationship. This is hardly shocking to most fans of the genre, as the link between vampirism and queerness has been around since Carmilla. The problem is that this puts another unfortunate angle on Louis’ guilt over killing to satisfy his newfound bloodlust, as he freely equates his coming out as a gay man to his transformation into a vampire. “To the shame of queer theorists everywhere,” as Daniel dryly notes.
It is lines such as these and Eric Bogosian’s dry performance as Molloy that give me hope for this series. While the text of the show may have laid plain many things which Anne Rice had to hint at through metaphor, Molloy’s cynicism regarding Louis offers a sarcastic counterpoint to Louis whiny and self-serving narrative. He complains of being bored, hiding from the sun in his penthouse apartment in Dubai, where he is rich enough to afford a gourmet chef for the servants he drains for his own meals. Given the standard of living in Dubai, this may be more problematic than his being a slave owner or a pimp and one wonders how Louis is making bank nowadays. Perhaps this point will be addressed before the series’ end?
The other thing that gives me hope for the series is Sam Reid’s performance as Lestat. While the story of Interview With The Vampire is Louis’, Lestat is the far more dynamic and interesting character, which is why he came to become the central figure of most of the other Vampire Chronicles books. Reid perfectly captures the mercurial nature of Lestat’s personality, playing the perfect gentleman just seconds before he reveals his monstrous nature and making the transition seem perfectly natural. Yet he also captures the paradoxical loneliness of Lestat’s character and even injects some dark humor into the proceedings.
Fans of the books will have to decide for themselves if they can cope with the deviations from the text and the lack of subtlety in the story. Personally, I think the AMC’s Interview With The Vampire does more right than wrong. I intend to keep watching if only to see how the show handles the introduction of Claudia, whom it is said will be eternally 14. This is another change from the books, yes, but one that is necessary given the difficulty in creating a CGI six year old capable of acting like an adult. As its own beast, however, the show is an amusing distraction, albeit one that occasionally feels less like an adaptation of Anne Rice’s books and more like a wholly new vampire drama into which Lestat just happened to show up to liven things up.