There’s no real checklist for a vampire story, but there are few time-tested subgenres in a better position to look as far back and as far forward in either direction. Origin stories can be tedious, but what’s more primal than finding out how an energy-draining being came to be who and how they are? And, as is vampiric tradition, if they’re on a path of immortality, do they see eternity as a cage or a road of endless possibility?
Any updated adaptation of Anne Rice’s seminal debut novel “Interview with the Vampire” fundamentally has to contend with those beginnings and (potential lack of) endings. The new AMC drama series takes those ideas and treats them as invitations for exploration rather than mere prerequisites. A structural, visual, and theatrical feast, this new version of “Interview” is a timely, worthy entry to the canon, freed from the burdens of simply needing to be a refresh for a new generation.
It doesn’t necessarily begin and end with the three figures at the series’ core, but any discussion of “Interview with the Vampire” almost by necessity has to contend with three characters shared with the other biggest stab at this source material. Like the 1994 film, this series begins with a present-day conversation between Daniel Malloy (Eric Bogosian) and Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson). The added wrinkle here is that Daniel has aged from upstart gonzo reporter to household-name media figure, while Louis’ looks haven’t changed a bit since their last conversation nearly a half-century prior. Despite the intervening years and changes in fortune, their talks (taking place here in a luxury Dubai tower rather than San Francisco) still gravitate toward one titanic figure: Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), the impossibly magnetic vampire who ushered Louis into an immortal existence both charmed and cursed.
To make the case for this new “Interview with the Vampire,” created by showrunner Rolin Jones, is to acknowledge its long list of loves. It does not shy away from the idea of early 20th-century New Orleans as a battleground for Louis’ soul, even before he and Lestat meet on a fateful night filled with both tragedy and promise. It indulges in Louis and Lestat’s relationship through both explicit and coded expressions of love, with all the messiness of desire and commitment that comes with any life-changing romance.
Inescapably, “Interview with the Vampire” is also drenched in its soaring prose, from Daniel’s snuck-in metacommentary to Louis’ lyrical and delicate paragraphs-long context for each flashback. (Anderson’s narration is not only a skillful way to preserve the show’s literary DNA, it’s an ideal opportunity to take advantage of the melodic talents of someone who also has an established music career.) A quick look at the show’s episode titles — drawn from spoken lines in each script — is an indication of how unwieldy and performative this ornate approach could become in lesser hands.
To the extent that a Rice-based vampire story is only as good as its Lestat, Reid is eerily transcendent here. It’s as if he was plucked from a private box at a Belle Époque opera house and handed a script. His Lestat is a bubbling cauldron of charisma and an unapologetic snob in matters of both art and killing. Long before Louis claims, “I wanted to murder the man. I wanted to be the man,” Reid makes you believe this is someone who’s inspired that same thought in countless others before him. And the character is not some infallible ideal of a cultured mentor. Lestat’s personal shortcomings help the show deal with the idea that decades of isolation and self-reflection can do just as much to sharpen destructive tendencies as it does to combat them.
Those two and Bogosian are not only the core of the story, they’re key in establishing a surprisingly rich sense of humor for the show. Daniel’s barbs tossed Louis’ way are designed to work for him when he’s hitting on something insightful and to backfire on him when he doesn’t have the full picture. Even the opening title sequence is a kind of dark wink, doing some of the same expectation flipping that the show does in the episodes that follow it.
Michele K. Short/AMC
This “Interview with the Vampire” is not ignorant of the time in which it’s arriving. It’s conversant with the fears and the realities of an ongoing pandemic. It’s aware of how fraught its observations on power could be, particularly if certain characters want to reduce racial or gender or sexual dynamics into neatly metaphorical boxes. And it’s not flippant about the nature of mortality. It never takes Lestat’s view on the beauty of death at face value, nor does it ignore that the lives of Louis and Lestat (and others to come) are nourished at the expense of others. However much fun the show has with Louis’ awkward transformation into the daily routines of a vampire, that’s paired with a constant acknowledgment of what his new existence costs him.
Having Daniel as his modern confidant means that this show doesn’t have to rely on one character’s perspective. “Interview with the Vampire” avoids treating their conversation as a tidy framing device by digging into Daniel’s own obligations as a storyteller, not just Louis’ telling. It doesn’t get sidetracked by making the show a full treatise on journalistic ethics, but it does connect the pair’s ideas about who has ownership over a story in this context. Some of the show’s strongest stretches happen when it confronts the slipperiness of memory head-on, boosted by Anderson’s ability to play 1920s Louis and 2020s Louis as two noticeably different halves of the same whole.
Despite the heady, philosophical nature of Louis’ conversations, be they with Lestat or Daniel or the handful of other people he allows into his inner circle, “Interview with the Vampire” doesn’t lock itself into a rigid format. Sometimes Daniel gets an episode’s last word. His and Louis’ conversations aren’t always in a living room lit by artificial sunlight (production designer Mara LePere-Schloop and her team’s work is just as striking in capturing a vision of the present as it is recreating the past) and Louis’ voice isn’t the only one that ends up guiding the viewer into history. Rooting this show in consistently arresting individuals gives it the freedom to follow wherever their passions and anxieties and whims manage to lead next.
Built on a foundation that embraces different eras, “Interview with the Vampire” doesn’t feel constrained to a particular time or place. There are hints in the early episodes of where Louis’ story could head in an already-confirmed future season. Regardless of where the series heads next, Louis’ enduring appeal (and lingering sense of tragedy) is that his story never has to end at all.
“Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire” premieres October 2 at 10 p.m. on AMC, with the first two episodes available to stream that night on AMC+.