There’s nothing new about TV vampires, and the tale of “Interview With the Vampire” is even less new. And yet somehow, AMC’s adaptation of the Anne Rice classic feels like something we haven’t seen before. It’s sensitive, disturbing, campy and beautiful, and while it’s violent, there’s a gorgeous creativity to the violence, as seen in Episode 1 when Lestat (Sam Reid) punches right through a man’s head. If you’re feeling like there’s nothing new to say about vampires — which would be understandable, given pop culture’s fondness for them — you might be surprised by what you find here.
For the most part, the new series keeps to the broad strokes of the original story and the 1994 film adaptation. A journalist, Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian), is interviewing a man named Louis de Pointe du lac (Jacob Anderson), who is a vampire who has a lot to say about the complicated relationship he had with his maker, Lestat de Lioncourt. But in this story, Daniel is much older and dealing with a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
It’s 2022, and he’s managed to stay healthy despite the pandemic, and he and Louis are old … not exactly friends. They’re tense acquaintances, having met for multiple interviews in the past — including one in San Francisco, like in the movie. Louis has summoned Daniel halfway around the world for one last chat, hoping to get Daniel to understand him, his lifestyle and the people he has loved. But no longer is Louis a plantation owner in the 1700s who chastises his cohorts for feeding on slaves. Now, Louis is a queer Black man who was born in the late 1800s and made a living and did his best to avoid trouble by running a brothel in a New Orleans neighborhood called Storyville.
Lestat, a hundred year old vampire with few cares in the world, is impressed by Louis after witnessing him in a fight in front of the brothel, and strikes up a friendship that quickly turns into more than that. The question then becomes what “more” actually means. Louis admits that he’s always known he was gay, and he and Lestat certainly share an attraction and many steamy sex scenes (including a threesome or two), but do they love each other? Can they ever really equally love each other, when Lestat is the one who forced Louis into becoming a vampire?
And then there’s Claudia (Bailey Bass), the young girl who Louis wants to save from dying in a fire. She’s Black, and older now than she was in the original story, but she’s still very much a child whose existence complicates Louis and Lestat’s relationship even further. To Louis, she’s the daughter, or at least the loving family, he could no longer have as a vampire. To Lestat, she’s just a small vampire who needs to learn how to survive and thrive. Louis is trying to have his cake and eat it too, which irritates Lestat to no end. Meanwhile, Claudia is growing up mentally but not physically, and senses that she’s stuck in a messed up situation with these two men, which leads her to act out in increasingly violent ways.
Five of the first season’s eight episodes were given to critics for review, so it’s not yet clear if the show sticks the landing, or how it sets up Season 2 (which has already been ordered). But what is clear is that this adaptation found a way to breathe new life into a story written almost 50 years ago, turning it on its head while still honoring the original idea.
Louis is a Black man who has to deal with the overt racism of the early 20th century as well as the trauma that comes with being a vampire in an emotionally abusive relationship with a manipulative older white man. That is very much a part of the story, but it’s not all. He’s also a gay man with complicated feelings for someone who gave him a new life, and for his new abilities as a vampire. He can’t visit his family during the day or have his own kids, but he can read thoughts and live forever. Is that enough of a tradeoff?
Since the 1994 movie version of “Interview,” we have been inundated with humanized, romanticized vampires. “Twilight,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” gave us centuries-old vampires becoming obsessed with human teen girls to the point of self-destruction. Immortal men with magical powers fight off their monster instincts to cradle a fragile human who is way less afraid than she should be, while we fight about which team we’re on. Which undead murderer should she date? Whose history of brutal slayings can we more easily forgive? That’s not what’s happening here, and it allows for a different exploration of what it means to live forever. There’s still romance here, but vampirism is somehow made both more and less attractive than previous shows have depicted it.
The only downside is that the framing device leaves little room for suspense. Much of the story, at least in the first few episodes, is told through voiceover and montage, and time passes quickly, making it harder to feel really engrossed in what’s happening. The true test of the series will be what comes next, as the relationship between Louis, Lestat and Claudia explodes and the present day story with an increasingly irritated Daniel comes to a head.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, there’s no reason to think the back half of the season won’t be as good as the front half, but there’s also room for it to be even better.
“Interview With the Vampire” premieres on AMC and AMC+ on Oct. 2 at 10:05 p.m. ET/PT.