In the final pages of The Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice’s follow-up to her seminal 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire, Lestat de Lioncourt briefly relates his side of the events recounted in Interview. Louis de Pointe du Lac, the narrator of the first novel, accuses Lestat of turning him into a vampire to access his money and estate. Lestat refutes this charge in his own account. He writes that he “fell fatally in love with Louis,” and this tender feeling motivated him to bestow upon Louis the Dark Gift.
AMC’s new television adaptation of Interview with the Vampire takes Lestat’s version of the story as the basis for its sharp retooling of Louis (Jacob Anderson) and Lestat’s (Sam Reid) cataclysmic meet-cute. Showrunner Rolin Jones, who also wrote the teleplay for the pilot episode, positions Lestat’s hunting of Louis from the outset as an unambiguously romantic and erotic seduction. As you may have heard, this Interview wears its queer heart on its sleeve. Anderson and Reid have immediate, electric chemistry, and the first episode wastes no time establishing that Louis and Lestat definitely want to bang each other. This adaptation’s embrace of the sexual nature of Louis and Lestat’s relationship comes as a welcome development that fans of the novel have long been waiting for. But sex is only part of the equation. The pilot episode establishes this Interview, first and foremost, as a love story.
The episode opens with investigative reporter Daniel Malloy (Eric Bogosian) receiving a hand-written invitation from a mysterious acquaintance from his past. Daniel interviewed a vampire in 1973, and this vampire has contacted him to offer a second interview. The vampire, of course, is Louis de Pointe du Lac, still youthful in appearance after all these years and living in Dubai. The second interview set-up works as a nice meta-nod to the revisionist nature of the TV adaptation. When Daniel pulls out the tapes from the 1973 interview, the snippets he plays are near-direct quotes from Rice’s novel, read by Anderson.
Daniel is given a much more developed backstory in the show than the interviewer in the book, who Rice only refers to as “the boy.” Daniel, a once-celebrated journalist, has reached the end of his illustrious career. He is living with Parkinson’s disease and facing the end of his life. He’s also a recovered heroin addict whose memories are inevitably colored by his drug use and addiction-fueled bad behavior. The stakes couldn’t be clearer when Daniel agrees to meet with Louis one more time. Daniel wants the chance to do the interview right (read: sober) and another chance at requesting immortal life—a request Louis definitively denied the first time around, as he does in the book.
When Daniel arrives in Dubai for the interview, Louis begins recounting his tale. The structure of the episode allows for extensive voiceover that never feels intrusive. Anderson’s narration carries us through the episode, keeping us firmly with Louis’s point of view and providing us with some truly wonderful, literary turns of phrase that would feel stilted in dialogue. (One striking example: when describing his first meeting with Lestat, Louis says that the vampire’s “gaze tied a string around my lungs, and I found myself immobilized.”)
Louis’s story takes us back to New Orleans in 1910, the last year he was human. In a major change from the source material, Louis is a successful Black entrepreneur, working hard to keep his family’s fortune from disappearing. He makes his living running brothels and saloons in the city’s red-light district, one of his only options as a Black businessman at that time. “I was a rougher thing then,” Louis explains to Daniel. When Louis speaks in the flashback scenes, this roughness is evident in his accent. He sounds subtly tougher and twangier before a century of immortality smoothed away his linguistic edges, and it’s a beautiful character choice on Anderson’s part.
All of Anne Rice’s vampires are deeply influenced by the era in which they were human. It’s only fitting, then, that Louis’s character would fundamentally shift with the updates made in the AMC adaptation. Rice’s Louis is a Romantic, born in the late eighteenth century, and the original sad boy, self-hating vampire—the font from which the Angels, Edwards, and Stefans spring. (Rice’s Louis is also a relatively unrepentant slave owner, but the less said about that, the better.) To be frank, I find Rice’s long-suffering Louis a bit of a slog to spend too much time with. The show’s Louis is a much grittier character, for the better. Jones resists the lure of thoughtless race-bending, and he instead thoroughly situates this new Louis in his time and place in a way that benefits the story and the character.
The opening stretch of Louis’s account outlines the various pressures he must navigate to survive in his daily life. Louis describes his world, his businesses, and his family to Daniel. Louis lives with his mother, sister, and brother. Louis’s brother, Paul (Steven G. Norfleet), is a devoutly religious young man with a history of mental illness. Louis feels protective towards his brother but loses patience with Paul when he proselytizes in front of Louis’s businesses. Louis’s respectable family tacitly disapproves of how he makes money, but he doesn’t see another way to keep earning enough to maintain their comfortable standard of living. Louis also divulges his awareness of his homosexual “latencies” to Daniel, explaining how he knew his own proclivities but refused to acknowledge them or act on them.
To avoid rousing suspicion about his sexual preferences, Louis routinely visits an exclusive, upscale house of pleasure to engage the services of a particular lady named Lily (Najah Bradley). (Lily lets it slip later in the episode that she and Louis only talk when he visits her.) One evening, when he arrives at the pleasure palace for his usual engagement, he finds Lily sitting with a mysteriously alluring blonde man. The man introduces himself as Lestat de Lioncourt. With this conversation, Lestat’s seduction of Louis begins.
From the moment Louis and Lestat meet, it’s clear that Reid’s Lestat is the ace up this show’s sleeve. Reid leverages his sexy baritone voice for maximum effect, purring his lines in French-accented English, occasionally switching to French to relate something privately to Louis. Reid’s Lestat is charming, threatening, and totally captivating. Lestat brazenly admits that he’s been stalking Louis, which is what led him to this pleasure house. Although Lestat is obviously there for Louis, the two men put on a show of outbidding each other for Lily’s services. Lestat wins out in the end, and Louis leaves “thinking only of Lestat.”
The two men meet again at a poker game. Louis is there to rub elbows with influential New Orleans businessmen and politicians, and he is, conspicuously, the only non-white man at the table. Lestat uses his powers of telepathic communication to tell Louis not to accept one politician’s insulting contract offer. “Do you not know your value?” Lestat asks before freezing the players in time and giving Louis the card he needs to win the hand. This supernatural action doesn’t seem to faze Louis. After this show of solidarity, Louis and Lestat become fast friends, and Louis even invites Lestat to dine with his family.
This friendship eventually develops into something more when Lestat hires Lily as a gift for Louis. What begins as a threesome quickly becomes a twosome when Lestat unceremoniously enchants Lily into an unconscious state. Lestat and Louis shed their clothes and passionately make out until Lestat uses a break in the action to guide Louis’s neck to his mouth in a gracefully choreographed motion. Lestat takes a respectfully tiny drink from Louis as the two of them levitate in the middle of the room. In true Anne Rice fashion, the sex and the vampire stuff get gloriously mixed together.
Louis refuses to see Lestat again after this encounter. The intimacy, the bite, it all felt too good. As Louis explains, “I had no room for feelings like this in my life.” Louis believes that he’s rid of Lestat until tragedy strikes. When Paul kills himself with Louis as a witness, the Pointe du Lac family blames Louis for his brother’s death. After the funeral, Louis, distraught with grief and shame, goes on a self-destructive bender. This bender ends with Louis in a confessional booth, asking God for death. Lestat follows Louis into the church, gruesomely murders the priests, and offers Louis the death he desires.
The death Lestat offers is freedom. Lestat gives Louis compelling reasons to accept the Dark Gift in a change from the novel. Lestat identifies Louis’s sorrow as a symptom of the toll it takes on him to conform to many roles that are not his “true nature.” Lestat earnestly asks Louis to be his companion, to “be all the beautiful things that you are, and be them without apology, for all eternity.”
“I love you, Louis,” Lestat confesses, and a wholly overwhelmed Louis weakly nods his head, agreeing to accept what Lestat offers.
Louis and Lestat share a kiss before sharing blood, sealing the deal. “The end,” Louis narrates, and it could well be. The pilot episode tells a perfectly contained love story that ends where all romances end: with the couple deciding to be together. But then Louis continues, ominously adding, “The beginning.” With that, we have the promise of the horrors to come.
- I laughed out loud at the opening of Louis’s letter to Daniel, which amounts to a fancy and florid version of that old standby greeting of pandemic-era correspondence: “I hope this email finds you well.”
- In The Vampire Chronicles books, Lestat is a reasonably young vampire when he turns Louis and takes him on as a companion. Because of the show’s new timeline—Louis is turned in 1910 rather than in 1791—Lestat has been a vampire for a century and a half when he meets Louis. (This assumes that show-Lestat has been a vampire since 1760, of course. However, this episode did not indicate that the writers have altered Lestat’s origin story from the novels.) Will the show explore this different dynamic? From the first episode, Lestat already displays finer control over his powers when he meets Louis in the show than he has in Rice’s novel. Will Lestat be a better teacher and guide to baby-vampire-Louis in this adaptation?
- A few off-handed references Lestat makes throughout the pilot episode support the theory that Lestat’s history from the novels remains intact in this adaptation. At dinner with the Pointe du Lac family, Lestat mentions that he spent time in a monastery before his father made him come back home (check). He also talks briefly about the importance of his mother in his life (check—Lestat turns his mom into a vampire in the books). In the set up to the ménage-à-trois scene, Lily asks Lestat about the tune playing on his music box. Lestat answers that a “young violinist I once knew” composed the song. This seems to be an allusion to Nicolas de Lenfent (check), Lestat’s first lover-turned-vampire-companion and a sort of proto-Louis who appears in The Vampire Lestat.
- Although Louis’s brother falls to his death down a flight of stairs in the novel, I knew for sure that Paul would fall off that roof the second he and Louis climbed up there. I watched the whole scene through my hands.
- At the end of this episode, Lestat punching a hole in that priest’s head absolutely ruled. What a shot! The violence escalates slowly throughout the pilot episode. Still, the final nightmare scene in the cathedral gives me confidence that there will be a sufficient amount of blood and gore in this series going forward.