Spoiler warning: This post references some details in upcoming episodes of AMC’s Interview with the Vampire that may be considered spoilers.
Ahead of the release of AMC’s Interview with the Vampire, we participated in the series’ virtual roundtable interview with Jacob Anderson, Sam Reid, and Bailey Bass. Before even getting into the insights the actors gave us into their experiences in playing these characters, let’s just be perfectly clear on a couple of things.
First off, these actors have done their research. And it shows.
And, for as great as the 1993 film was, the main research — especially for Reid — didn’t really come from there. As he told us, creator Rolin Jones’ “adaptation really spans the whole Vampire Chronicles book series.” That’s not to say that he doesn’t “love that film” (he does). But the series just doesn’t really reference it.
For Bass, who “wasn’t as familiar with the novel and the movie” during the audition process, though, “watching the movie was the fastest way [she] could be familiar” with the material. And, as she told us, “seeing Kirsten Dunst’s performance, and seeing how loud and unapologetic Claudia was, made me even more excited to be able to play her.”
Next, let’s talk about actors and perfect casting.
Anderson and Reid, who participated side-by-side from a single location, simply are Louis and Lestat. Not even just in the series. The energy between them — if watching the series itself wasn’t already clear enough proof — is Exhibit A for why they were clearly the only two people who could’ve played these characters.
So, of course, no one’s saying anybody here is actually a vampire, or actually part of this love story in real life…
But there is just something very there in the two actors that screams, “we were meant to be Anne Rice’s Brat Prince and his beloved sufferer.”
One of the places where this dynamic was most obvious, actually, was when we asked specifically about Louis’ use of certain Gifts in Interview with the Vampire.
Canonically, “I never revealed to him half my powers, and with reason, because he shrank in guilt and self-loathing from using even half of his own” (The Vampire Lestat, 2010 Ballentine Mass Market Edition, p. 498).
And yet, in AMC’s Interview with the Vampire…we see, perhaps, a slightly different Louis. We don’t doubt there’s still that old “guilt and self-loathing” somewhere, but he certainly accesses some interesting powers.
We asked if we might learn about that change, or if it maybe has to do with Louis’ future companions, or something else. And well. Let’s just say the shared, loaded looks and the way the actors finished each other’s sentences…was a lot.
Anderson started off the answer to this one, saying he knew what we were doing with this question, and Reid took over from there. “I’d just say, as somebody who…is a bit of a geek on these laws…And it is coming straight out of Anne Rice, when you drink from the vampire who turns you, you absorb their powers. Depending on how much you take, [it] also increases or decreases their powers.”
Here, Anderson picked the conversation back up in an attempt to keep everyone out of trouble. “I think, actually, we need to leave this question,” he told us. At that point, Reid interjected to agree, “yeah, just going to leave that there.” Anderson said we’d have to keep the question “a little bit more open” but confirmed we’re “on a track.”
And then, Reid promised we could “feel free to speculate.” Then again, as we were putting the subject to rest, and after Anderson thought they’d already said too much, Reid did push back in true Brat Prince fashion. He insisted, “it’s rule that exists in the universe, though.”
Also on the subject of powers Louis and Lestat have in Interview with the Vampire:
One of the questions that came up during the roundtable interview was which of the powers each actor would like to have. Reid answered first, saying “instinctively, you want to say flying. But the way he [Lestat] talks about flying is so terrifying…it’s obviously a horrible experience. So, I’m not going to go with flying.”
But Lestat’s other powers aren’t so attractive to wish for either: “And equally, mind reading would be extraordinary. But then again, quite painful to hear what people really think of you.” Eventually, Reid settled on Lestat’s “ability to hypnotize. His ability to get somebody to listen to him on an instant would be…not something that I necessarily want, but it would be a nice little power that you could have in your back pocket.”
At this point, the particular type of laughter from Reid was…pure Lestat. Not sure how else to describe it, so here we are. Another thing that’s pure Lestat? From there, Reid took the question and answer in his own direction.
“I think, you know, while vampires — and while I love them and do love Anne Rice and have for a long time — do seem, like, incredibly intoxicating, I think that a lot of…It’s actually quite a painful existence. And a lot of their gifts, and a lot of their power, come from a difficult place. And they challenge, and they work with them all the time.” He continued to say he thinks “Lestat wants Louis to love him without his powers.”
He also pointed toward plenty of times in Interview with the Vampire where Lestat could use his full powers to get out of virtually any situation — and doesn’t.
“But it’s because, all the time, he is trying to be loved for himself. He’s trying to be accepted for himself.” Even “when he’s violent, he often is violent just with his hands. He doesn’t actually use his…real power. So, you know, again, I guess that goes to show that there is a lot of guilt and a lot of struggle within being such a powerful being. So, I don’t know if I really want that. But it’s very, very fun to play.”
Anderson said he’d “take the Fire Gift,” which prompted a whole discussion from Reid about whether or not Lestat even has that Gift at this point in time. Yes, he also mentioned getting more Blood from the Mother — Akasha. Though he didn’t use her name, he didn’t need to — too.
Getting into the guilt and struggle that Reid mentioned when discussing powers fits perfectly with the concept of how much of a true struggle immortality can be. And, for those of us who’ve read The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice’s vampires definitely struggle. Yes, even Lestat.
So, what are the actors‘ thoughts on immortality?
For Anderson, it’s “a process of endurance and acceptance” that’s “different for the individual.” Later, he’d add that it gives you “all the time” to “find any kind of acceptance of self.” But to have that time, “you have to keep going. You have to wake up — every night — and decide to…to be there. Which I guess…is a decision that we make every day as humans. But it has different implications, of course, with immortality.”
Reid said this is “one of the main, dynamic questions of the show and of Anne Rice’s work.” In the universe of Interview with the Vampire, “you either embrace that — you take it on, head on, and you just…dive down the hall of being this creature. Or you fight it…And they all, every vampire in Anne Rice’s world, at some point, struggles with it.” Therefore, to him, “immortality would be amazing. But, you also lose all the people you love. But then, also, you might turn all the people you love into a vampire. And then, you realize they didn’t like you in the first place anyway.”
And what about Bailey Bass? In her own words, “I would walk into the sun.” For her, “life is precious because we don’t get to live forever, you know? There’s such a limited amount of time, and that’s why it’s so wonderful.” She’s also worried she’d “want to turn someone to have a spouse,” only to wind up stuck with someone who actually doesn’t like her. “That’s just miserable.”
One place where immortality plays a large role is in how Anne Rice’s vampires are, as Anderson put it, “everything at the same time.” And one of the things about Louis and Lestat “that’s so special is that they do live in this incredibly complex, like…It’s like a cosmic scale.” And, sure, some of their extreme behavior “happens in the horror genre quite a lot” with “certain archetypes that you have to kind of — that you have to…check off. (Not Chekhov, check off! [Insert laughter with Reid and a comment on Chekhov plays here.]). However, it’s all “rooted in humanity, and it’s rooted in things, sometimes, that we don’t want to reveal about ourselves.”
Ever the scholar on all things Vampire Chronicles, Reid really tied this all back to living forever. For him, we all know vampires live forever. And Rice “really hammers that home, and Rolin’s really beautifully picked up on it.” Because of this, “endurance is a huge part of being a vampire. It’s not only just endurance to survive, to not walk into the sun because you’ve had enough and you can’t go on; it’s endurance to make life interesting. It’s endurance to make every day that you wake up — or every night that you wake up — not the same, monotonous merry-go-round of existence. And so, they do make things extreme. They are dramatic; they are Extra; they are a a lot, you know?”
Part of this extreme and Extra behavior goes back to the fundamental struggle of being a Rice vampire. “They’re aware that they are bad; they’re aware that they kill to survive. And there’s that constant push and pull between, you know, ‘do I embrace it, do I enjoy it? Or do I fight it, and do I hate myself?’ And then, that really just comes in, over and over again, throughout the books, you know? Particularly when you start looking at the Catholicism and the older…kind of Children of Satan…and all these kind of elements…there’s that push and pull between what they should be doing as demons and then, what they could be doing as conscious, emotional beings.”
Yes, he mentioned the Children of Satan. And yes, we were like “omg.”
Anyway. Continuing with what Reid had to say…
“So, yeah. It’s very extreme stuff. But it’s super fun — all you, sort of, dream of doing as an actor. So, to be given the license to do it is…very fun.”
Bass agreed, saying that dynamic was “freeing” for her as an actor. And, “like Sam was saying, every day has to — every night — has to be exciting and wanting to create something new.” For Claudia, specifically, she feels like ” because all her feelings are even more intense, being trapped in a 14-year-old body and her brain never fully developing, she’s always going off her first instinct. That’s really exciting as an actor because I felt like I could never do anything wrong on set. Which is always fun.”
A walk through history
But, one thing that immortality allows for — that vampire stories, and especially Rice’s vast world, promise — is getting to see a lot of history. So, we asked the cast of Interview with the Vampire what about the series’ chosen time period worked for them.
For Anderson, “there’s something really fitting about the period that Rolin chose to set this interpretation in. I think 1910, the 1910s, in New Orleans is like this sort of secret period in New Orleans’ history. And, Storyville was kind of — it was — like a Red Light district, ultimately, where taboos were made legal for this period of time.”
Eventually, though, “Storyville became like this gentrified thing. And it became like a pariah in, in sort of decent ‘Caucasian society.’ In quotations. That’s [important] — I’m putting some big quotations there,” he said while doing actual air quotes.
So, to tie this back into the supernatural element of Interview with the Vampire, Anderson noted, “I think that really speaks to something about how vampires are seen. This is a period of time where it kind of — it almost feels like it wouldn’t be that shameful to be a vampire.”
At this point, Reid hummed in agreement. And we’re pretty sure we were nodding along, actually. Anyway.
Anderson continued, telling us, “that’s something that is attractive to Lestat…Like, it makes so much sense. And it also feeds into Louis’ shame.”
He also noted that the time period is “very difficult to research. It was very hard to find archival material, particularly [about] Free People of Color and Creole people.” But that struggle to find good research materials is actually an advantage. “It feels like you can put fantasy in that period, and it feels…It almost grounds it even more.”
Here, Reid noted that “the music, as well, from that period of time is…just amazing.” Which, of course, is…again, fitting for an actor playing the Brat Prince to say. As we all know, Lestat does love his music…
For Bass, the costumes were particularly important. “I think it was perfect that, when Claudia starts to question who she is and why she is, is right in the ‘20s. And that’s when women started wearing less clothing.” So, “because of that, she actually steals someone’s dress. Because she’s, like, ‘that’s great. That’s going to make me feel like I’m older. That’s going to make me step into a woman and not a little girl anymore.'”
This brought up more questions and discussions about the costumes from other journalists on the Zoom call.
How costumes contribute to the feel of Interview with the Vampire
For Anderson, trying on the costumes for the first time, he just “felt like Louis.” What came with that feeling? Well, if you’ve either read or seen Interview with the Vampire, you know that means tons of contradictions.
“He wants to stand out — he doesn’t want to blend into the background. And there’s, like, an irony and like a push and pull about that, that he also doesn’t want to be looked at. And he’s…And he’s carrying a lot of fear about himself and about being found out in lots of different ways.”
But, despite him not wanting to be looked at, “some of the purpose of Louis’ costuming is that he kind of glows. That he stands out. His color is gold.” When Anderson called it “peacocking, a lot of the time,” Reid laughed. (There’s that Louis/Lestat interplay again.)
But it’s really true! And for Anderson, that feeling of the costumes maybe being an extra element “that kind of draws [Lestat] in. Not that that’s Louis’ intention,” that was just one more thing to help the actor figure out how to carry himself.
Reid mentioned how out of place Lestat is when we first meet him in Interview with the Vampire‘s premiere. “He’s kind of still carrying the remnants of the century where he’s come from before because he’s come from a big journey. And then, he has to sort of…get a makeover — an update.”
(Here, Anderson snickers. Sorry. There’s no other word for it.)
Reid called the makeover “a bit clashy” because Lestat “doesn’t fit in these clothes.” But, from there, costume designer Carol Cutshall “found this way of incorporating just very subtle elements of bondage into the costumes. So, the waists would be much smaller. The boots would be made of patent leather…You know, he’d try, like, a silly boater hat on because he knew it was sort of, like, ridiculous and funny.” He also noted they were “always looking for the keys that come back to the character, even if he’s in a time that’s not necessarily ‘his’ time.”
Bass had similar praise for Cutshall. In that vein, she noted that “the costumes were so intentional. And that’s why putting them on made us really feel like our characters. There’s a story through the costumes as our characters evolve.” Additionally, she pointed out that “we pick our clothes in the morning. So, that’s something that we do intentionally. And Carol was aware of that. So, wherever the characters were in the story, she made sure that the clothing aligned.”
Another fun tidbit? Everyone had fangs and lenses. And, while others only had two, Claudia had four. “That’s so Claudia. Of course she has four and not two, you know?”
And just to end on a fun note…
Anderson, Reid, and Bass all have other vampire stories they’ve loved — outside of Interview with the Vampire and the rest of Rice’s Chronicles.
Reid “was obsessed with Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a kid. And Gary Oldman playing Dracula,” while Bass is “absolutely obsessed” with Twilight. As a huge David Bowie fan, Anderson thinks “The Hunger is amazing and kind of…It bears something quite Riceian about it.”
Which, for the record, “Riceian” is our new favorite word.
Continuing with Anderson, he says of The Hunger, “it’s very existential and questions — lots of questions about aging, more specifically, and loneliness. And that kind of…the desperate grab for, ‘I don’t want to be alone, but do I want to be the opposite of alone with this person?’”
So, if you wanted more vampire content, there you go.
Interview with the Vampire airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC, with episodes releasing on AMC+ the same day. You can watch episodes 1 and 2 on the streamer now.