AMC’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire is three episodes in, and we’ve been enjoying every bit of Louis and Lestat’s story. Though this adaptation is a newer one with some differences, the essence of her story is there. It’s in the way the characters carry themselves, how they speak, and the delivery of those classic lines from the book we love so much.
What I have enjoyed even more about this particular adaptation is that Louis is being portrayed this time around by a black man. I get that some people (racists) don’t like it, and I don’t care. Because hi, yes ,hello. Vampires are not real, and it’s 2022. Jacob Anderson has been doing a phenomenal job of bringing Louis to life, and that is what matters most.
One of the things that creator Rolin Jones and those involved have done a great job of is showcasing the differences in Louis’s experiences versus Lestat’s. I realize that Interview with the Vampire is a fictional universe. But there still needs to be a sense of realism involved. In this instance, that realism is Louis’s experiences as a black man.
The thing that struck me from the start was Louis’s profession. In this adaptation of Interview with the Vampire, Louis is a pimp. And he is a very successful one, who owns eight out of two dozen sporting houses on Liberty Street. At first, I was a bit shocked by this. I found myself going, “really? A pimp? That’s the job they gave to the black man?”
In my honest opinion, it felt a bit stereotypical until I sat with and thought deeper about it.
I had to think back to the book. As I recalled that Louis was a white plantation owner with slaves, it led me to the conclusion that the showrunner’s decision to make Louis a pimp was a valid one. Before this adaptation was set to release, many people were questioning exactly how the show would work with Louis being a black man when in the book, he was a white man with slaves.
Though I didn’t think about this as much as others did, I was curious as to how this would be handled. Louis being a pimp was the closest thing to being a plantation owner with slaves. Granted, this was not how his family originally made their money. They had a very successful sugar cane business, but Louis’s father ran it into the ground. That caused Louis to figure out another way to be able to feed the family.
None of this is to say I condone any profession that involves the ownership of people, but it makes sense. I say this because Louis working as a pimp who owns eight sporting houses where he manages prostitutes was similar to book Louis owning a plantation. Some people may disagree with me on this, but that was how I interpreted it.
Louis does very well for himself. He takes care of his family — just like book Louis. I imagine the showrunners must have had a few conversations about what Louis would be able to do in 1910 as a black man living in a world controlled by white men. I’m sure they also considered that people would call them out regarding what they chose for him. They’d say, “it’s not believable that he could be x, y, z in this period.” Therefore, this is how we got Louis the pimp.
Louis is a very intelligent man and knows how to manage his business. He’s been able to step into places most black men could not. Though he is a black man, he also has dealings with the white men of New Orleans. A lot of them frequent his establishments, so he’s developed relationships with quite a few. Even though he knows their deepest and darkest secrets of where they spend their nights, and he respects their need for privacy, they still don’t respect him.
No matter what Louis does, or how successful he may become, he is still just a black man to them. The perfect example of that is in the way he is treated by his white counterpart, Tom Anderson, who owns the Fairplay Saloon. Mr. Anderson knew what a good businessman Louis was. So, he put in a good word for him with Alderman Fenwick, another businessman who had purchased the title and deed to a rooming house.
Louis was excited to hear that because for him, it only meant good things. Until he found out what Mr. Anderson felt his time and efforts were worth. The condescending way in which Mr. Anderson proceeded to tell Louis that he needed to remember that his seat at the table was nothing more than labor just made me want to reach through my TV and slap him. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by any of this, considering Fenwick himself wasn’t any better.
Fenwick and Anderson don’t see Louis as an equal — when, in fact, he is. One could and would say he’s actually better than them. And that’s why they wanted to take him down a peg. Because for them, Louis represented the “uppity negro.” The one who is too big for his britches and has “forgotten his place.” What neither of them planned on was him being able to outsmart them. That only became magnified once he became a vampire.
As Louis pointed out during Interview With the Vampire 1×02, he’s had decades of rage to process. Being a vampire has amplified his emotions — including rage. The fact that he can read the minds of the white men around him doesn’t help that. They were already condescending enough without him even knowing what their thoughts were. Once Louis was able to hear what they were thinking, it just became too much.
Imagine being able to hear how much a person despises you because of your race and that they think you’re less than others because of it. When Louis talks to Daniel about his experiences over the years, he gives him the rehearsed playbook of how he was expected to respond to the white men he shared company with. Jacob Anderson does such a great job of delivering those lines “of course, sir. Subject, verb agreement, ‘sir.’ Smile, nod, ‘yes, sir.’”
You can feel that Louis is still affected by that, even in the more modern society. That’s deep-seated trauma that can’t just be washed away. Just reliving that interaction he had with Mr. Carlo is enough to trigger his anger all over again.
That rage is something Lestat didn’t seem to understand. I want to be clear: I am not saying Lestat doesn’t understand rage because we all know he does. But he doesn’t understand black rage. Lestat has no idea what it means to be a black man in America. He can’t possibly get what Louis is dealing with.
When Lestat first meets Louis, he unknowingly offends him after he’s asked how he was able to secure the best table at the Fairplay. Lestat assumes he’s paying Louis a compliment when he responds with “How’d you manage to get yourself through the front door?”
Louis is immediately on the defense, and you can’t blame him because it doesn’t come off as a compliment. Because Louis knows how the world works, he is constantly on alert and processing every word said to him.
And because Lestat doesn’t have a full understanding of what Louis has to deal with, he wasn’t able to understand why Louis killed Mr. Carlo. Louis tells Lestat that he did it because he told him he “did a good job.” That is confusing to Lestat because he doesn’t realize that it was said as an insult. When Mr. Carlo said that to Louis, he meant it as a way to say, “you’re a smart negro who does what he’s told, and you know your place.”
Louis’s differences also affect his relationship with Lestat. As Lestat is cleaning up Louis’s mess with Mr. Carlo, the two of them are having a very heated argument. Lestat continues to refer to Louis as a “fledgling,” which is the term for a person who is inexperienced at something. In this case, Louis is a fledgling vampire. Louis is really angry about being disrespected by Mr. Carlo. So, at that moment, he doesn’t take too kindly to Lestat calling him a fledgling over and over.
He lets Lestat know that he needs to stop using that word because it sounds like a slave. Lestat, of course, thinks that Louis is overreacting because — once again — he doesn’t get it.
I did understand where Louis was coming from because he’s in a way beholden to Lestat. He is his maker, and he’s all he’s ever known since being turned. That in itself can make someone feel like a slave because Louis does depend on Lestat to guide him, and he feels as if he can’t go out on his own.
They can’t even go out to certain places without Louis following “the rules.” When they step out to places like the opera, Louis has to play the role of valet, AKA servant, to Lestat. He has to walk a few paces behind him, carry his belongings, and he can’t even sit down next to him until the theatre goes dark. That hurts and angers him. But as usual, he has to sit in silence and accept it. Lestat did seem to be bothered by how upset Louis was at that moment, so I’m hoping that the writers are going to continue to give us that acknowledgment of Louis’s feelings. Because they are valid feelings that need to be addressed. It’s the only way to show respect to a character like Louis if you’re going to do an adaptation in this way.