Warning: This post contains a major spoiler for the Interview with the Vampire finale…
Throughout the first season of AMC’s Interview with the Vampire, there’s been one mysterious presence — Assad Zaman’s Rashid. But, for some viewers, he hasn’t quite been a mystery so much as the dream. The hints have been there all along, from the Marius reference to Rashid calling Dubai “a child.” Cleverly enough, the evidence has been more overt the closer the series’ narrative has gotten to the place in Anne Rice’s novel where this character makes his first appearance — but with his true name.
But if, like me, you know the story of the vampire with “the face of a Botticelli angel,” the painter of ikons, the child kidnapped and enslaved, then taken by Marius…maybe you saw something in Rashid all along. You might’ve had a theory. A hope for an actually good one-screen version of the one with the curls, and the sure pronunciation. Maybe you saw, in the scene where Rashid prays, the vampire who was a strict member of the Children of Satan when Lestat first met him…but who, in the end, had no answers by the time Louis came to Europe.
There’s something about Zaman’s performance, from the second we meet him, that just screams “Andrei.” Or perhaps you’d rather call him Amadeo. It’s difficult to pin down exactly what that “something” is, but it’s there. Maybe it’s that he…
“…looked like a young man out of the novels of Dickens in his somber and sleekly tailored black frock coat, all the Renaissance curls clipped away. His eternally youthful face was stamped with the innocence of a David Copperfield and the pride of a Steerforth—anything but the true nature of the spirit within.”The Vampire Lestat, 2010 Ballantine paperback, p. 503
(Emphasis on “anything but the true nature…”)
There’s also something in Zaman’s performance that screams, “eerie magnetism” (Interview with the Vampire, 1997 Ballantine paperback, p. 275).
As a fun aside, when answering another journalist’s question during the roundtable interview, Zaman actually applied that descriptor to another vampire. “Louis is the most human — human — vampire, immortal that you can…spend time with and explore. And enjoy,” an aspect of Louis’ character isn’t quite Armand’s “eerie magnetism.” But, “I’m speaking from Armand’s perspective,” he told us, “that’s magnetic. Because when you’ve lived as long as you’ve lived, then those kinds of energies aren’t around around you anymore.”
What if we just all agree that every single one of Rice’s vampires was magnetic in their own way?
But back to the secret, or possibly not-so-secret, identity. In short, Rashid simply fits all of Lestat’s, Khayman’s, Marius’, and all the others’ impressions of Armand. It’s all there…something in his face, maybe?
“I could not define it, because I could not explain how the youthful lines of his face, how his eyes expressed innocence and this age and experience at the same time. “Interview with the Vampire, p. 237
Or maybe we simply figured Assad Zaman might be Rashid because who else did Louis spend time with? After all, the books make it pretty clear: “Louis had been with Armand all these years” (The Vampire Lestat, 510). And Armand was Louis’ “constant companion, and [his] only companion” (Interview with the Vampire, 321). Sounds familiar for season 1, doesn’t it?
They told us he was Rashid, but we couldn’t be fooled. It just wasn’t enough to change our minds. The vampire Armand has never been afraid a name change. And he’s certainly had to reinvent himself more than once. Not to mention, there’s the Théâtre des Vampires. We all know he’s got plenty of experience in the acting department.
So, what was it about Assad Zaman that convinced us, even before Daniel Molloy started to notice inconsistencies, that Louis’ human help could very well be Armand? It’s difficult to say. It was probably no one thing — but some baffling mixture of all of the above.
After all, Zaman plays all the aspects of this character beautifully. And he has the look.
As part of the roundtable interviews for the Interview with the Vampire finale, we asked Assad Zaman about playing Armand…without actually playing him until the very end.
All season long, I was watching the series and going, “I want that to be Armand. There’s something about him,” which I made sure to tell Zaman when I spoke with him. His response? “It’s actually quite overwhelming,” he said, adding that he felt like he’d been “living under a rock” since he finished filming.
With that out of the way, the actor talked a little bit about when he knew his character’s secret identity. “I actually found out halfway through the audition process that Rashid is actually Armand,” he told us. Zaman thought he was playing “Louis’ trusted assistant” when he went into the auditions and “had a fairly, kind of, clear idea about his motivations and where he is.”
So, he initially thought “it was very clear-cut and direct.” But then…something changed.
After his third audition, showrunner Rolin Jones asked Zaman for a meeting. In the actor’s words, the message was essentially, “we have to do a few more rounds, and we want to see a few more things from you. But basically, this is who Arm—this is who Rashid is. And this is where we want to go, and we would sort of like to add a bit of that flavor into the next few auditions.”
Laughing, he told us, “and I’m trying not to lose my cool,” which is about as relatable as it gets, when it comes to finding out that that’s Armand.
This new information “made the next few auditions really terrifying. But it gave [him] a chance to really think.” Because with Rashid, “there was always a clear objective there. But now, this kind of complicates it a little bit. Which is an absolute…dream for an actor.”
As far as trying to figure out how to portray Armand’s characterization without giving it away goes, it was a very delicate thing. Zaman told us, “we spent some time…working out what that level of Armand-slash-Rashid we can play with” was.
But it was very important not to overshadow the rest of the story. As Zaman told us, “I think for me and Rolin, the important thing was in this first season…especially in the first few episodes…It’s great when people kind of grab onto Rashid or see something” in him. “And that’s fantastic.” However, both he and Jones found it “important to tell Louis’ story and to make sure that the focus was on Daniel and Louis and that interview.”
Even with all the many hints of Armand’s presence we received throughout the season, Zaman and Jones “didn’t want to undermine [the interview] in any way by having, sort of, this lurky character always there, and flagging it too much.”
But he was quick to point out, “not that it needed us to, sort of, play it back” a lot “because these two —Eric and Jacob [Bogosian and Anderson, who play Daniel and Louis] are so freaking amazing.” He said the same was true of Sam Reid and Bailey Bass. So, as a viewer, “you’re sucked in. And you’re in that world already.”
With that being said, “nevertheless, it was important to, sort of, make sure that we play enough but not too much.”
Also, even outside of not wanting to steal the spotlight from Louis’ interview, so to speak, there’s a practical purpose to “keep a lid on it.” With Armand, it’s crucial “that Daniel doesn’t realize what’s going on. Or, realize that this is someone who he’s met before.”
Truly, can you imagine being Daniel, having heard Louis’ story before and knowing Armand is in the same house with you? We would’ve had a very different interview this time around…
“So, yeah! All of those things were a balancing act. But if you go back and watch it, I’m sure you’ll find little moments where I was allowed to…have a reaction that, kind of, takes him out of being Rashid. And then, he has to sort of very, very carefully step back again.”
We can’t wait to see how he plays this character in season 2, now that the fangs are out.
You can catch Assad Zaman as Rashid/Armand in Interview with the Vampire season 1. All episodes are now available on AMC and AMC+.