Interview with the Vampire is the best fantasy show of the season

Tthe most mesmerizing scene in the stellar first episode of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire takes place around a poker table. It’s 1910, New Orleans, and Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) and his new acquaintance Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reed) are in the middle of a game with some of the most powerful people in town. While these white elites condescend to Louis, a prosperous young brothel owner of Creole descent, Lestat literally stops time, freezing everyone but the two of them, to speak telepathically to Louis and punish the racists by fixing the hand in favor of the Black man , which they obviously consider inferior.

The picture is breathtaking – ruddy faces turned to stone, poker chips frozen in mid-air between the hand dropping them and the green felt table. It’s also a pivotal moment in the series’ fantasy-horror narrative; Lestat has yet to reveal to Louis that he is a vampire, and this is the first overt display of his powers that Louis has witnessed. Lestat has trusted him, but there is something else. In the language of visual metaphor, when time stops and two people communicate without speaking, that’s when you know they’re falling in love. AMC is surprisingly smart, gloriously soft Interviewpremiering on October 2, works on all of the above levels simultaneously.

Jacob Anderson, center, and Sam Reed, right, on

Jacob Anderson, center, and Sam Reed, right, in Interview with the Vampire

Alan Taylor—AMC

The TV adaptation of the late horror icon Anne Ricemost famous novel of, by In Satan’s shoes and Better call Sol executive producer Mark Johnson (who oversees the network’s multi-series Rice franchise) and creator Rollin Jones (Friday Night Lights, Perry Mason), arrives with a lot of baggage. Along with the challenge of satisfying committed fans who are sure to turn away if the show doesn’t live up to expectations, AMC must contend with the divisive legacy of director Neil Jordan’s 1994 film. Interview with the vampire movie. Exclusive for its time hunkfest featuring Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slaterand Tom Cruise in a Nicole Kidman wig, the film has become a touchstone of ’90s nostalgia. But its two-hour running time compresses Rice’s vampiric picaresque in a way that undermines the book’s languid, Southern Gothic pace. Thanks in large part to the miscast Cruise’s ludicrous portrayal of Lestat, it’s also jarring to the point of self-mockery – and I say that as someone who has a lot of affection for it.

Jones and Johnson wisely avoid repeating these mistakes, as well as forcing direct comparisons with a predecessor that still has its own cult following, by making a few simple but fundamental changes. Like the novel and the movie, AMC’s Interview is framed as a conversation between Louis and a reporter eager to tell his incredible life story. In previous accounts, this journalist was a naïve 20-year-old who was so oblivious to the loss, pain, and guilt at the heart of Louis’ story that he ended up asking his subject to turn him into a vampire. (The request doesn’t go over too well.) But the TV series picks up 49 years after that disastrous interview, between the ageless Lewis, hiding in plain sight in a high-tech Dubai compound that keeps him out of the sun, and Eric Boghossian’s Daniel Molloy, now a famous author and very regretful who is facing a Parkinson’s diagnosis as he nears retirement age.

Eric Boghossian in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire (Alfonso Bresciani—AMC)

Eric Boghossian in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire

Alfonso Bresciani—AMC

Boghossian is always the right choice to play a hard-boiled journalist, and he’s especially great at portraying the inner conflict that animates a brooding man whose instincts remain sharp even as his body falters. But beyond the perfect casting, the choice to do this Interview a retelling of Lewis’s biography—and, in a way, a continuation of the book and film—makes room for other useful corrections. The older Daniel is a more insightful, challenging interlocutor, and this Lewis, who has had an extra half-century to reflect on his own history, is more candid. Times have also changed since they first met in 1973. There is more language to express Lewis’s experiences as a queer, black (and technically dead) man over the course of a tumultuous century for people who share aspects of his identity. In an age when depiction is too often conflated with approval, the framing device creates room for some sly commentary on the trope-laden narrative Lewis tells in Rice’s 46-year-old novel; Daniel calls one particular anecdote, which casts Lestat as Louis’s white savior, “the shame of queer theorists everywhere.”

Daniel’s first question of the interview—”So, Mr. Du Lac, how long have you been dead?”—prompts Louis to recount the events that led to his transformation from human to vampire. A black man of means in early 20th-century New Orleans, he had little choice but to invest a substantial sugar plantation inheritance in a handful of establishments in the red-light district of Storyville. (Earlier Interviews, Lewis, played by Pitt in the film, started out as a white slave in late 18th century New Orleans. It probably goes without saying that such a character could not pass as a hero or even an anti-hero in 2022.) As in the poker scene, he must walk a fine line in society and within the business community in order to maintains his family’s wealth without appearing to pose a threat to his white colleagues. His God-fearing mother and siblings disapprove of his work, but their comfortable lifestyle relies on his earnings. It creates tension.

Sam Reed, left, and Jacob Anderson in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire (Michelle K. Short—Sony Pictures)

Sam Reed, left, and Jacob Anderson in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire

Michelle K. Short—Sony Pictures

Enter Lestat, a free-spirited, loose, unapologetically bloodthirsty Frenchman (Frenchpire?) for whom New Orleans, with its sophisticated and seedy nightlife scene, becomes an ideal home—and Louis, an attractive outsider with roots in that half-world, an ideal companion. Given that Louis has always harbored what he calls “delays” that only exacerbate his sense of difference, the combination of love, acceptance, and sexual satisfaction that Lestat offers him is irresistible. While the movie settled on carebaiting Pitt/Cruise, seemingly unsure whether to describe Louis and Lestat’s relationship as sexy or hilarious, the show delivers a searing, sweaty, full-on gay romance. The scene in which Lestat transforms Louis is a real masterpiece, set in a church and filled with blood and fire.

In the five (out of seven) episodes provided for review, InterviewThe flashbacks of create, more than anything else, the portrait of a rather unusual love affair, which nevertheless contains echoes of other once verboten same-sex and interracial novels. The introduction of vampire child Claudia (Bailey Bass, eerily convincing in the role that made Kirsten Dunst famous) slows things down a bit with overwrought metaphors for unconventional parents. Yet the show never falls into the preachy summaries of Ryan Murphy‘c genre performances. It really works so well because Louis and Lestat are different characters who quickly come to a heartbreaking impasse. Louis has a conscience, doesn’t want to kill people, and increasingly resents Lestat for taking away everything he loved about being human. Lestat may be an amoral monster, but his love for Louis (and for music, by the way) is sincere and unwavering. Best known for acting The Gray Worm from Game of Thrones, Anderson gives his tormented character a powerful mix of rage, guilt, and vulnerability. All Reed has to do to improve Cruise’s performance is tone it down, and he does.

It’s been a disappointing season so far for blockbuster series based on mega-popular fantasy novels. Interview succeeds where The house of the dragon and especially The Rings of Power struggles because it takes on a familiar world, seizes the opportunity to improve on a worse adaptation, and has a genuine sense of fun — which was inherent in the genre before it started winning Emmys and Oscars and freaking out with the burden of prestige. Now that so many big IP projects seem focused to the point of boredom, it’s refreshing to see a guy take wild risks that, in most cases, pay off. Watching a good fantasy show should feel like stopping time, like succumbing to the influence of a charismatic monster, like falling in love. After months of misplaced noise, Interview with the vampire it’s finally the real thing.

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