Lestat de Lioncourt is the drama. The undead lover, killer, and perpetual center of attention was the drama when he was introduced in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire in 1976, he was the drama as embodied by Tom Cruise in the 1994 film adaptation, and, dear God, is he ever the drama in AMC’s enjoyable latest take on the vampire epic.
In the new series, which reimagines some aspects of Rice’s story while staying true to its sumptuous and thrilling core, Sam Reid gamely takes on the role of Lestat, while Jacob Anderson plays his fledgling vampire better half, Louis. The well-cast pair lead viewers through a new version of a familiar story, one that’s winkingly funny, delightfully bloody, and thoroughly entertaining.
While the beginning of Rice’s series took place in the late 1700s, series creator Rolin Jones’ update of the series pushes the story forward to the early 1900s, setting its events against a backdrop of clashing sensibilities, traditions, and inequality. Even before he’s turned into a vampire, Louis is the topic of public fascination: he’s the lone Black businessman in his New Orleans neighborhood, where he runs brothels and looks after his mother and siblings. When he meets Lestat, a provocative and mysterious French businessman, his life is quickly turned upside down. If you’re unfamiliar with Rice’s series, suffice it to say that Louis and Lestat’s charged and theatrical relationship goes through some memorable rough patches over the course of several decades, all of which form the basis of the story.
The series gets its title from the frame narrative, which is among the most noteworthy differences between the new show and Rice’s books. Instead of telling his story to a young reporter in the ‘70s, as in the novel, we see Louis recount the tale to an aging journalist (Eric Bogosian) whom he’s already met once before. By positioning their interview as a revisionist look back at Louis’ story, the series opens up the door to plenty of meta-commentary, with Bogosian’s no-nonsense reporter interrogating some of the romanticized and even problematic plot points that have always made Rice’s works magnets for debate.
Like the vampires at its heart, this story has adapted to survive major changes in the world around it. On the whole, the new version of Interview with the Vampire excels at both embracing the elements that make it a major touchstone in the vampire canon and presenting them with a sense of mischievous self-awareness that’s often downright hilarious. The series has the camp, sexiness, and gleefully presented gore of a show like True Blood but also possesses the scope and occasionally straight-faced melodrama of a story that knows it was the blueprint for the good, the bad, and the ugly of modern vampire cinema.
For all its central couple’s dysfunction, Interview with the Vampire itself is never ugly, especially in episodes directed by The Sopranos and Mad Men filmmaker Alan Taylor. The series indulges in visuals that reflect the sensibilities of its aesthete antiheroes, and its beauty is hypnotic. The show is aces at presenting each of its loveliest things – from Lestat’s fanciful manner of speech to Louis’ suddenly lavish lifestyle to the glowing reddish eyes of their eventual adopted child, Claudia (Bailey Bass) – as just one shiny side of a dangerous double-edged sword.
Interview with the Vampire often handles its dark topics with a surprisingly playful touch, but it’s also sure to impress upon us the fact that beauty and decadence can belie danger. Maybe it’s the turn-of-the-century time frame talking, but it seems like this version of Louis and Lestat’s story doesn’t just embody Rice’s work: it also calls to mind the literature of a known member of the Decadent Movement, Oscar Wilde. It isn’t entirely glossy, though. The new series is certainly more thorough and intentional in its exploration of 20th-century queer life than the Neil Jordan film, which relegated its central relationship mostly to subtext.
If the latest version of Interview with the Vampire has a weakness, it’s that it doesn’t try to cater to viewers who haven’t cracked open one of Rice’s books. This is, frankly, a weird and wild story that walks a wobbly tonal tightrope and probably won’t be for everyone. But it’s also hard not to get hooked, especially by lead performances that burn bright. Anderson, who stole scenes in Game of Thrones as Grey Worm, here artfully conveys the spirit of a man who’s often torn apart by the needs and expectations of everyone around him. Reid, meanwhile, is a fabulous Lestat, slipping effortlessly into a character who’s at once extremely charming and extremely punchable.
Interview with the Vampire hits the ground running with five episodes that deliver camp, comedy, carnage, and a generous helping of sincere romance and drama. The show has a lot of ground to cover, yet already seems like it could be game to go beyond Rice’s first installment and make a meal out of the rest of The Vampire Chronicles. In the meantime, though, it’s clear that the story of Lestat, Louis, and Claudia is quickly shaping up to be a bloody good time.
Interview with the Vampire debuts on AMC and AMC+ on October 2, 2022. Watch the series trailer here.