In just one episode, the television reboot of Interview with the Vampire (officially, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire) is already a significant improvement over the Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt movie adaptation from 1994. Admittedly, that may not be a very high bar to clear. Still, I have to admit to going in with some skepticism. At least so far, I’m on board.
In what seems like strangely belated timing given the age of the material (the first Vampire Chronicles book was published in 1976 and the most recent four years ago in 2018), the AMC cable network has decided to go all-in with Anne Rice this season. Confident in the presumed success of this show, the network has already greenlit a second season, and a spin-off series based on Rice’s Mayfair Witches is currently in production for a scheduled premiere in early 2023. With its flagship The Walking Dead ending shortly, AMC apparently hopes that establishing a so-called Anne Rice Immortal Universe will fill that void.
Subscribers to the AMC+ streaming service got an early sneak peak at the first two episodes of Vampire last week, but those of us watching on linear broadcast only have one episode to judge by. If the show takes a dive in its second episode, I won’t know for a few days. I hope not.
|Title:||Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire|
|Episode:||1.01 – In Throes of Increasing Wonder|
|Release Date:||Oct. 2, 2022|
I haven’t read the Anne Rice novel and can’t claim to be an expert on what would constitute a faithful adaptation of it. I tried to read a Rice book once many years ago (I don’t remember which one at this point) and couldn’t make it past the first chapter. Whether that was a failure of the book itself or of my inability to hold interest in it at that age, I honestly can’t say. Regardless, the point is that I don’t come at Interview with the Vampire from the perspective of a Vampire Chronicles fan expecting rigid adherence to the source.
That may be more of an issue for book fans. Given that Rice wrote the screenplay to the 1994 film herself, I would have to assume that the movie was at least relatively faithful to the main plot of her novel. Although adapted from the same source and telling largely the same story, the new TV series makes considerable changes to the details.
For one thing, the interviewer who sets the framing device is a much older man. Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) is an aging journalist whose career is flagging in the modern age of corporatized progaganda “news” and whose health has also started to fail. When he receives a handwritten invitation from Louis de Pointe du Lac requesting his presence, he already knows the name and the man. Forty-nine years earlier, Daniel previously interviewed Louis and heard his story. That encounter ended very badly and Daniel never published the interview. But now, feeling he has nothing left to lose, he consents to meet with Louis again.
That could almost make this series a sequel to the novel rather than an adaptation of it. However, setting an antagonistic relationship right off the bat, Daniel insists that Louis retell his story from the beginning. This “do-over,” as he puts it, is a pretty clever bit of meta-commentary on the nature of this new TV series being a remake/reboot of a story already told before in other media, but the show is smart enough not to draw too much attention to that or dwell on it.
As Louis tells his tale, the episode flashes back to 1910 New Orleans. This, again, is a change from the previous version set in 1870. In addition to the time shift, Louis himself is a Black man (Jacob Anderson, who played Grey Worm in Game of Thrones). The character’s race change is directly addressed and woven into the fabric of the episode in meaningful ways. The proprietor of several businesses of ill repute, Louis was the rare Black man of the age with both wealth and influence. Yet it’s his troubled relationship with a mentally ill brother that first catches the attention of Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), a French nobleman newly relocated to the area.
Whether you’ve read the book or seen the prior movie, or are simply capable of putting 2 and 2 together after hearing the title of the TV show, it will come as no surprise that Lestat is a vampire. Over the course of the episode, he enacts a slow, patient seduction that will culminate with him sharing his “dark gift” and making Louis his immortal companion.
Unlike the Cruise/Pitt film, the reboot also makes the homoerotic leanings of the original novel very explicit. More than subtext, the show comes right out and identifies Louis as a closeted gay man. By the end of the first hour, he gives himself to Lestat, body and soul.
Even with only barely over an hour of screen time to develop it, their complicated relationship is much more convincing in this pilot episode than in the older movie at twice the length. Of course, a TV series doesn’t need to cram the entire plot of the book into just one episode. It has the luxury of spreading that out over the course of at least a season. This gives the show more leeway to develop its characters and setting than the highly-compressed movie.
Also helping significantly is that the series has much better acting as well. I have nothing against either Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, both of whom have more than proven their acting chops in other projects, but they were both terribly miscast in the last adaptation of Interview with the Vampire. They looked ridiculous in the costumes and wigs, and their performances were lousy.
I’m not entirely sold on the Australian Sam Reid as Lestat, but he’s certainly better and more appropriate in the role than Tom Cruise was. At least he attempts a passable French accident, which Cruise didn’t even bother trying. Jacob Anderson, meanwhile, is terrific as Louis. He brings a great deal of depth and humanity to a character destined to become inhuman.
I’ve learned from too many past experiences that a TV series can’t be judged by just one episode (or even one season), but the premiere of this new Interview with the Vampire is very well done and suggests that the show has a lot of promise. That’s not something I necessarily expected. The vampire genre has seemed especially played out in recent years, and my previous samplings of Anne Rice didn’t leave a favorable impression.
Whether subsequent episodes can live up to that potential remains to be seen, but at least for now this show has earned my benefit of the doubt.
Contrary to early trailers that were full-screen 16:9, the actual broadcast of Interview with the Vampire has a 2.00:1 aspect ratio and has been added to my running list of TV shows wider than 16:9. The premiere episode has quite a bit of profanity for basic cable, including one use of the n-word. It also has a little bit of nudity – mostly of male backsides, though in one scene a topless woman’s nipples were digitally blurred out for the broadcast. I’m told that the AMC+ streaming version is uncensored in that regard but can’t validate that myself.
2 thoughts on “Mortality Beats a Heavy Drum – Interview with the Vampire (2022) Series Premiere”
In this series, the n-word is ‘necromancy’.