As Frock Flicks’ resident ElderGoth, I’m contractually required to watch the new AMC series adaption of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire (2022-). So I’m dragging y’all along with me every other Tuesday!
Episode 1, “In Throes of Increasing Wonder”
Note: This series makes some significant changes to the novel, primarily that the meeting of Louis and Lestat happens in 1910 instead of 1791. Because of the date change, Louis is a Black man who runs a bordello instead of a white plantation owner in this version. Now, I’m a HUGE fan of the original book — I love it more than all the sequels precisely because Louis is such a fantastically introspective character as he struggles with his humanity. And I’m here to tell you, I’m OK with the series making these changes. This adds to the storytelling possibilities in many ways and does not detract from the original story as far as I can tell. My only trepidation was that I enjoy the 18th-c. and 19th-c. costuming that the original story lends itself to, but I’m giving this series a chance to show what it can do with early 20th-c. costume, as well as with the storytelling. If I see any complaints about adding Black characters to this story of immortal queer vampires, I will just delete your comments and probably ban you from this blog (or social media if you comment there). Consider this your only warning. We can respectfully discuss and even disagree about the changes to the plot and time frames, but anything that smacks of “oh noes, Louis is Black, how dare” gets your low-key racism booted.
The story begins in the present day, very specifically June 2022, with journalist Daniel Mollory (Eric Bogosian), older, bored, dealing with Parkinson’s disease, looking back on his life. He receives a package of cassette tapes (amusing nod to how out of date those are now) from Louis de Pointe du Lac. It’s an interview Daniel recored almost 50 years earlier, plus an invite to revisit the story. Which he does and flies to Dubai where Louis (Jacob Anderson) has a swanky suite with super shielded windows that protect him from sunlight.
And thus, a new interview with the vampire begins. The year is 1910, five years after Louis’ father died. He’s the oldest son, and he rescues the family’s depleted fortune that had started with plantation money, and now he’s essentially a pimp in Storyville, the red-light district of New Orleans. Little does he know that he’s being watched.
Costume designer Carol Cutshall, whose resume is mostly contemporary shows, talked in a behind-the-scenes video on AMC.com about how she spent months researching the period.
Louis is first shown dealing with his business, where one prostitute busted up her client because he tried something that wasn’t on the menu.
Cutshall explained that “we really turned up the color” in Louis’ wardrobe. He stands out just a little, showing he’s different and how he’s attractive to Lestat, but also note that I’ve lightened every screenshot because the series is dark with many scenes at night.
Louis has a brief convo with another prostitute, Peg Leg Doris (Rachel Alana Handler). While she seems like a random passerby, she’s credited in three episodes.
And interestingly, this minor character has a detailed and fully researched brief in the costumer designer’s workroom. Love that kind of detail!
Outside his bordello, someone is harassing a prostitute. It’s Louis’ brother, Paul (Steven G. Norfleet), waving a Bible and ranting. Louis tells him to STFU and has to threaten him with his sword cane. Lestat watches the whole thing.
The next day at their family breakfast, the brothers continue the argument, albeit more gently. Their mother Florence (Rae Dawn Chong) is busy prepping for sister Grace’s (Kalyne Coleman) wedding.
In his voiceover, Louis talks about how he loved his brother more than anyone, while he walks with Paul to church. But Louis doesn’t go to confession like his brother, saying, “My business and my raised religion were at odds” and he was “seeking ass before absolution.”
That night, Louis heads over to a competing whorehouse that serves a mostly white clientele and looks for his favorite prostitute, Miss Lily (Najah Bradley).
He finds a stranger, Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), talking French to Lily. Lestat questions how Louis got into this place since he’s Black. Lestat isn’t a total jerk about it — he’s more impressed because he’s new to this whole American Jim Crow racism thing, and he’s already been watching Louis and clearly has the hots for him. Of course, Louis takes offense because here’s this poncy white French dude insulting him and skeezing on his favorite whore. Plus the new guy is dressed in some weird old clothes!
Lestat tells them that he plans to make a new life for himself in New Orleans, and Lily prophetically says “you’re his destiny, Louis.” The guys bid cash over Lily, but Lestat bids the most and gets her for the night.
In the voiceover, Louis admits while he was jealous of Lestat, he was also immobilized by him: “Emasculation and admiration in equal measure — I wanted to murder the man and wanted to be the man. I came there for Lily and left only thinking of him.”
Their next meeting is at a poker game of white bigwigs, most of whom frequent Louis’ prostitutes. A couple of them have a business deal for Louis. They’ll buy a new property that Louis can manage as another gaming and whore house, but Louis only gets 10% of the profits. Lestat begins talking psychically only to Louis, annoyed how these racist fucks take advantage of Louis and don’t give him a better deal. Lestat has been feigning that he’s terrible at cards, but he fixes it so Louis wins big at the game.
The two of them start hanging out, with Louis playing tour guide. Lestat updates his wardrobe and takes Louis to the opera. New BFFs!
Louis’ sister Grace comments on how much he’s been away from home and suggests he invite the white Frenchman over for dinner.
This dress and the next one that Grace wears are similar to styles in this fashion plate, with the open neckline filled in by a lace blouse. I think this purple dress and her brown dinner dress have the same lace, while her breakfast outfit has a slightly different lace blouse.
The siblings also talk about putting Paul in an institution because he’s not just a religious freak, he’s been talking to himself, keeping them up at nights, and other random stuff. Apparently, they institutionalized him once before and that made his behavior worse. While Louis isn’t convinced about what to do with their brother, he does have something for Grace. He gives her a wedding gift of Black Star Line cruise tickets to Europe (which were paid for by Lestat).
Lestat does come for dinner with the de Pointe du Lac family and Grace’s fiance.
Grace seems mildly impressed by the visitor.
Lestat compliments the food (not that he’s tasting it, hah).
Mrs. De Pointe Du Lac seems moderately impressed by the stranger.
Louis is hiding things from his family.
Paul pointedly asks Lestat: “What exactly is the nature of your relationship?”
Lestat says they’re looking into business deals. Oh, and they went to the opera, which Louis tries to cover up. Then Paul starts asking Lestat if he’s a Christian, which does NOT go well, although the history Lestat tells is right from the novels.
After dinner, Lestat takes Louis for a walk and a ‘night cap.’ Not the kind Louis might think.
Lestat has arranged for Miss Lily’s company back at his residence, which is ornately decorated (and of course, I lightened the screencaps to show more detail, like the Victorian wallpaper and that Art Nouveau fireplace and light fixture!).
Louis thinks that Lestat wants to watch him and Lily fuck, but then Lestat also gets undressed. So a three-way? At first, Louis slaps away Lestat’s hand, but he quickly gives in to Lestat’s embrace.
The novels have a strong and undeniable queer subtext. Well, hello! That subtext is all TEXT here, baby! These vampires can’t have physical sex, but the act of blood-drinking is as intimate and erotic as sex. This can also be sexual for the victim, which is something previous vampire depictions hinted at. Dracula in Bram Stoker‘s novel was seductive but also scary, and Bela Lugosi’s onscreen Dracula was suave, sophisticated, and seductive, but also creepy. Anne Rice took it to the next level so the vampire’s embrace of the victim can be a complete sexual seduction. It can also be a horrific murder, if the vampire chooses. It’s important to remember that Anne Rice’s vampires really don’t care about the gender of their partners. They’ll establish longterm relationships with the same or opposite sex, it doesn’t matter. Finally, we get to see what was floridly written of on the page, and I am 1,000% here for it! Thank you!!!
In his voiceover, Louis says: “I did not consider myself a homosexual man at the time. But I’ve come to accept my sexuality.” mwah
Louis reminds Daniel that they met in a gay bar, and the journalist just says that’s a good place to score drugs. Sure, dude. But it’s a useful metaphor, because Louis tells him to imagine the best drugs he’s ever had and “multiply it by miles to the rings of Saturn and back” and that’s what the vampire’s kiss felt like. And that was just “a little drink,” but dayum, it felt good to Louis.
He continues: “You could be a lot of things in New Orleans, but an openly gay Negro man was not one of them.” So he tries to cut Lestat out of his life, turning his back on the sweet pleasure and tempting love in darkness in favor of simple family joys and socially acceptable forms of love in the daylight with his sister’s wedding.
This is what Louis will never have: a wife, a family, a community. Perhaps because he never had it in the first place? He’s always felt like an outsider, even at home.
I wonder if this wedding portrait was inspired by the beautifully posed wedding photos by James Van Der Zee, who setup a studio in Harlem in 1916:
Grace reminds Louis and Paul how they had a dancing act together as kids. She even gives them their old dancing shoes so they can perform a number at her wedding reception.
Their last communion together.
These lovely scenes of the De Pointe Du Lac wedding and reminiscences about their family history show that Louis had a connection to the human world, but it was tenuous. In the novel, he had a wife and child who died, he had human connections and was grieving their loss, which Lestat took advantage of. In this show, Louis’ human family is still alive with him, but they have a troubled relationship. Louis is burdened with keeping them financially afloat through unsavory means that they don’t approve of. He keeps his family at arm’s length.
The next morning, the brothers climb up to roof to watch the sunrise, joking about how much they ate at the wedding.
Paul says Louis should get married and knock it off with that devil Frenchman. Then Paul jumps off the roof and kills himself. That’s the last sunrise Louis ever saw.
The next morning, Louis’ mother blames him for Paul’s death. His sister is more sympathetic.
They have a traditional funeral parade through Storyville, which Lestat crashes and tries to tempt Louis.
Louis offers to walk his mother home from the cemetery, but she rejects him. Grace reaches out to Louis, but it’s too late. He’s all but gone from them now. Miserable, he heads to the fancy whorehouse and asks for Miss Lily, where he learns she’s been dead for two weeks.
That sends Louis desperately to church, where he confesses all his ‘sins.’ Lestat interrupts by killing the priest. Louis tries to stab Louis with his sword cane, but that doesn’t work. Lestat gives a seductive and insightful speech that hints at the sorrow of racism Louis feels. This is why the TV series’ changes are fine by me — a long-running theme in the novels is the vampires standing in for the outsiders of the world. That’s why the stories have resonated with so many people. So making one of America’s ultimate outsiders, a Black man in the Jim Crow South, into a vampire, is a good fit. In some ways, it’s a bit more literal than in the books, but it also puts the problems that vampires experience more sharply in relief. It’s not just existential angst, it’s actually being a hated, hunted, discriminated being.
As Louis says, “For the first time in my life, I was seen” by Lestat. He finds acceptance that he hasn’t in the racist (and also homophobic) world. And thus, he’s turned into a vampire.
Episode 2, “…After the Phantoms of Your Former Self”
We start again in the present day where Daniel admires Louis’ collection of rare, religious-themed art. He sits down for an exotic multi-course dinner served by obsequious servants, while the other side of the dinner table is prepared. First it’s covered with plastic wrap, then a cold chest it brought out with a blood bag. Finally, Louis arrives for his part of the meal, “AB negative, fresh from the farm.”
The session 2 interview picks up right after Louis is turned into a vampire. He feels like shit because his body is dying. Lestat disposes of the priests’ bodies in the nearby cemetery. There’s a lot of clever, amusing little repartee between the two vampires, especially on Lestat’s side. It’s appropriate to the character, showing how charming and appealing he is, sometimes callous and haughty, while also dialing the charisma up to 11. He manages to drop in some relevant Vampire 101 advice to Louis, like a warning not to drink the blood of the dead, only drink from the living.
Louis is seeing the world as a vampire for the first time. He glories in it, he’s giddy, it’s like a drug trip, which Daniel remarks on in the interview. The vampires return to Storyville, where Louis notices everything and most importantly, everyone. Lestat tells him: “They were your brothers and sisters once, now they’re your savory inferiors.” The dialog is superbly well-written here, managing to out Anne-Rice even Rice’s words at times.
Then Lestat teaches Louis the most important lesson, how to hunt. It’s an art, and restraint is a powerful weapon. They go to a bar where Louis wants to pounce on a vibrant young sailor, but Lestat advises him to aim lower and let the food come to him in the beginning. They chat up a nerdy salesman at a bar, who tells them a boring story. They take the salesman back to Lestat’s place, and the fellow hopefully says: “We’re here to talk about farm equipment, right?” Louis makes a sloppy attempt to kill the salesman and finally gets it.
Aghast and disgusted, Louis runs home. He doesn’t realize the sun has come up already, and he starts burning and has to run back to Lestat. Yeah, that sun burning thing is something Lestat didn’t get to tell him yet. Oopsie. Lestat welcomes Louis into his bedroom, strips down, and invites him into his coffin, saying: “It’s OK, you can be on top.” I chortled.
Back at the interview during dinner, Louis eats a live rabbit. This is not great special effects, and the rabbit looks rather fake. Everything else has looked top-notch so far so while I’m not jonesing for animal death, it was more jarring to be taken out of the reality by this fakey-fake stuff.
Louis continues getting vampire lessons from Lestat. In particular, they talk about how vampires can read human minds. Lestat says it’s pretty boring because human thoughts are just one of three things: ‘I want food, I want sex, I want to go home.’ LOL, he’s not far off.
Compare how the line and where the pant leg falls at the shoe in this fashion plate:
As they walk through New Orleans, Lestat points out what the various humans are thinking.
I’m reminded of illustrations like this:
But Lestat can’t read Louis’ mind anymore since he’s not human (more specifically it’s because Louis is Lestat’s progeny, and that’s a quirk of Anne Rice’s vampire lore).
Louis feels it’s essential to maintain ties to his family, and he goes back home, speaking first with his mother, who isn’t thrilled to see he brought that fancypants white Frenchman.
Maman chides Louis for not visiting for “half a season,” and she mentally comments that he must be getting his fingernails done (as if only “those kind” aka gay men get their nails done?) and wonders about his sunglasses. Louis hears this and makes up an excuses about “sensitive eyes.”
Louis finds his sister Grace, who hugs him, and he hears her blood thumping and can tell she’s pregnant with twins. He gives her some money. Costume designer Carol Cutshall said they used a lot of vintage pieces (except on the vampires because they’re so rough on their costumes), and I wonder if Grace’s gowns have vintage lace.
On another night, Louis is talking business with one of those white guys from the poker game. They’re making arrangements for the new gaming / whore house, and Louis suggests various upgrades. Whitey McWhiteMan is condescending as hell to Louis, chuckling, calling him “boy” over and over again, literally patting him on the head, and saying “you truly are an exceptional Negro” for being able to think up something businesslike.
To Daniel, Louis remarks about how he had decades of rage to process as a Black man and now he finally had the power he didn’t. In the 1910s, he kills the white asshole.
Lestat comes to clean up the body and is pissy about it. Like most white people, he doesn’t see racism. He’d be upset if someone wasn’t treating his lover well, but he doesn’t see why or how it’s constantly happening to Louis.
This scene right here is why nobody should complain about the casting and changes from the novel to this TV series. Making Louis a Black man in the 1910s means the story can explore what it means to give amazing powers to a marginalized person living in a stratified society. How do they deal with it? How do they process it? What are the effects? Not only is this a story now about race relations in America, but it doubles down on the problem of vampires in society, powerful but needing to remain hidden. It’s a natural fit, adding more layers to the story.
In Louis’ retelling with Daniel, he explains his queer coming out and accepting that part of his identity. Daniel needles him about the racial difference between Louis and Lestat, but he didn’t need to because in the 1910s period, Louis rips into Lestat for it already. Lestat’s sometimes haughty treatment of the newer vampire and calling him “fledgeling” makes Louis think he’s being treated as a slave by the master. He calls Lestat on it, and they argue.
Back home, we see two coffins and get some pillow talk.
Louis wants to buy the gaming / whore house — Fairplay — alone. He doesn’t want to go through the whitey human front anymore. Lestat helps him with the money, but Louis pays every cent back, saying that from 1912 to 1917, he made a “mountain of money.”
Louis hires all his old prostitutes and gives them better pay and working conditions at the new biz.
At some point, Louis visits Grace again. She has a new baby, Benjamin, her third child, and Louis hasn’t seen her since that last time when she was newly pregnant.
She hands him the baby and goes to see to her other crying kids. Louis is tempted and bares his fangs. In the modern interview, he tells Daniel, “My last victim was in 2000. I sit here a master of my instincts.” At the dinner table, a strapping young man comes and sits next to Louis and is fed on by him, while making random conversation with Danial about Dubai.
Back in the 1910s, Grace finds baby Benjamin crying and left on the floor, Louis is gone. He’s back with Lestat, complaining about how he doesn’t have control.
Lestat admonishes him to stop visiting his family. Louis finally realizes he won’t have his own family. Lestat tells Louis how he loves him and offers tuxedos and a private box at the opera, saying “I’ve been neglectful of our romance.” Louis admits: “He had a way about him in those first years. He was my murderer, my lover, my maker. There was a kind of worship on my part.”
They go to the opera but can’t be as openly together as they are in Storyville — not just as a queer couple, but as a white and Black man together. Louis has to pretend to be Lestat’s valet, walking a pace behind him, taking his coat, and staying at the back of the opera box until the lights go down. How about that racist bullshit?
Lestat admits to him: “One thing about being a vampire that I fear more than anything else is loneliness. You take this feeling away from me Louis.” Dawww … They talk about how many other vampires might exist, and it’s not many.
Music is Lestat’s great human attachment, but while the soprano’s performance is beautiful, the tenor is not. He’s toast. Louis thinks: “Six years as his pupil, and it was no different than the tractor salesman … this man was to be butchered for what? An offending note?”
At home, Lestat plays piano and has the tenor sing, “teaching” him and critiquing him in Italian, then killing him. Louis complains that Lestat enjoys this too much Lestat yells at him to get over it, you’re a killer now. As the tenor slowly dies, Louis listens to his thoughts about his childhood in Italy. Louis is still so connected to humans and humanity.
He tells Daniel: “I was never going to be a natural — I was a fumbling, despondent killer.” The servants bring a very fancy dessert to each of them, and Louis says, “I try to have a human dish once a week to maintain the thread.” This dish is something that Daniel wrote lovingly of in one of his books; it was the dessert he had in Paris after he proposed to his first wife. But Louis admits that this, like all human food, tastes like paste, chalk, or soap. And thus ends the second interview.
I don’t know how much costume content the series will provide, although future eps will feature Claudia and will progress forward in time to some extent. I’ll continue to recap because I’m absolutely in love with the show so far and enjoying every minute! Plus, AMC has already renewed the series for a second season.
What do you think of this TV version of Interview With the Vampire so far?