How Successful Is the INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE Series as an Adaptation?

Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire has now aired on AMC, and overall, the response was very positive. This Interview With the Vampire adaptation captured the Gothic mood of Rice’s celebrated 1976 novel, while reinventing it for the 21st century. But while some changes worked, others didn’t land as much. Here’s how the Interview With a Vampire series diverted from Rice’s prose the most, how we feel the series succeeded overall, and how it sometimes did not quite hit the mark.

Jump to: Louis’ Evolution // The Vampire Lestat // The Interview and Interviewer // Louis’ First Kill // Lestat’s Victims // Louis, a Vegetarian Vampire // Lestat’s Musical Protégé // Vampire Sexuality // Louis’ Loss of Control // Claudia // Lestat, an Abuser // Mardi Gras Massacre // A Vampire Suprise

Louis de Pointe du Lac’s Evolution

Jacob Anderson as the vampire Louis in Interview with the Vampire on AMC.
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The biggest changes in Interview With the Vampire series revolved around our lead vampire Louis ( Jacob Anderson). In the novel and film, Louis was a white plantation in owner in 1791 Louisiana. One with all the slaves that role implies. The series sets Louis’ origin story 120 years later, in 1910. Louis is now a wealthy African-American brothel owner in New Orleans’ red-light district. Both versions show Louis as a morally compromised person in life, even before becoming a vampire. The series also implies that Louis is a closeted gay man while alive. This was something not the case with the book or the film. In Rice’s novel, Louis had intense feelings for a plantation owner named Babette, who does not exist in the show.

Louis’ family, however, was much more like the novel, and an aspect of his life the 1994 film entirely skipped. He had a sister named Grace, and, more prominently, a brother named Paul. Paul was a deeply religious Catholic, who believed he heard voices from God. Louis constantly chastised him for these beliefs, and Paul ultimately killed himself by walking off the roof one day. The Interview With the Vampire series portrayed this event, something the movie did not do. It more clearly explained Louis’ deep sense of guilt and grief before taking Lestat’s offer of immortality.

A pre-vampire Louis in Interview with the Vampire on AMC.
AMC Networks

The changes made to Louis in the AMC Interview With the Vampire series are interesting, and they morph Rice’s story in compelling ways. Updating Louis away from his initial origin story allows his narrative to take on a new strength and avoids showing slavery in a casual or flippant light. The time jump forward also makes sense in this context. Ultimately, these changes work and make for a fascinating take on the material. It’s good to see the adaptation taking its position seriously and not simply recreating the source material if they couldn’t do so with reverence to a terrible time in history. These changes unfold seamlessly into the frame of the story already written.

The Interview With the Vampire series also gives us a glimpse into Louis’ family the film brushed aside, giving his character greater depth and his emotional state, both before and after his transformation, more nuance.

The Vampire Lestat in the Interview With the Vampire Series

Lestat (Sam Reid) plays cards
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The characterization of the vampire Lestat in episode one of the series was very much like the novel. Only, that novel is not Interview with the Vampire, but The Vampire Lestat, its sequel. Lestat’s seduction of Louis in the series was thoughtful and slow, like two lovers in a dance. But in the original book, Lestat simply attacked Louis one night, out of the blue. The choice he gave him was simple “become a vampire, or become my victim.” Anne Rice portrayed Lestat in book one as far more petulant and cruel.

Lestat makes Louis a vampire in episode one of Interview with the Vampire.
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Sam Reid’s characterization of Lestat is far more in keeping with how Rice wrote him in later books. Also, Lestat alluded to two important characters in his backstory from The Vampire Lestat. These two characters his lover Nicolas, and his mother, Gabrielle. The suggestion here is that his backstory remains very much the same as in Rice’s later books. This softening up of his character was smart. Simply because Lestat will need to carry the rest of the series should it go past Interview. It’s not a wise move to make him completely unlikable if you want him to carry the leading man torch later on.

Once again, the Interview With the Vampire series moves to adapt rather than imitate, and the merging of the two worlds works well here.

The Interview (and the Interviewer)

Eric Bogosian as the interviewer in AMC's adaptation of Interview with the Vampire.
AMC Networks

The concept of episode one of Interview With the Vampire is that the interview between the reporter and the titular vampire happened once already, nearly fifty years ago. What we saw play out in the first episode was “take two.” Daniel Molloy ( Eric Bogosian) interviewed the undead Louis in 1973. At the end of that interview, Daniel begs Louis to make him a vampire. This enraged Louis, and he attacked him. But ultimately, Louis let him live. That is all consistent with Rice’s original text.

In the novels, Daniel (who Rice merely referred to as “the boy,” and never named until book three of the series) kept the audiotapes of the interview and published them as a book, which the world believed was fiction. In the TV series, he becomes an award-winning journalist, but he never publishes a book about his vampiric encounter. Louis kept the tapes, and he mails them to a much older Daniel decades after their disastrous first encounter.

Jacob Anderson and Sam Reid, the stars of AMC's Interview with the Vampire.
AMC Networks

While an interesting take, it also is one that ultimately makes little sense. When Daniel plays the tapes back for Louis, we hear verbatim lines of dialogue from the book. The suggestion is that the TV series sequalized the book in a way, an attempt at a rewrite. But the events of Louis’ life differed so much from the Interview With the Vampire book and movie, that the TV series can’t really be an “answer” to it. The show would have benefitted from rebooting the entire concept and having the interviewer be a young man doing it for the first time. The current format is just confusing and unneeded.

Jump to: Louis’ Evolution // The Vampire Lestat // The Interview and Interviewer // Louis’ First Kill // Lestat’s Victims // Louis, a Vegetarian Vampire // Lestat’s Musical Protégé // Vampire Sexuality // Louis’ Loss of Control // Claudia // Lestat, an Abuser // Mardi Gras Massacre // A Vampire Suprise

Louis’ First Victim and Kill

Jacob Anderson Interview with the Vampire, Louis looking scared

In episode two, after he is turned into a vampire, Louis must kill his first human victim, much as he did in the book version of Interview With the Vampire. In the book, that victim was, unfortunately, a runaway slave. Louis recoils at first, but Lestat makes him finish the kill. In the series, Louis lusts after a drunken sailor, but Lestat tells him it’s too soon for someone like that, who might fight back. Instead, he attacks a poor traveling salesman. Both the book and the series feature Louis killing innocents as his first kill, although admittedly, the book version is far more problematic and would have been way more disturbing to watch on screen.

Lestat’s Torture of His Victims and Louis Reactions

Lestat and Louis view an opera in Interview with the Vampire episode two.
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After months, if not years, of Louis lamenting his new undead status, his sire Lestat has had enough. After going to the opera together, Lestat is particularly offended by a male soprano’s lack of talent. He brings him home to slowly drain him in front of Louis, tormenting both the victim and his fledgling vampire. He screams, “you are a killer, Louis!” A version of this scene happens in the book and the movie. But the victims were entirely different.

In the book (and the film), instead of a male opera singer, the victims are two New Orleans prostitutes, both women. Lestat physically torments them before killing them, and much of the dialogue is identical to Rice’s story. The series version is an improvement, simply because we have seen so much violence towards women on screen since the book and the film came out, it just would have been grotesque at this point. It’s supposed to be, of course, but that doesn’t make it a must to display visually.

The effect of the scene is largely the same, even with the change. In Rice’s follow-up novel, The Vampire Lestat, that horrific scene was somewhat retconned. Lestat says it happened, but that the two women were serial killers who poisoned their clients and were not the innocents Louis made them out to be. We imagine if we get to that point on the show, Lestat will say the same thing about the male soprano, implying he was a bad person, but Louis simply didn’t know.

Louis as a “Vegetarian Vampire”

Promo image of Lestat and Louis in Interview with the Vampire on AMC.
AMC Networks

In episode three, Louis struggles with the morality of his nightly feeding. He suggests to Lestat that they only feed on those who “deserve it,” while Lestat says that all humans are capable of evil, and therefore all are worthy targets. Louis feeds only on animals, which tracks with what the character did in the novel. Just as in Rice’s book, Lestat openly mocks him for such culinary choices. Louis also visits his family in this episode, who sense there is something evil about him and otherworldly. Especially after he destroys the front door with a single blow. Although not elaborated upon much in the books, Louis’ mortal family was similarly wary of him.

Jump to: Louis’ Evolution // The Vampire Lestat // The Interview and Interviewer // Louis’ First Kill // Lestat’s Victims // Louis, a Vegetarian Vampire // Lestat’s Musical Protégé // Vampire Sexuality // Louis’ Loss of Control // Claudia // Lestat, an Abuser // Mardi Gras Massacre // A Vampire Suprise

Lestat’s Musical Protégé

Sam Reid as Lestat De Lioncourt and Maura Grace Athari as Antoinette Browne
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Also, in episode three, we meet a lady jazz singer named Antoinette (Maura Grace Athari), whom Lestat becomes enamored with. Louis becomes convinced that Lestat plans to kill her, but he assures him that her musical talents protect her from death. Antoinette is based on the nameless musician character from Rice’s novel, who was left out of the film. Although originally without a name, nearly forty years later, he reappeared and was given the name Antoine in 2014’s Prince Lestat. This is a gender-bent version of the character. Lestat’s relationship with humans and who he perceives as having worth, and how much worth even those humans have, is a fascinating part of the puzzle in both the books and the Interview With the Vampire series.

Vampire Sexuality in the Interview With the Vampire Series

Louis and Lestat together in the Interview With the Vampire Series
AMC Networks

In episode three, Louis meets up with an old male lover from his mortal years (Thomas Antony Olajide). The two have a sexual rendezvous. Lestat also implies he is having sexual relations with Antoinette. This right here is a huge deviation from the source material. In her cosmology, Rice’s vampires, particularly the males, physically can’t have sexual relations. To put it bluntly, once they die, their sexual organs no longer function. The reason they don’t mind is that the drinking of human blood replaces sex for them. It’s not just “food,” it’s an erotic act, and one which also mimics the highs of drugs and alcohol. The producers of the Interview With the Vampire series have tossed out such nuance and gone with a more straightforward True Blood approach to vampire sexuality.

Louis Loses Control

Jacob Anderson as Louis de Pointe du Lac in Interview with the Vampire.
AMC Networks

Another big deviation happens in episode three of the Interview With the Vampire series, which simply couldn’t have happened in the novel the same way. In the show, racist power players in the city of New Orleans try to force sex workers of color out of Storyville, particularly Aldermen Fenwick (John DiMaggio). Because of this, Louis gives up his “kill no humans” rule and brutally tortures and murders him. This obviously doesn’t occur in the novel, where Louis is a white plantation owner in the 18th century.

All of this leads to the formation of an angry racist mob. One who burns down the places of business frequented and owned by New Orleans’ people of color. This is loosely based on the parts of Rice’s novel. Specifically, the part where Louis’ own slaves burn down the plantation, once they realize what Louis really is. In both the book and the series, Louis’ lapses in control over his supernatural nature end disastrously. And they have dire consequences for himself and for Lestat. Louis is greatly affected by them, and they alter further how he perceives of himself and his vampirism. The scenes in the Interview With the Vampire series are incredibly powerful.

Enter: Claudia

Interview with the Vampire's undead family, AMC
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Episode four of the Interview With the Vampire series properly introduces the character of Claudia into the series, possibly the most memorable character from the original novel. Here, she’s portrayed by actress Bailey Bass. Her TV presentation and origin story are vastly different. In the series, she is badly burned in a fire in Storyville, one caused by Louis’ actions in the previous episode. Hearing her anguish telepathically, he saves her from the burning building, takes her to Lestat, and begs him to make her a vampire to save her. He reluctantly agrees, transforming the 14-year-old girl into one of the undead.

Claudia’s creation in the Interview With a Vampire series is a huge departure from the books and movie adaptation. There, she is a prepubescent child. (In the novel, six years old, in the film, closer to 10). Louis finds her in a ramshackle room next to her dead mother, who died from the plague. Claudia is dying too, so in a moment of weakness, Louis feeds on her. But Lestat catches him, and turns her into a vampire—all as a way to keep Louis with him. Louis is horrified at Lestat’s actions, but his guilt over initially attacking the girl keeps him bound to her. The show totally changes this, taking away Louis’ initial attack on Claudia, and making Lestat the reluctant party.

Claudia dresses as an adult on Interview with the Vampire on AMC.
AMC Networks
New Misadventures for Claudia

In the series, this portion of the story is told from Claudia’s POV. Instead of Louis telling the story, he presents Claudia’s diaries to the interviewer. (We do not question their authenticity for some reason). Claudia’s diaries are not in the novel, but they appear in book three, The Queen of the Damned. All of Claudia’s story beats in this episode are brand new to the series.

In one scenario, she falls for a young man named Charlie and tries to seduce him. Sadly, she accidentally winds up killing him. However, a scene of Lestat taking Claudia out to kill together is pretty consistent with their relationship in the novel. Also, all the scenes of Louis taking Claudia and Lestat to his mother’s wake are new to the Interview With the Vampire series. Louis’ mother’s death is mentioned only in passing in the book, and the undead “family” happens years after that.

Jump to: Louis’ Evolution // The Vampire Lestat // The Interview and Interviewer // Louis’ First Kill // Lestat’s Victims // Louis, a Vegetarian Vampire // Lestat’s Musical Protégé // Vampire Sexuality // Louis’ Loss of Control // Claudia // Lestat, an Abuser // Mardi Gras Massacre // A Vampire Suprise

Claudia Meets A New Vampire in Interview With the Vampire

Bruce, a new vampire introduced in Interview with the Vampire episode 5.
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It’s in episode five where things really go off-book. Claudia leaves Louis and Lestat, striking out on her own. This was something she could not do in the books, having the body of a small child. Here, she hunted on college campuses, feeding off students. She also spent time in libraries, trying to find clues to the whereabouts of other vampires. She actually came across another vampire, a biker named Bruce who said they made him in Copenhagen. In the books, Claudia and her coven were the only vampires they knew of in North America. Although at first, he seemed friendly, Bruce attempted to sexually assault Claudia, and she had to escape him. This does not feel like a necessary addition to Claudia’s narrative.

Lestat, the Abuser

Louis after the attack by Lestat
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The biggest deviation from the novel happens in episode five as well, when Claudia tried to take Louis with her to Europe as she attempted to leave Lestat. The elder vampire assaulted Claudia, and when Louis tried to stop him, he mercilessly beat him, destroying much of their home. Lestat then took Louis out into their courtyard by the throat, used his “cloud gift” to lift him into the sky. He then dropped him to the ground, shattering every bone in his body. This left Louis an invalid for months, even with his vampire healing. Although the relationship between Lestat and Louis could get plenty toxic in the books, it never resulted in physical abuse from Lestat such as this.

Claudia’s Attempted Escape

Lestat then spends years begging Louis for forgiveness in the Interview With the Vampire series, and plys him with expensive gifts and promises to “never do it again” And for years, Louis rebuffs Lestat’s advances but eventually gives in. Despite Lestat now having made a companion of the singer Antoinette. Claudia is having none of this, and attempts to escape to New York via train. She begs Louis to go with her, but he can’t leave Lestat. On board the train, Lestat appears and forces her to come home with him in another attempt to force Louis to never leave him.

Interview With the Vampire Series’ Mardi Gras Massacre

Interview with the Vampire Mardi Gras
AMC Networks

In the season finale, we saw a version of Claudia’s attempt on Lestat’s life. In the book, she did something similar, by poisoning the blood of two orphans he fed on. This weakened Lestat, allowing her to slash his throat. She planned all this out on her own, and Louis has no part in it. In the series, she got Louis to help her in her murder attempt on their maker, and it is far grander of an operation.

This time, it doesn’t involve poisoned children but a whole group of adults at a Mardi Gras event they throw. And this time, Lestat was clued in before the attempt on his life, thanks to his progeny Antoinette, who was working as his spy. It still ended the same for him, with Lestat presumed dead and rolled out with the trash. In the novel, they dumped his supposedly lifeless body in the swamp. (He got better).

Jump to: Louis’ Evolution // The Vampire Lestat // The Interview and Interviewer // Louis’ First Kill // Lestat’s Victims // Louis, a Vegetarian Vampire // Lestat’s Musical Protégé // Vampire Sexuality // Louis’ Loss of Control // Claudia // Lestat, an Abuser // Mardi Gras Massacre // A Vampire Suprise

A Suprise Vampire Reveal

Rashid reveals himself as the Vampire Armand in Interview with the Vampire.
AMC Networks

Yet another massive change from the books also happens in the season finale. Louis’ servant in Dubai, the presumably human Rashid (Assad Zaman), was revealed to the interviewer as the vampire Armand. And they also revealed that he’d been with Louis since at least the 1970s. Louis even described Armand as “the love of his life.” No real reason was given as to why he pretended to be human or took an assumed name.

In the novel, Louis and Armand were a pair for decades, but he ultimately left him when they grew apart. They were definitely not together when Louis gave his interview with Daniel. This is another huge deviation from the book, as part of the reason Louis gave the mortal boy an interview was that he had lost all the other vampires he once loved, particularly Armand.

The Future of AMC’s Interview With the Vampire Series

Louis, Claudia, and Lestate with blood on white shirts in the trailer for Interview with the Vampire

It will be interesting to see how the show both adheres to and deviates from the source material in future seasons. With Interview with the Vampire, which was already renewed for season two, and soon, The Mayfair Witches, Rice’s world will flourish on-screen as never before. We are looking forward to seeing how it all connects. And if the storylines will ever find their way back to Rice’s rich world.

Jump to: Louis’ Evolution // The Vampire Lestat // The Interview and Interviewer // Louis’ First Kill // Lestat’s Victims // Louis, a Vegetarian Vampire // Lestat’s Musical Protégé // Vampire Sexuality // Louis’ Loss of Control // Claudia // Lestat, an Abuser // Mardi Gras Massacre // A Vampire Suprise

Originally published October 3, 2022.

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