I finally got a little time to watch the first three episodes of the new television adaptation of Anne Rice’s classic monster novel Interview With the Vampire and so far, it’s excellent. I’m a crabby, critical person and I give the episodes I’ve seen so far 10 out of 10, no question.
This adaptation also doesn’t feel like an adaptation of Anne Rice’s classic novel at all. But that’s a good thing.
Hear me out. The trend lately has been to either do tediously accurate pitch-perfect book adaptations or go entirely the other way and do a far-out fan fiction version that claims accuracy yet pisses off all the fans. (Raise your hand if you’re mad about The Rings of Power or Wheel of Time. Amazon is not bringing us their best work lately, with the notable exception of The Boys.)
In contrast, AMC’s Interview With the Vampire feels like somebody wrote a much better vampire story, couldn’t sell it, then went back and retrofitted the character names, New Orleans, and the classic toxic bullshit that fans love about Louis and Lestat’s relationship in order to get the script produced.
It just feels so different and the changes made feel entirely organic to the story. In this version, fledgling vampire Louis is a Black Creole from turn of the century New Orleans. To keep his family’s fortune growing, he invests in brothels that peddle Black women to white men, an interesting contrast to his struggles with his own queerness and attraction to men. His Blackness doesn’t come across as tokenistic or didactic at all, and changing the time to the 1910s instead of mid-1800s offers a look at a period of Black history that is often bypassed. His presence in the red light district, his sexuality, and his mercurial personality are all presented in a way that doesn’t pander to stereotype at all, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how normal the character is within an extremely abnormal set of circumstances. Louis feels like a Black person written for a good story by other Black people. There’s a brief and hilarious moment when Louis complains about how Lestat–who is of course white, but French–doesn’t get American racism that was a little too normal and real, especially if you’re a Black American who’s dated a European or two.
Speaking of –the series really embraces queerness and treats Louis and Lestat like a real couple. It’s an enormous improvement on the oblique angles of the 1994 film and it’s free of the romantic fetishization that marred the original novel. Instead of ruffles and emo glares and baroque proclamations of sexless devotion, this Louis and Lestat actually date. Aside from the whole blood-sucking vampires thing, they’re actually quite romantic and you can finally see exactly why the two of them have such a time-spanning, intense connection from the first. There’s attraction, seduction, and banter. At times the two of them are quite cute. They have a tendency to ruin it by suddenly eating people’s faces, but there’s a normality to their relationship–even the petty bullshit parts–that grounds the whole series.
This is helped by the fact that everybody brought their good acting to this party. I’d never heard of Sam Reid before and still photos of him were giving me nothing, but his performance as Lestat is mesmerizing. He goes from lovesick to terrifying to hilarious at the drop of a hat and is honestly amazing to watc. And Jacob Anderson? I’ve said before that I don’t usually like when British actors attempt to play Black Americans but he gets it right and brings a lot of nuance to the role. The scenes of him as a mature vamp living in Dubai contrast so well with young, scrappy, human him, and as a bonus, he can actually do an American accent. Not sure how New Orleans he sounds but he doesn’t sound like he’s from Transatlantia and that’s a relief.
I’m only three episodes in, but so far I’m really impressed. I’d watch this even if I’d never heard of Anne Rice or this story. There’s a lot more show to go–the next episode introduces Claudia and I really want to see how she’s portrayed because it could change everything for the worse if she doesn’t work. But I’m really into this and am excited about the rest.
Also–I think this is the first show I’ve seen that makes normal, general unobtrusive references to the pandemic.
Anybody else watching Interview With The Vampire?
(Beautiful people! This is an edited version of a quickie post from the Equal Opportunity Facebook, where I post bookish news and memes reflecting diversity. If you’re here looking for spooky season books that reflect our #ownnormal, I have a booklist for you. As always, if you click and purchase a book from that link, a commission is paid to this blog which is how we buy our own books to pile on the nightstand. Enjoy your day, and read something good. Peace!)