Nearly 30 years after Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Kirsten Dunst brought novelist Anne Rice’s incredible world of beautiful and terrifying vampires to the screen in 1994’s Interview with the Vampire, AMC, which gained the rights to adapt Rice’s works in 2020, has chosen to retell the story to launch their Immortal Universe. Despite several starts and stops, Rice’s rich universe of characters and stories was never able to live on in serial format beyond her novels. AMC seems to think they can remedy that problem, however, having ordered both a second series, Mayfair Witches, and a second season of Interview with the Vampire ahead of the latter’s series debut. If Episode 1 of Interview with the Vampire, “In Throes of Increasing Wonder…”, is any indication of what to expect from AMC’s adaptation of Rice’s works, it would seem that they have indeed found a way to bring the characters, settings and themes of those works together and lay the foundations of a shared universe as steeped in lore as the novels.
Any effort to adapt Rice’s works has to begin with capturing the essence of the two main characters: Louis de Pointe du Lac and Lestat de Lioncourt. And to this end, AMC seems to have made preternaturally acute choices in casting Jacob Anderson and Sam Reid as Louis and Lestat, respectively. Audiences will likely find themselves as captivated by Anderson’s Louis as Lestat was himself. Whether it’s the smooth delivery of his accent in early-20th century Nawlins or the ennui of an immortal man in the present day who has seen all the world has to offer, Anderson’s performance is as effortlessly brilliant as he is beautiful. Reid’s Lestat, Rice’s chosen protagonist of the bulk of her Vampire Chronicles, shows off the petulance and power that earned the character the moniker of the Brat Prince in the novels and lures Louis deeper into his game until he bestows the Dark Gift upon him. Equal parts charming and infuriating, Lestat only gives glimpses of his true nature in the pilot episode but Reid’s performance leaves the audience both wanting more and knowing there’s more there, much as Louis knows the same about his new lover.
As much as Louis and Lestat might feel like they are ripped right from the pages of the novels, creator Rolin Jones hit the sweet spot of reinventing the characters (likely in part to keep them from being carbon copies of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise’s versions) while capturing the essentials. From cleverly making this Louis’ second go-round with journalist Daniel Malloy, played brilliantly by Eric Bogosian, to Louis’ new profession and boldly changing the location of Louis’ transformation, Jones put his stamp on this adaptation. Though the sample size is small, it looks as though those choices, as well as Jones’ willingness to embrace and explore the nuances of the nature of Louis and Lestat’s relationship, something the 1994 film avoided, have not only set it apart from the film but, so far, make it a superior effort.
While the series would never get off the ground without proper characterization of Louis and Lestat, Jones, director Alan Taylor and executive producer Christopher Rice, Anne’s son, also captured another of the elements that made the novels so powerful: Rice’s sense of the importance of history, both real and imagined. A read-through of any of Rice’s Vampire Chronicles would serve as a fascinating lesson in grounding a fictional mythology in some of history’s most interesting eras. The episode works as much as a love letter to the New Orleans of the early-20th century as it does an introduction-and a very brief introduction at that-to the incredible world of vampires and supernatural creatures that AMC is setting out to create. AMC’s burgeoning Immortal Universe won’t just be inhabited by vampires, after all, so the subtle nod to New Orleans family of witches might seem like a throwaway line, but the audience might rather think of it as equivalent to Nick Fury’s drop-in following the events of Iron Man.
Taken as a single, standalone episode, “In Throes of Increasing Wonder…” tells a compelling story of a man who deserves to be more than what he’s allowed to be; taken as the first episode of streaming series that’s already been green-lit for a second season, the pilot introduces intriguing characters, plotlines and promises in both its past and present settings; taken as the first look at AMC’s shot at developing a shared universe with a staggering number of stories to be told over the known history of humanity, the first episode of Interview with the Vampire is the adaptation fans of Rice’s novels have dreamt of for decades and one that Rice, who passed away nearly a year ago, would have proudly endorsed as capturing her love of history…and of Louis and Lestat.