‘Interview with the Vampire’ premiere recap: Step into the savage garden

‘Interview with the Vampire’ premiere recap: Step into the savage garden

Interview with the Vampire

Welcome to New Orleans in 1910, where a gay Black man struggles to conceal his true nature from a society that refuses to accept him as he is.

And welcome to Dubai in 2022, where that same man is now an immortal who’s amassed enough wealth to live in luxurious ennui as the world around him succumbs to rage and plague.

Adapting a beloved property like Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles is tricky enough, but layer in modernization, a major era shakeup, and new backstories for beloved characters, and AMC’s Interview with the Vampire was facing an uphill climb. Yet it’s one the pilot scales with the ease of a vampire floating in the air to sink his fangs into his new human lover. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) has seen it all. Done it all. The drugs, the booze, the epic blowups with management over his gritty articles. (We learn all this from the pitch-perfect ad for his MasterClass-ish online learning course, and if that doesn’t toss you right back to the start of the pandemic, I don’t know what will.)

Daniel conducted an interview in 1973 that left him with a messy scar on his neck and an unbelievable story that didn’t make it into his memoir. And when he receives a package of audio cassettes from that night, he gets on a plane to Dubai in the middle of a global pandemic despite his Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) has summoned Daniel to finish what “boyish youth” prevented them from completing half a century ago, and Daniel arrives at Louis’ palatial Dubai penthouse to find the preternaturally beautiful, spooky-eyed vampire living like reclusive royalty behind floor-to-ceiling UV-protected glass.

Their original sit-down ended with Louis attacking Daniel after he accused Louis of forgetting what human life was like. (“You were disrespectful,” Louis scolds, to which Daniel replies, “I was high.”) But Louis and the world have both changed, and he’s ready to try again.

So he takes Daniel (and us) back to New Orleans in 1910 — the show wisely bypasses the 18th century setting of Rice’s 1976 novel, with all the plantations and enslavement that comes with it — where he’s working as a pimp to keep his family afloat after the death of his father, who frittered away their sugar cane riches.

Human Louis is earthy and rough in a way the vampire we’ve just met is not as he deals with an outraged working girl and an unruly john. Afterward, he has an altercation in the street with his fervently religious brother Paul (Steven Norfleet), who’s battling mental illness in an era ill-equipped to help him. And who’s that watching their disagreement, which ends with Louis drawing Chekhov’s sword cane? It’s an ethereally beautiful blond man who’s looking at Louis like he’s quite the snack.

Interview with the Vampire

Jacob Anderson as Louis de Point du Lac

| Credit: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

Louis is oblivious and goes about his normal routine, including church with Paul. It’s the only place his troubled brother finds peace, although Louis is more comfortable at a club full of music, drink, and pleasure-seekers — including the mysterious blond man who’s now sitting with Louis’ favorite sex worker, Lily (Najah Bradley). In a delicious French accent, the man introduces himself as Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), “a nineteenth-century man at heart.” Ha!

Lestat orders drinks for the table — plus a round for the musicians, who are always forgotten. (He’s gonna murder them later, right?) Louis watches in disapproval as Lestat feels up Lily, but the stranger pins him in place with his hypnotic gaze and eventually wins their two-man bidding war to spend the night with Lily.

“I wanted to murder the man, and I wanted to be the man,” Louis tells Daniel in the present. But he left the club thinking only of Lestat, and in fact still has the card Lestat presented him that night, a little bent at one corner.

On a subsequent night at the club, Lestat joins a poker game where the men discuss the strange fever that’s leaving people bloodless with small puncture wounds. Hmmm, very mysterious! Lestat projects his voice into Louis’ head, chiding him for letting these men devalue him. Then he makes an adorably goofy face and freezes the action to switch the cards around so Louis has a winning hand.

It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship, with Louis helping modernize the old-fashioned Lestat and Lestat slowly hunting him, seducing him — “and I was completely unaware it was happening,” Louis tells Daniel.

Lestat joins the de Pointe du Lac family for dinner, where he meets Louis’ brother, mother (Rae Dawn Chong), and sister (Kalyne Coleman), who’s happily planning her wedding. Paul grills Lestat on his intentions toward Louis, which is actually kind of sweet until he reveals that the birds compelled him to ask.

Lestat says they’re working together on investment opportunities, but the conversation soon spins into Lestat’s deep hatred of the church. You see, he wanted to be a priest in his youth, but his father and brothers dragged him from the monastery to starve and beat the piety out of him.

When Lestat tries to mind control the family, Louis orders him not to, and afterward they walk together to Lestat’s house, where Lily’s waiting for them. They undress together, and Lestat mind-talks that he’s been watching Louis for some time, looking for his “companion heart.” At first Louis rejects Lestat’s touch, but once Lily falls into a post-orgasmic Lestat-induced slumber, Louis lunges for the other man, finally giving in to the temptation. Their kissing leads to an intimacy that Louis couldn’t have expected as Lestat crushes him against his chest and levitates them off the ground, biting Louis’ neck and drinking deep. Tom Cruise could NEVER.

The rush of pleasure and emotional vulnerability sends Louis running, and he shoves Lestat aside to focus on Grace’s wedding. During the reception, she sweet-talks Louis and Paul into tap dancing for the guests, and if you’d asked me what I expected from this update, I’d have predicted the sex and the inclusive casting, but tap dancing? Never once did it cross my mind. Nevertheless, their routine is a bright, joyful moment, although it felt like they danced longer than Harry Styles did in Don’t Worry Darling.

As the sun rises the following morning, the brothers climb to the roof of their house. Paul warns Louis away from Lestat, who spoke into Paul’s mind and told him he was the devil there to take souls. Then Paul tells Louis he loves him and throws himself to the flagstones below.

It’s awful and shocking, and it leads to the darkest chapter of Louis’ human life. His mother blames him for Paul’s death, and during Paul’s funeral procession, a shell-shocked Louis is ambushed by Lestat demanding to know why Louis is ignoring him. It’s the worst thing at the worst time, and when Louis orders him to leave, Lestat exerts his mind control to keep Louis apart from his family at the funeral.

Interview with the Vampire

Sam Reid as Lestat de Lioncourt

| Credit: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

Louis falls into a spiral of alcohol-soaked madness as he tries to ignore Lestat’s psychic pull, and when he learns that Lily died of the blood-draining sickness, he breaks. Anguished and afraid, he staggers into the church, where he confesses his guilt, his shame, his failures. Hey, remember how Lestat told the de Pointe du Lac family that he loathes religion? Well, he’s definitely not pleased to see Louis there begging for help after laying down with the devil.

There’s a commotion, and Louis staggers out of the confessional to see Lestat reacting in typical Lestat-ian fashion: everything’s smashed and on fire, and he’s fangs-out and covered in the priest’s blood. He confirms that he’s the fever plaguing New Orleans as Louis plunges that sword cane into his back. (Told you we’d see it again.)

Then, in the coolest special effect of the episode, we get a neat little reversal of the usual uber-fast vampire trope: Lestat pursues the surviving priest at a normal human walking speed while the priest appears to run in slow motion. Once Lestat catches the man, he flat-out punches all the way through his head. (Interview sees your spine-rip, True Blood, and it says, “Here’s what I can do.”)

Louis is now alone with Lestat, who offers up his dark gift. “You just have to ask me for it. You just have to nod your beautiful head and say yes,” he implores. Louis acquiesces. How can he not, with Lestat professing his love after everyone else abandoned him? Even at his most terrifying, with the sclera of his eyes tinged red and his chin damp with blood, Lestat is beautiful and beguiling.

In the present, Louis tries to explain how Lestat’s words disarmed him. “For the first time in my life, I was seen.” Lestat asked him to cast off the lies, the roles he plays, and finally, Louis nods weakly and reaches for him. They perform the familiar “drain me to the brink” blood exchange, and afterward, they sit on the steps of the altar “in throes of increasing wonder.”

In the present, a blood tear spills down Louis’ eye as he declares it, “The end. The beginning.” And with that, my vamp-loving babies, this Interview’s just getting started.

Blood droplets

  • Whew. That’s how you do an adaptation of a beloved property. Freshen the setting, make the queer love story at its heart explicit as opposed to implied, and cast two actors with enough chemistry to curl toes and scorch retinas. I haven’t been this excited about a book-to-screen adaptation in ages.
  • We love a show that remembers its roots! In the pilot, Lestat referred to the earth as “a savage garden.” Yes, that’s a phrase straight from Rice’s The Vampire Lestat, and yes, that’s where the band got its name.
  • JUSTICE FOR LILY. She didn’t deserve a barely mentioned, off-screen death.
  • One humble request: bring back Bricktop Williams (Dana Gourrier), the force-of-nature sex worker who was disrespected at the top of the episode and who easily wins for the line of the night: “You put a dick in an assh— without asking, that’s against Jesus.”
  • Hi, I’m Sara, and I’ll be your Interview recapper this season. Not only did I obsess over these books as a teenager, but I definitely rushed out and bought the tabloid mags in 1994 that had the first-look photos of Tom Cruise as Lestat in Neil Jordan’s film adaptation. (Reader, I tacked those photos to my bedroom wall, where they remained for an embarrassingly long time.) Let’s geek out over this glorious new show together, shall we?
  • In case you’re wondering, the best drug Daniel ever took was the Mexican black tar heroin at Berkley in 1978, courtesy of Pedro and Carly.

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