It’s been nearly half a century since “Interview with the Vampire” was published, leaving its mark on popular culture. Written by the late Anne Rice, the book became the first of the “Vampire Chronicles”, which includes 12 follow-up novels. “Interview” itself was adapted into a 1994 feature film starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, while a loose adaptation of “Queen of the Damned” hit theaters in 2002.
Now viewers can rewatch “Interview with the Vampire” in a new series on AMC on Sunday nights. Beloved characters like Louis, Lestat, and Claudia are back, but with some updates to their stories.
“We have these books that have literally been played through everyone’s head a million times, and then there’s this movie that grafted that onto another generation of people,” said executive producer and writer Rolin Jones, who acknowledged feeling a “push and pull of how to be reverent and how to make sure you’re not going to be boring to people who already know these stories pretty well.
Jones and production designer Mara LePere-Schloop spoke to CNN about reimagining “Interview with the Vampire” for television and keeping the supernatural, sultry, and lavish adaptation in keeping with the source material.
Bringing “Interview with the Vampire” to TV involved building a “universe,” Jones said, who kept the other “Vampire Chronicles” in mind while planning everything from character details to overview. . (Lestat, played by Sam Reid, saw some “rewriting” in later books, as Jones observed – starting with a more fleshed-out backstory in the second novel, 1985’s “The Vampire Lestat”.)
The titular interview takes place in the present day; the 1994 film, its screenplay written by Rice, also placed the interview in modern times. Like the novel, the short story “Interview with the Vampire” centers on Louis, who recounts how he became a vampire with Daniel Molloy, a character first introduced to readers as an anonymous young journalist.
This Daniel, played by Eric Bogosian, is an older veteran reporter, but he’s essentially “the same guy,” Jones said. The show alludes to an earlier interview between Daniel and Louis from the 70s – a callback to the novel.
Louis, played by Jacob Anderson, has new origins. In previous iterations, he owned a plantation near New Orleans in the late 1700s, when he met Lestat. The new Louis, still subject to periods of melancholy, guilt and self-loathing, is a black brothel owner in early 20th century New Orleans when his story begins.
The changes made were partly the result of wanting to focus on a “period as aesthetically exciting as the 18th century without digging into a plantation story that no one really wanted to hear now,” Jones said. He noted that the character’s lineage still traces back to “plantation money” and that his original occupation did not particularly emerge as a point of “self-reflection” in the novels.
Another major character update involves Claudia – only 5 years old when she was turned into a vampire in the novel, although she was portrayed by 11-year-old Kirsten Dunst in the film. AMC’s adaptation further ages Claudia by making her 14 at the time of her transformation. This does not prepare her for the internal turmoil that is setting in.
As Actor Bailey Bass said in a featurette Shared on the show’s Twitter account, this Claudia has to “deal with the emotions of a 19-year-old, then 30-year-old, then 40-year-old, while still stuck in this 14-year-old.” young body.
The decision to age Claudia was made in part due to concerns about filming certain scenes, particularly those with more “adult” undertones. Another factor was child labor laws.
“If I wanted to do Claudia on this show, I need as many hours of filming with the actor playing as possible,” Jones said. “And if I put someone under 18 in there, I would have limited hours.”
For LePere-Schloop, who read Rice’s novels as a teenager and credits them somewhat with luring her to New Orleans, her home of two decades, the changes in the TV series aren’t antithetical. to the work of the author. After Rice’s death, her possessions were donated to an archive at Tulane University in New Orleans, said LePere-Schloop, who met the archivist while filming the series.
“Some of the things she was finding out were that Anne was writing short stories and other renditions of the ‘Chronicles’ where Louis was female, or there were other fluid things going on,” she said. “Even in Anne’s writing there is a kind of play with time, place and person.”
The series was filmed in New Orleans, once Rice’s longtime home and an integral part of “Interview with the Vampire.” Immersing the viewer in the updated setting required a fair amount of research.
“We are now talking about a period of New Orleans that has been much talked about, but not very well documented in pictures or captured in film and television, and that is the Storyville period (the red-light district),” LePere-Schloop said. “Culturally, it had such an impact on the city.”
As a resident of New Orleans, she knew that “when a place is badly done, you hear it around town.” She therefore relied on various resources, including the expertise of local historian Richard Campanella.
“He worked with us to capture things he knew from oral histories and anecdotal stories he had documented through time from elements of Storyville,” LePere-Schloop said.
The production incorporated the very real history of New Orleans, as well as key locations in the city, in addition to building new sets – like that of Storyville – to bring viewers into this version of the world of Louis and Lestat. .
“Anne used the city as research and reference,” LePere-Schloop said. “We were lucky enough to be able to film in the actual house that Anne wrote Lestat Townhouse to be in the novels. His inspiration for this house is a living museum and we have to use it as an outdoor house.
Creating the interior of the house, albeit on a stage, was also great fun, she said, noting that the original inspiration had “really amazing design details” like a skylight (which was integrated into the script) and moldings.
Different design aesthetics have been used to show the passage of time while the vampires remain unchanged. The sets also served as a reflection of the characters, from the art Lestat brings from Europe to New Orleans to the depressed state the vampire house falls into when things go wrong.
“It’s an emotional landscape as well as a physical one,” Jones said.
LePere-Schloop wanted to avoid portraying a cliché of New Orleans on screen – and similarly she wanted to avoid vampire clichés, opting not to paint everything “brothel red” or put on gothic arches. everywhere. But despite all the historic details embraced by the behind-the-scenes team, there are touches (including extra saturation during the final coloring process, Jones said) that look less natural.
While pondering the show’s palette, LePere-Schloop turned to a book from her childhood – “The Rainbow Goblins” – which had “beautiful and oversaturated” illustrations and helped her land on a more dynamic background. . The world occupied by Louis and Lestat is “sexier” and “lively,” she said, compared to early portrayals of vampires in movies, which tended to be understated and “ruined.”
Even with a few changes to the original scripts, the “Interview with the Vampire” team didn’t ignore the source material – re-reading and “seeing what was in the crevices and cracks” helped them make the show, Jones said.
There are subtle references to characters from later novels and even a quick shoutout to Rice’s Mayfair witches (also the subject of an upcoming AMC series). Characters that did not appear in the film appear here. And – perhaps the most important detail for diehard fans – Lestat and Louis are lovers, in a move that takes the famous subtext of Rice’s previous vampire novels and simply turns it into text.
What “Interview with the Vampire” alluded to in the ’70s was progressive for its time, Jones said, adding that in the “later books, it’s like there’s this great romance that didn’t never really been written, but we all agree it happened.”
While Jones didn’t water down some of the more toxic aspects of the vampire relationship, he saw tremendous opportunity in how he could portray it in an updated adaptation.
Between Rice’s writings and the 1994 film, which has its fans and critics, Jones acknowledged that the show’s main cast “have big ghosts behind them”. But he praised Anderson – who he pointed out is in almost every scene – and Reid for their stamina, as well as the range of their performances.
As for viewers?
“I would like them to be surprised. For those who know it very well and love it, I want them to stick with it for seven (episodes) and if they’re still mad, that’s cool,” Jones said. “But I hope I did something exciting and exciting for them.”