TV: Interview with the Vampire (Season 1)

Vampire lore has never had a particularly strong hold on my imagination. Beyond how its tropes fueled the epic adventure-fantasy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the absurdist comedy of What We Do in the Shadows, they just haven’t gotten their fangs into my neck. The arrival of Interview with the Vampire, therefore, should have come and gone without an eye-blink. But the critical buzz for this new Anne Rice adaptation was just too strident to ignore, and that buzz was damn well warranted: what an outstanding series.

The frame involves a curmudgeonly journalist, Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosion), who journeys to Dubai to resume a fateful interview curtailed some fifty years earlier. The subject: Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson), a wealthy man—who also happens to be a vampire. Attempting to penetrate Molloy’s gruff cynicism, Louis relates the origin of his vampirism at the hands of Lestat (Sam Reid), the charismatic rogue who seduced, turned, and romanced Louis into a shared nocturnal life in New Orleans during the early twentieth century. Theirs is a tragic love story, of sorts, but quickly develops into something more harrowing when together they sire an impetuous, unpredictable “daughter” in fourteen-year-old Claudia (Bailey Bass).

Interview with a Vampire, despite the humdrum familiarity of its fantastical world-building, launches with an engrossing, lyrical pilot, and it never lets up. The monster-movie elements aren’t the draw, though; it’s the acting and the writing. (Paying attention, Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers?) Both Jacob Anderson and Sam Reid are frightfully good in this, bringing both eloquence and ferocity to their performances—and, in Reid’s case especially, a perfect touch of cheeky humor. Bass, Bogosian, and the rest of the cast hold their own as well in a show that, if you don’t look too closely, might simply look like a classily produced period drama. The horror elements definitely play a role, though, and they’re brilliantly realized, interrupting the slow-burn tapestry of relationships with explosions of violence and terror. It didn’t necessarily increase my interest in vampires, but it did deepen my appreciation for the vampire as a symbol for dark, secret evils lurking within outwardly normal things. Indeed, the creatures of Buffy stood in for the secret hells of high school; What We Do in the Shadows, meanwhile, kookily satirizes our obsession with destructive by playing up its selfish banality. Here, the allegory is deeper, about the abusive relationships that can lurk under the surface of supposed love. The theme is superbly executed, while the writers also modernize the source material with a timely deep-dive explorations of racial and sexual discrimination, which—given Louis’ positioning as a gay Black man in the south—is intrinsic to the narrative. The components all mesh perfectly in a show that feels both classic and timely, blazing past in a tight, seven-episode arc that doesn’t overextend itself. A surprisingly riveting watch that left me eager for the next chapter.

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