AMC’s interview with the vampire makes you question the definition of “faithful adaptation”

This story contains spoilers for AMC’s interview with the vampire. If you haven’t caught up yet, check out our spoiler-free article. premiere review.

In many ways, the Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) in AMC’s Interview with the Vampire is nothing like the one in Anne Rice’s book. But after the season finale, it seems clear that it’s exactly these character changes that have made showrunner Rolin Jones’ adaptation so true to the spirit of the books.

A lot has changed on AMC’s Interview with the Vampire, to the point that, having recently seen the 1994 film starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, I was instantly a bit skeptical. It’s not just the obvious changes that stand out – Anderson’s Louis de Pointe du Lac is a black brothel owner in the early 20th century rather than a white plantation owner in the late 18th century – but also the framework of the history. Instead of being a young man who meets a vampire one night and decides to interview him, this time Daniel Malloy, impeccably played by Eric Bogosian, has already met Louis once when he was young, but their interview never ended. The AMC story begins when Louis invites Malloy to continue their interview at a venue in Dubai.

What follows emphasizes the themes of Rice’s novels that have sustained them for so long. Although the 1994 film is an iconic piece of ’90s movie culture, AMC’s adaptation ultimately feels more true to the spirit of what Rice wrote. When I review the novel, what keeps me captivated by the story is not always the moment-to-moment pacing of the story, but the beauty of Rice’s prose and the way she is able to convey the depth of Louis’ grief. Anne Rice’s vampires feel everything at eleven out of ten. Every insult, every anguish, every moment of joy, every instance of pleasure, everything is intensified. They are also eternally frozen at the moment of their death, still reeling from the trauma of their lives centuries after their death. The injustices Louis feels have been done to him—his vampire maker of him, Lestat, the world, God—weigh on him like a stone in his stomach. To read Interview with the Vampire is to really understand Louis’ point of view; the punishment of immortality, where he eternally drowns in his own pain.

Watching the AMC interview with the vampire, I find myself transported into Louis’s headspace again, still drowning in his own grief. Anderson’s Louis is the deeply troubled vampire he was in the novel; Lestat (Sam Reid) is so upset; His surrogate daughter, the vampire Claudia (Bailey Bass), remains a threatening killer as only a child can. None of them appear in exactly the same way as in the book. The way they’ve been changed for the screen is what allows the story to highlight each of the things that make these characters feel so alive.

Although there are many types of adaptations of different kinds of success, adaptations from one medium to another fit into two categories: faithful or unfaithful. Fans understand that M. Night Shyamalan’s Avatar: the Last Airbender is an unfaithful adaptation; While the last few seasons weren’t exactly adaptations (or highly regarded), Game of Thrones is generally considered a faithful adaptation of the books it’s based on. Sometimes making changes to sour material can elicit a reactionary response from fans, as happened when House of the Dragon cast Steve Toussaint, a black man, to play Corlys Valeryan, who in the books has pale skin. But by the end of the season, the specific ways in which these changes were made make a lot of sense. In a story about bloodlines and ancestry, making a character immediately visually different can get the message across much faster than explaining it in dialogue.

Here’s how changing Louis’s race can illuminate the themes and ideas already present in Anne Rice’s text. Before Louis meets Lestat, he already lives in two worlds. His life as a brothel owner is at odds with his own religious family. Battling a mental illness that has driven her deeper into his faith, his brother won’t let her forget the contradictions in his own life. And then suddenly he meets and begins spending time with a wealthy French man, their mutual attraction is unnatural and all-consuming. Just seeing them sitting together for decades in Lafayette Square makes it immediately apparent what their differences are. As time passes from 1910 to the 1930s, their affection for each other grows stranger, not only because they are two men, but also because as Jim Crow laws are enacted, racial difference between them is impossible. to ignore.

Changing Louis’s race also serves to further highlight the conflict between Lestat and Louis. Lestat is a white Frenchman, while Louis is mixed-race, black, and has to work not only to maintain his income but also his reputation in polite society. Throughout the show, Lestat refuses to break off a relationship he has with a white woman, Antoinette (Maura Grace Athari), despite repeatedly professing her love to Louis. As viewers, we can feel the unspoken pain beneath the added pain of being cheated. Lestat, if he wanted to, could have a relationship with Antoinette in public without causing any scandal. Louis says in the first episode that he knows the debauchery in New Orleans allowed him some leeway, but society might not accept him as a gay black man. As time progresses, the movements of the story make this distance even more evident. In the end, when Louis, Lestat, and Claudia get on a bus, the two black vampires are forced to ride in the back while Lestat sits in the front.

Those racial differences further emphasize the things that prevent Louis and Lestat from having a healthy romantic relationship. All of the text’s moments of conflict are made immediately visible in ways that they would not have been if Louis had remained a white, straight character. If Louis were still a plantation owner, part of the upper class of society, if changing race relations hadn’t narrowed his options when Lestat entered his world, the depth of Louis’s loneliness wouldn’t have been so immediately apparent.

Although the show’s narrative conceit as an interview allows Louis to narrate his own story, nothing he says can convey his pain in the same way as his miserable walks through Storyville, surrounded by his own people but completely apart from them. While Claudia, Louis’ surrogate vampire daughter he saves from a race riot, and Louis are already bound by blood, being of the same race further highlights the ways they are related to each other that Lestat will never be able to understand. It’s a shortcut to Louis’ state of mind. He is a lost black man with no community, trapped in a world where he will always be someone else.