AMC’s ‘Interview with the Vampire’ review: Anne Rice novel gets a new life

With every network scrambling to have the finest bit of IP possible to attract distracted viewers, the best that can be said for any mod is that it honors the source material while also developing it, reasonably and purposefully, to fit a new medium. AMC aims to do just that with “Interview With the Vampire,” the first installment of its so-called “Immortal Universe,” having bought the rights to many of Anne Rice’s most famous works. Author Rolin Jones (“Perry Mason”) faced a formidable challenge with the books and the impressive 1994 movie. How do you stay true to what makes Rice’s novels so popular while bringing something to screen that the likes of Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and little Kirsten Dunst have not?

The new series tackles this crucial question head-on in its first scene. Fifty years after the events of the film, interviewer Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian, recently from “The Succession”) has transitioned from his drug-fueled youthful San Francisco days to becoming a completely tired veteran reporter who can never completely break the story of the vampire love and barbarism that Lewis attempted. The lonely de Pointes du Lac once gave it to him. Now, amid a pandemic that has torn apart the world’s sense of social order, Lewis (Jacob Anderson) retreats in the hope that he and Molloy, outwardly older and wiser, can find more truth and reconciliation in his story than they did the first time around.

On paper, this setting implies that the show is directly related to books and movies. In fact, AMC’s “Interview with the Vampire” intentionally rehashes Lewis’ story from that of a restless ranch owner to that of an ambitious, closed-off black man who sees a whole new world of possibilities in the lives of the zombies offered by Lestat (Sam Reid). Giving more time to tell this story in episodic episodes, and with Anderson’s captivating Lewis in all his vacillating temperament, the show forges a strong identity story that will be familiar to any Rice fan and feel much different than the versions that came before. . (What a shame that Rice, who passed away late last year, wouldn’t be able to see this development in her world, which clearly respects the world she created to make it possible.)

Lewis’s sterile current life in a Dubai skyscraper – and his flat, out-of-the-box influence in the South – contrasts sharply with the flashbacks he describes, which take us back to his life as a ruthless businessman in New Orleans. As much as he loves his sister (Kalyne Coleman), brother (Steven Norfleet), and mother (Rae Dawn Chong), Louis is tormented by the struggles of his dreams and reality that his white investors will never see as having no place in the shadows. What Lestat promises, as Reed personifies with appropriate grandeur, is a world in which neither his blackness nor strangeness poses a physical threat. Recasting Lewis’ character in this way, AMC’s “Interview With the Vampire” is newly rich in storytelling possibilities—and, unlike the film’s reliance on gay subtext, the desire to make Louis and Lestat’s operatic relationship more romantic. Once Lewis’ vampire “daughter” Claudia (a young Billy Bass) joins the family, Blackness also ties her to Louie – and keeps Lestat at a distance – in the same way that Rice’s original story foretold, but with an extra layer of meaning.

Directed by initial episodes by Alan Taylor (“Game of Thrones,” “The Many Saints of Newark”), and with Mara Lepere-Schloop’s intricate production design and Carol Kuchal’s meticulous costume design, there’s confidence in this “Interview with the Vampire” that makes it so Worth the time even as he strives to hit the biggest gothic notes. Some of the later sequences, full of melodrama, target the stars but land more boisterously on the cobblestones. Oftentimes, though, the show’s commitment to its rooted history, not to mention Anderon’s skilful performance in a one-of-a-kind role, justifies his return from the dead.

“Interview with the Vampire” premieres on AMC and AMC+ Sunday, October 2 at 10 PM ET.

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