In AMC Networks’ “Interview With the Vampire,” Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) is almost beyond description.
An immortal vampire hundreds of years old, he’s desperately lonely, incapable of sharing, unknowable yet hypnotically charismatic. He embodies unrestrained love and yet callously treats humans the way a cat bats a mouse around before killing it. He rejects his aristocratic background yet can’t help but embody it. Equally cruel, condescending, passionate and loving, he’s a terrifying monster and an irresistible lover.
It’s what makes him so transfixing for Louis de Pointe du Lac (“Game of Thrones’” Jacob Anderson), his undead protege and seemingly eternal soulmate.
“I think he is oscillating. He changes all the time and he’s never one thing,” Reid told TheWrap in an interview, later adding, “The relationship between Louis and Lestat is at the heart of that series and they always come back to each other and they destroy each other and making sure that, really, from Season 1, it’s established that they’re in this romantic relationship.”
Based on Anne Rice’s seminal book of the same name, the sprawling series (which has already received an early Season 2 renewal) spans centuries, excavating Louis and Lestat’s carnal romance in early 20th century Jim Crow-era New Orleans and tracing the former’s modern-day recollections as told to veteran journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian). Written, executive produced and showrun by Rolin Jones, the contemporary adaptation of the gothic classic sticks true to the original text while reimagining some of its aspects, like exploring the racialized power dynamics between the couple, and aging up Claudia (Bailey Bass), Louis and Lestat’s daughter.
Read on for TheWrap’s Q&A with Reid, where he delves deep into his character’s psychology and the seductive, enduring nature of vampire stories.
This interview had been condensed for concision and clarity.
TheWrap: First, could you talk about how you heard of the role and the process of getting it?
Sam Reid: I had read the books as a teenager, I’ve been a big vampire fan — all kinds of vampire media and books and films — my whole life. I didn’t know if I would ever get the opportunity to play one to be honest, but I read that they were turning it into a television series and I had hoped that I would get the chance to do an audition for it. I put a tape down, I got sent the script and I just thought it was extraordinary, and Rolin had just done such a fantastic job of translating the mood of Anne Rice in his script.
I remember the audition that they sent, there [were] a lot of in brackets ‘in French,’ but all of the lines were written in English. And I thought, ‘No, no I’m gonna do this in French,’ and I had studied French in school, but I hadn’t picked it up for a really long time — I wasn’t very good at it, I didn’t really pay much attention, which was a really frustrating thing for me at that moment. But my sister speaks French, so I spent a lot of time with her and on Google Translate desperately trying to translate Rolin’s beautiful dialogue into French and then learning it. And that took forever but I laser-visioned into making sure I got that correct.
Sent off the tape and met with Rolin and we had a conversation about Lestat and where it was going and then we did chemistry reads with Jacob over Zoom, which was a weird experience … because of the time zones. It was challenging, so I didn’t meet anyone in person until I turned up in New Orleans.
I tried to study French for, like, six months before I gave up, and I did pick up that your French was really good, so I was going to ask if you were fluent.
I’m still taking French lessons and piano lessons and things which are very important aspects of the character but yeah, I was definitely coming to it all quite fresh.
You’ve been in period pieces before, but was there any kind of research that went into this mythical world or ‘Vampire 101’ training ahead of filming?
It was really the books. Whenever I had a question or I was confused about how to approach a specific scene, I’d just go back and try and find a similar scene or that scene because every time [Lestat] speaks, he’s speaking to his entire existence, which is all beautifully laid out on this extraordinary roadmap.
What was important to nail down about this character, his motivations and what his essence is?
I think he is oscillating. He changes all the time and he’s never one thing. Rolin has managed to highlight that in two ways, because there’s an overarching thing that turns up in all of the books which is these narrators who narrate the books [and] go back and reexamine points of history from a different perspective or a character’s changed … and so he brings that dynamic back into the show by having Molloy question Louis. There’s elements of what is real, what is memory, so I feel like Rolin really does such an amazing job of encapsulating that very specific thing that Anne Rice’s universe has.
There’s also a luscious, vicious sensuousness in all of her work, and the way that she describes things, describes the clothes and really finding the time to let that exist in the character as well. If you’re immortal, you have to try and make the best out of every night, but sometimes there’s not much going on, so after you have a kill, you just sit and look at the wallpaper, or you sit and look at the detail on a piece of fabric.
And then also, of course, because AMC [has] the rights of the entire ‘Vampire Chronicles’ series, the relationship between Louis and Lestat is at the heart of that series and they always come back to each other and they destroy each other and making sure that, really, from Season 1, it’s established that they’re in this romantic relationship, which allows us to progress the show further.
Going off of that, there’s the power dynamics between Louis and Lestat, with the latter being a veteran vampire, and more broadly, the backdrop of early 20th century Jim Crow. How do you view their love story, and is it even a love story to begin with?
Certainly, I think it’s a love story. Lestat’s very powerful, and he has lost a lot of the most important people in his life, some of them who he’s turned into a vampire and they still left him, because he’s not a straightforward guy. And so he is trying to find a relationship that can last, but he has fallen in love with Louis specifically, and he sees him and he sees his strength and he sees the complexity of this man and how he’s functioning in this world, which is sidelining him. He wants to share his immortality with him, but he doesn’t understand — there’s a whole bunch of elements there that Lestat does not grasp because he’s not tied to humanity anymore. He’s above it in his mind. It’s a big dynamic between the two of them because he doesn’t understand the things that Louis needs — even as a vampire, he’s still marginalized. Lestat does need to learn from Louis and grow from him, really. He doesn’t, but he needs to.
Lestat has this aristocratic, even superior, air about him. Do you think that’s emblematic of himself as a character, or rather a larger character trait for vampires, who can obviously do things humans cannot?
Anne Rice was very clear about his backstory: He grew up in an aristocratic French family. They were very poor aristocrats, but he still grew up in a world of courts and airs and graces, but he also is an actor, so he’s very performative in his nature, which is why you don’t really know what he’s doing because a lot of the time he’s just putting on a show. He’s not being truthful. He’s intentionally trying to seduce, he’s intentionally putting on airs and graces and making a meal out of things, which is covering up perhaps a lot more of his darkness. There [are] intrinsic things to him aside from just [being] a vampire, I would say.
He’s always playing that line about, ‘I can actually just float through space.’ He’s got so much power that I don’t need to assert, really, myself at all.
How much is that performance also masking his loneliness and the grief you mentioned?
100%. With Louis, he wants him to love him for himself, so he hides a lot of his powers. He doesn’t really show him what he can do, and he’s a very, very powerful vampire by this point in time. It’s a vulnerable space for him. He’s had a lot of things taken away from him, but he does have the ability to endure and to make the most of the situation, so he’s a very proud monster. He wants the best for himself and he wants to enjoy it and he does not want to feel like a monster — he wants to feel like a god.
The show is, of course, based on Rice’s seminal work, but why do you think vampire lore continues to resonate with audiences?
Firstly, vampires — it’s built within their DNA to be yearning for love and yearning for one significant other often, you have Nosferatu and you have Dracula. People love a good love story, and if you expand it over the centuries and eternity it becomes even more insatiable. Why I think [Rice’s] books are so incredibly popular is that — the same thing as Mary Shelley with ‘Frankenstein’ — you put the psychology of the monster at the front, that’s the point of view. So they are human then, because a human is interpreting the perspective of a monster. So it can reflect all of these questions we ask ourselves: Am I a good person? Is this the right thing to be doing? Am I normal, am I right?
“Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire” premieres its first two episodes Oct. 2 on AMC and AMC+.