Image: Craig Barritt / Stringer (Getty Images)
I hold up a little toy to the camera; it’s a Lorme, a resin art toy that my friend made. “Is that a plague doctor?” Jacob Anderson, star of AMC’s Interview With the Vampire, asks as I turn it around to show him the little details. Anderson has a collection of art toys himself, so I thought I’d share a few of my own small collection before we start our interview. “Oh, hello.”
The man said hi to a little toy. Honestly, what a charmer. I tucked wee Mister Scratch away as Anderson continued. “I love plague doctors,” he said, “I find them uniquely frightening as well.” There’s something about a plague doctor–someone who might help you, but might just as easily become the portent of your death. A bad omen, a savior in black robes. A fitting creature for Anderson to find uniquely frightening, considering his current role.
We’re on video chat talking about the penultimate episode of the AMC Anne Rice adaptation, in which Anderson plays Louis de Pointe du Lac, a Black, gay, Creole bloodsucking creature of the night. He stars opposite Sam Reid as Lestat, Bailey Bass as the child vampire Claudia, and Eric Bogosian as the interviewer Daniel Molloy. As Louis, Anderson has to be a mercurial actor, flexible enough to portray a man in his 20s, his 60s, his 80s, and, in the show’s present-day scenes, nearly 130.
“We were able to shoot in sequence,” Anderson explained, “so I was able to sit down and think about who he was at any given time. I was able to talk to Rolin [Jones, the showrunner] a lot about every version of Louis.” He described some of the inspirations for contemporary Louis—the one relating his story to Daniel Molloy in Dubai—people like Eartha Kitt, David Bowie, Grace Jones. “These are people that are deeply human, but there’s something that seems ethereal about them as well.”
Louis starts out as a deferential businessman in the 1910s and ends up as this ageless vampire in present-day Dubai, “But in between those two points, that’s where it was fun.” Louis is immortal, after all, and he has a massive stretch of time to consider. “You choose what he takes with him and what he leaves behind. And sometimes it’s inconsistent. When Claudia comes into their lives, in episodes four and five, it affects how he moves, how he stands, how he talks, how he holds himself. And then in episode six, he falls back into a version of Louis that we first met.”
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He described how often when Louis is vulnerable or upset, he slips back into his Creole accent; a Southern twang with a French lilt that Anderson has done a lot of work to get as right as possible. It’s a tell, and even Louis sometimes isn’t aware it’s happening. Anderson is British, and he manages the Louisiana cadence with more grace than he’s given credit for, in my opinion. “That’s fun though, that’s one of my favorite things about playing Louis, finding little moments to do that.”
Episode six has a moment that showcases the intense love/hate relationship between Louis and Lestat. Lestat has been attempting to apologize to Louis for six years, sending gifts over regularly. When Lestat sends over a record that has a single song on it, but features Lestat’s lover’s voice, Louis breaks and goes to confront him. It’s this act that eventually gets them back together. “Louis had to swim this whole distance just to tell Lestat that he fucked up,” Anderson chuckled. “There’s something about that pettiness from Louis’ perspective. There is something about Lestat and the way he behaves that is unlike anybody else. So, Lestat gets to come back, but it’s at a cost.”
I mention the ending scene of episode six—a flashback in which we see a young Daniel Molloy enter a gay bar, where he heads straight to the bartender and into the sights (clutches?) of Louis du Pointe de Lac, sitting at the corner. I’ve been looking forward to this scene ever since Eric Bogosian accidentally let it slip at San Diego Comic-Con that we were going to see a younger version of Daniel. Anderson begins to giggle. “That was amazing,” he chuckled. “Eric is a bomb waiting to go off. If you ask Eric a question, he will give you a direct answer. That’s just the person he is.”
The tension between these two characters is thick by the time episode six comes around. The seduction that occurred in episode one is finally wearing away; Louis’ performance, Anderson said, has stopped. The bickering that occurs in these scenes is less aggressive, almost resigned. But the veneer of that romantic manipulation is wearing off. “He didn’t expect to be so affected by talking about this point in his life, by talking about Claudia.”
“This is where their first interview ended,” Anderson pointed out. In the episode, Louis is relating how Claudia attempted an escape from New Orleans but was caught by Lestat, who brought her back to the Rue Royale. “I think [Louis] is really hurt by the fact that the interview ended at this point.” Instead of Daniel focusing on this important moment, he undermined it, making it about himself.
But, Anderson said, there is still something genuine between Louis and Daniel in this episode. When Louis offers Daniel the gift of immortality, it’s a moment of forgiveness for the way that Daniel mistreated Claudia’s story in the ‘70s. “From Louis’ point of view, that’s him reaching out and saying ‘I respect you’,’’ explained Anderson. At this point, Daniel’s lived enough, he’s passed through enough trauma, he can handle it now. Anderson is very considerate here, carefully measuring how he presents his view of Louis and Daniel. In a way, these two are the central antagonists of the series. As much as Lestat and Louis tear at each other, it’s all in the past. Louis and Daniel are present. They are immediate. And they are the ones at odds, fighting over a memory.
I mention that the fan reaction to this series has been incredible. I ask if he’s following the reception of the show online. “A little bit,” he admitted. “But I find social media generally overwhelming.”
Everyone, I tell him, is loving it. I mentioned that people have joked about going door to door during Emmy season to evangelize for his nomination. People asked me to tell Anderson that they love him and think he’s doing an incredible job. I tell him, he laughed, I don’t think he believed me. “That’s very nice,” he said, “That’s all the Emmy I need.”
Nice try, Jacob Anderson. We’re still going to campaign for that nomination.
The season one finale of Interview With the Vampire airs on AMC this Sunday, November 13. All episodes are currently available on AMC+.
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