AMC’s ‘Interview With the Vampire’ Continues To Turn Blood Lust Into High Drama in Season 2

Adapting novels to moving image teleplays historically distorts the literary works through condensation, contemporary moral climate, and the availability of talent. Fans’ celebrations of their favorite books’ recognition are always tempered by the inevitable disappointments which come in any deviation from even the most loyal treatments of the source material. Anne Rice aficionados find fault and joy, in equal measure, in any works taken from her “The Vampire Chronicles” book series. “Anne Rice’s Interview With whe Vampire” glides across the tightrope, adding the thrill of spills from the closely-guarded original material to the emotional adherence to the intent of Rice’s words. This series carries the spirit of the book to deliver an artful impression to impressionistic television programming.

As the titular interviewee, Jacob Anderson fully inhabits the reluctantly thirsty Louis de Pointe du Lac with a mission born of adoration, cruelty, death and undeath. He strives to be his own person, even as his efforts mark him as the spawn of a martyred maker. Anderson goes beyond human frailty to capture a vast range of shattered recollections left to rot in a desolate emotional terrain. “Interview With the Vampire” continues its run of exquisitely unbridled acting in a horror story told as a love triangle for all ages.

The AMC series successfully transcribes Rice’s most novel works of centuries past to the more modern setting, with an increased awareness of the taboos the books joyfully reveled in. Season one danced a lethal ballet, with operatic moments, until the final blazing pirouette. Act two is more theatrical. The part of Claudia has now been recast with Delainey Hayles, relegating Bailey Bass to a magical footnote in television history. She joins Dick York, who was cursed to leave his role on “Bewitched” so that new blood could take his place.

Hayles effortlessly captures the feral spirit of the searching vampire who was made too young, imbuing each silence with a sense of personal turf. This allows her exultation at finding the unholy grail, other vampires, to bristle with new discoveries in the treacherous arc of her run in the Théâtre des Vampires. The character Claudia is a virtual treasure chest of possibilities for an actor. Deceptively childlike, she breaks rules, roles, expectations, and responsibilities. She is both a creator and a keeper of secrets, which in itself allows internal battle to wreak havoc with emotional output, but also gets to play with the ability to close a mind or open a vein. It is as fun to watch as it is nerve-wracking to witness.

Journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) must play a straight man on several different fronts. Aggressive, wounded, stalked, and threatened, the formerly young and gifted writer has to come to grips with the things he’s given up over the years of dictating notes for an ancient vampire. Bogosian plays this with disarming cynicism and desperate faith. There is much more to the narration than meets the eye, as the mind becomes a subliminal playground offering nightmares in the peripheral vision of the audience’s perception. Long-suppressed memories bleed into the present with subliminal ease in the hands of the series’ directors.

Armand (Assad Zaman) appears to reluctantly reveal himself as a Master Vampire, much older than Louis, to Daniel, as he adds his voice to the records. Again, Zaman plays revelatory against repressed and allows a beautiful ambiguity to match his occult moral compass. In Louis’ telling, Armand amassed a loyal cast of players into a bloodthirsty troupe. Constructed as a coven, the decadent cult of endless desires believe they are damned no matter what they do, and make the best of an all-consuming situation. This is captured with audacious mixing of supernatural and theatrical feats, and predetermined blunders. In the meantime, the audience is distracted by the ever-so-transparent mystery of Real Rashid (Bally Gill) on hand and waiting as elements from other books encroach onto the telling of the original vampire story.

In the book, Santiago is petty, narcissistic, ambitious, and irresistibly charming. Ben Daniels brings this to the part, and adds a touch of backhanded threat behind every glance, word or deed. The trickster of the book is the mutinous cult leader of the coven. There is a strong element of sadism in the humiliation of the living at the vampires’ dinner theater. But, taken directly from the novel, promises of “no pain” exert irresistible lure to debased amusement for jaded libertine appetites.  Roxane Duran joins as Madeleine, a dollmaker in the book, but a dressmaker accosted by Nazis in the series, she is a tragic figure regardless.

Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) bid a curtain call in the last season, and like Hamlet’s father, is a spectral presence in Paris. He haunts the theater as its founder, and Armand, who keeps a torch burning in the window of his heart. Lestat whispers in Louis’ mind like a wounded Jiminy Cricket. The bending of reality to tortured hallucination is expertly done, fooling the audience into believing anyone can be eavesdropping on private self-recrimination. Reid plays Lestat as antagonist and protagonist, hero and villain, lover scorned and scornful, sacred and oh so profane. The anticipation of his return corrupts every nuance of its improbability.

In the second season, Louis insists the recorded memories be accurate, the darkness intact, the romance pervasive, and the incriminating conspiratorial betrayals relegated to cryptic footnotes. This adds up to immersive tension on all fronts, all recreated through the most complementary visual approach. The contemporary talks are set in Prague, but reveal several specific periods in the vampires’ lives. Episode five, “Don’t Be Afraid, Just Start the Tape,” includes an incredibly realistic scene of a domestic dispute. There is no artifice, no cutaways, no edits. It feels like cinema verité, which adds color to the template of the series, both emotional and cinematic. 

The first season set high standards for the magnificent New Orleans locations, and the picture-perfect horror stylings of the iconic violent scenarios. For the new season, the cameras are still expertly placed, framing all events in exact response to the emotional imperative behind the scene. Static shots cover artistic backgrounds, hand-held cameras expose raw wounds of relationship problems in small spaces. The settings are meticulously crafted, from the superstitious Eastern European post-war ruins and their residual revenant vampires feeding without thought to the Parisian location, where fresh blood runs in every street recovering from human atrocities.

Though the stories are removed, the second season follows a pattern set in the first. Our vampires have a difficult transition, this time in a new land rather than a new physiology; they have a happy period, which is darkened by forces, secrets, and power plays, all of which add to the tension incrementally. While there is no dearth of horrifically violent moments, there aren’t as many set horror classic images as permeated the first. This does not play against the expectations, but approaches from another perspective. This series is a character study and a romance, so the danger comes as a slower seduction over the first six episodes. “Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire” is as seductive as ever, and continues to raise the genre of horror on television. This series may stray from the book’s timeline, but never from the eternal promise of the bloodthirsty thoughts inside.

Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire” season 2 premieres May 12 with new episodes airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.