Almost as soon as we began our interview, Interview With the Vampire star Assad Zaman leaned forward and asked, “Oh, what’s happening? What’s the fandom saying?” On the video chat with me were two actors from AMC’s Anne Rice adaptation: Zaman (who plays Rashid/Armand) and Eric Bogosian (Daniel Molloy). I had just mentioned that Rashid has caused quite a stir online, and Zaman was clearly eager to find out more.
This is where I exhibited what I would describe as extreme restraint and many of my fandom friends would call cowardice. Zaman and Bogosian play characters who, for many books within the Vampire Chronicles, are lovers. So instead of telling them about the ship name (Devil’s Minion), the cohort of Daniel Molloy enjoyers (called the Daniel Molloy polloi), or the frankly unhinged amount of fan edits occurring on Twitter and Tumblr, I did the professional thing and asked what they’d heard instead. That is called journalism.
“I’ve been living under a rock,” Zaman said. “I was under strict instructions not to say anything.” With good reason—while the character of Rashid certainly caught fans’ eyes early as possibly being the vampire Armand in disguise, people who haven’t read the books wouldn’t necessarily draw a line in between Louis’ attendant and the vampiric cult leader/serial murderer Armand. However, Zaman did admit to following “some things as a fan of the show… And watching that final episode, even I’m going ‘What the fuck?!’ It’s such a surreal moment.” Ultimately Zaman said that he’s “overwhelmed” by the positive fandom response. “I was terrified about how it would be taken on, but the support and love has been immense.”
Bogosian said that the fandom scrutiny is not unexpected; the show has been critiqued by many for not sticking to the original material, and people were actively questioning whether or not series creator Rolin Jones would be able to pull off an adaptation. Much like this version of Daniel Molloy is not the same version of Daniel Molloy in the books, Bogosian said that he’s a very different person now than he was in the ‘70s when he first read Interview With the Vampire. “And having now taken a deeper dive into Anne Rice’s work I’ve developed an appreciation for the places she’s willing to go and her deftness as a storyteller. And with Rolin, the surgery he’s able to do to create this new thing… even as everyone was worried that we were going to screw up Anne Rice.”
One of the biggest thematic differences between the series and the books is that in the show, Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson), the vampire being interviewed, is a desperately unreliable narrator. In the book, his version of events is never questioned, while in the series, Bogosian’s character doesn’t let anything go without interrogation. At the end of the series, when Armand is revealed, we have another twist in the story; how much is Armand influencing Louis’ recollection of events?
Armand affects the truth of Louis’ story “quite a bit,” said Zaman, laughing. “After the bat’s out of the bag, there’s a lot of understandable suspicion and skepticism around Louis’ story… but fans of the books know that Louis’ version of the story is always Louis’ version of the story, whether Armand is there or not.” He admitted that this is a new layer to the retelling to what happened in Louis’ life, “having Armand there does spice it up a bit.”
Armand’s intentions, and his presence in the show, will be a driving force in season two, said Zaman. Besides the fact that the trio—Daniel, Louis, and Armand—are going to have to continue their interview, Armand is a major leader among European vampires. We are, very likely, going to see Zaman inhabit the same kind of role that Anderson does, acting in both the present-day and through his and Louis’ recollections of the past. “Armand being in Dubai raises the stakes a little more,” Zaman said, “and his presence makes the interview more urgent.”
Much like Jones took the clear gay subtext of the books and made it explicit, the unreliability of Louis’ narration was always there to begin with. “Rolin takes the things in the books and presses them in higher relief,” Bogosian explained, before immediately diving into the queer layering without any prompting from me whatsoever. “The part that’s very interesting to me is Molloy. His subtext is there, but you can barely see the outlines of it in the original writing.”
Bogosian compared the journey that this character goes on—recontextualizing and questioning his own experiences as a young journalist—to his own journey. “I’m at that point in my life where I am intrigued by my younger self. What the fuck did I think I was doing in 1975? That’s when I got to New York, and there were a lot of adventures to be had. There were a lot of seedy places just like that San Francisco scene in the book.” Bogosian was on a tear at this point, and I was just along for the ride. “I didn’t give a shit. I didn’t care if it was a gay club or a straight club. I didn’t care if it was heroin, cocaine, or what the hell it was. I just wanted to try everything out.”
He described this momentum as similar to his character’s—a germ seed of journalism. Daniel Molloy has that same energy, Bogosian said he sees him as the character who says, “I want to know everything. Tell me. And now we’ve got this old guy who still has that kind of curiosity.” That ability to question not only your subject but yourself increases the tension when it comes to accuracy. “It gives the story more power.”
“The beauty of you, as Daniel Molloy,” Zaman said, “is that you interrogate the truth behind all of the camp, beauty, and emotional pathos. It was so liberating to watch you come in and bring it all down to earth. And that’s genius, I think, the way that Rolin Jones has embraced everything that Anne Rice intended, but also brought in a very human perspective by way of this very grumpy old man.”
Assad Zaman is right, for the record. I wrote a whole piece about how brilliant the framework of Daniel Molloy is. As much as I would have liked to continue to feel vindicated by very smart actors, I instead asked about the production design, which was in fact a whole apartment built as a set. Both actors described it as an immersive experience. “Some of the hallways were never used, much to the consternation of our set designer,” Bogosian said.
There’s a lot of art on the walls of Armand’s apartment—“Interesting that you call it Armand’s apartment,” Zaman cut in as Bogosian laughed, “no idea where you got that idea from”—but Bogosian remembers, very clearly, the Basquiat in the main room of the apartment. (It’s Slave Auction, for those wondering.) “They had to get rights to all these paintings—these are repainted paintings that look identical to the original works. Something about it was just so disjunct.”
Something about this stuck with me. Rolin Jones’ Interview With the Vampire, much like the Basquiat, is a remake of an original. But while the Basquiat is meant to be an exact replica, the show has taken liberties. It has taken what was always there—the pencil lines, the notes in the margins, the subtext—and found ways to bring out the best parts of the original text. You can’t improve on Basquiat, but you can pull some more sharpness, extract some more relief, out of a recreated Interview With the Vampire.
All episodes of Interview With the Vampire are now streaming on AMC+.
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