How Sam Reid Made Anne Rices Brat Prince Deliciously Dark in Interview With the Vampire

There are many things to love about AMC’s “Interview With the Vampire” adaptation, from Jacob Anderson’s sensitive portrayal of the vampire Louis to the mysterious narrative exploration of memory that plays at the center of the titled interview itself. There’s also Sam Reid’s audacious and wild performance as Anne Rice’s prolific and beloved character, the vampire Lestat.

Lestat is many things to readers, including a complex, manipulative villain who’s defined the fantasy genre and a groundbreaking (if flawed) LGBTQ literary character. Reid played all those elements to perfection throughout the first season of the adaptation, and to hear both he and series creator Rolin Jones talk, it was a complex process putting their spin on the character. Jones admitted he didn’t watch any other vampire shows, including “True Blood” or “What We Do in the Shadows,” to ensure they weren’t being unduly influenced.

“We had the burden of creating the architecture for a series that goes on for a number of years,” Jones told IndieWire via Zoom. Lestat is cemented in Rice’s second book (1985’s “The Vampire Lestat”), but Jones wanted to make his background more solid. He didn’t want to just drop “the brat prince” into the story he was telling fully created. It wasn’t enough to just cast a handsome and charming actor. Jones said he needed someone who could hold onto Rice’s dense dialogue and play with it, find the humor within it, and could go through the scenes with an otherworldliness about him.

The otherworldly quality came through in a unique place for Reid: his voice. The Australian-born actor wanted to convey a sense of unnaturalness to the character’s speaking to illustrate his ability to mimic. “He’s French, but he’s going to have absorbed a whole bunch of different sounds from a whole bunch of different places,” Reid said. “He’s always impersonating humanity…and so I wanted it to sound kind of weird and ethereal.”

In Episode 6, Lestat decapitates a train conductor and starts speaking through the man’s head. “I wanted it to feel very different,” Reid said. “Originally, I was doing a whole bunch of twirls coming through the carriage [but] we had to take it down a bit.” Reid also knew he wanted to show, again, how Lestat uses his voice to mimic and, in this scene, terrify.

Reid explained that he talked to Adam O’Byrne, one of the series’ producers who played the conductor in that scene, about how the conductor would sound and how Lestat would imitate him. “I wanted him [Lestat] to have this aggressive conductor’s voice that he’s made loud,” Reid said. “He’s always looking for an opportunity to get back on the stage and perform, and [the question is] whether or not that’s going to be entering with a decapitated head?”


“Interview With the Vampire”

Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

Reid sees Lestat as a performer who can adapt to anyone and everyone he encounters. “He’s an oscillating character who’s always different,” Reid said, and that presented a sense of freedom with the performance. Because Lestat sees things differently, it compelled Reid to play scenes with an awareness that the other actors and characters didn’t have, or interpret them differently. Case in point: Lestat’s appearance at the funeral of Louis’ brother. Reid explained that Anderson and director Alan Taylor were questioning Lestat coming to the funeral to ask Louis why he hasn’t sought out the vampire. Taylor and Anderson saw it as a terrible action.

Reid, though, saw the character’s motivation as an attempt to provide condolences to Louis. “He [Lestat] goes through a range of emotions in that scene because he’s also rejected, and he doesn’t respond very well to rejection,” Reid said. That was a way to craft the motivations behind Lestat: Even when he’s doing something utterly terrible, the intent comes from a place of what the character believes is love. And that love is certainly messy, destructive, and over-the-top, which Jones wanted for the characters. Lestat is a brat, and Reid played that to the hilt in a series that wraps it up in class and elegance. “Let’s make it messy, and nasty, and volatile,” Jones said. “Let’s put them in a John Cassavetes movie.”

That volatility feels at odds with the vampire shows that already exist. “If you’re tackling five and six lifetimes, and every night is a night of violence, it is really incredible that they can sit down and watch an opera together,” Jones said. “If there’s any big sacrilegious move we’ve made different from the novels [it’s] that vampires don’t get more detached. As they go on, they accumulate more and more baggage. They become more unstable.”

Reid’s performance is certainly indicative of why that unstable baggage makes for such compelling television.

“Interview With the Vampire” is available to stream now on AMC+.

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