Interview with the Vampire Q&A — Assad Zaman’s ‘Rashid’ Is Revealed to Be Much More Than Audiences Expected

Based on Anne Rice's iconic novel, Interview with The Vampire follows Louis de Pointe du Lac's (Jacob Anderson) epic tale of love, blood, and the perils of immortality. As Season 1 concludes, we learn that the soft-spoken ‘Rashid’ who’s been playing assistant to Louis all season, is much more complex, mysterious, and powerful than we could have imagined. In this interview with we speak with Assad Zaman about the long game that is playing ‘Rashid,’ how he mastered ‘Rashid’s’ calm demeanor, and what the season finale’s big reveal means for him in Season 2.

Q: We meet Rashid under very specific circumstances, and he’s positioned in such a light that it feels like he works for Louis... but as the episodes roll out, we learn more about their relationship. What did you first think about Rashid when you read the scripts, and what enticed you about this character? 
A: When I first auditioned, I didn't get the whole script, it was just the first few scenes Rashid has with Molloy. Just like everyone else in the audience, I was under the impression that this is Louis’ assistant who’s highly efficient and highly skilled at his job. He’s also incredibly discreet, as he needs to be. I was very firmly under the impression that he was a human being! So, I went in with those aspects in mind and tried to portray that as well as I could. Thankfully I got a recall, and they added a few more scenes. I started noticing there's something underneath all that, that there was something quite interesting about him. He's not what I initially thought of him, that he was fairly 2D. Yes, he has a job to do. His role in the show is very clear from the start, but there's also something boiling there underneath, and he isn't your typical assistant.
I had a Zoom meeting with Rolin [Jones, creator] – I think in my third round of auditions – and I was really surprised and confused that he asked to talk. He contacted me, saying, "Could we just have a little chat about Rashid before going into the third round?" And I was like, "Of course, yeah! I'd love to have a chat with you." But I was also thinking, "Why is he wasting time chatting about this vampire's assistant who's not even in the books?! What's this all about?" Then when I met him, he said, "Are you familiar with the books? Have you read them?" I said, "I know the first book, but I'm not familiar with the whole story, with the whole back catalogue." And he said, "Okay. So basically…" Then he started going into a bit more of a backstory about Rashid. And, as I'm listening to him, I'm sat on Zoom just like this. My hands are clenched to the side of my chair because I'm realizing the sheer scope of this, the kind of magnitude, and I was trying to be as cool as a cucumber in front of Rolin, just going, "Mm hmm, mm hmm, interesting. Ah. Okay. And that's what we're doing? Great." And then he said, "Okay, so going forward, for the next few scenes, we're not going to show any of that. We're going to keep a lid on it. Can you just kind of keep it boiling underneath and see what happens?" I was like, "Yes, great, I'll try and do as much as I can." When we finished that Zoom, I was literally running around like crazy, going, "What has just happened? What am I supposed to do here? How do I do this?!” [Laughs]. 
Q: Were you an Anne Rice fan before starting to work on the show? 
A: I'll be perfectly honest; I hadn't read the first book. I knew of the first book because my sister is a huge literature buff and a huge fan of Anne Rice. She had all of them and she'd read them, so they were always lying around. I knew the film in a more whole sense, but even then, I was very young when I watched it. I think I was five or six when I saw the first film and I couldn't remember any of the story. All I remembered were the images of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. For some reason, the one thing I really vividly remembered from the film was Claudia — Kirsten Dunst — and I think that image really stuck in my head. So, when the audition came along, the first thing that popped into my head was Claudia, this little vampire child. Such an evocative image of a young kid who's not a kid, who grows into an adult but is trapped in this child's body. That really stuck in my head. So that was as much as I knew of Anne Rice and Interview with the Vampire. Obviously when I got the part, I completely immersed myself into the books. I read the first three books within two months of getting the part, and I was very tired afterwards because I'm a very slow reader. I had a dictionary next to my books so I would have to stop, open the dictionary, and look up the language because it's so rich. It's amazing! It's such an amazing, rich world.
Q: By Episode 6, we really see the extent of Lestat’s manipulation of Louis—he’s kept even his most impressive powers like the ‘cloud gift’ to himself and never speaks of his maker or others of their kind. Based on what we learn at the end of the episode about Rashid, all the other scenes we’ve seen him in now mean so much more! We can now see the relationship between Rashid and Louis in a very different light, and it seems to be a lot more balanced than Lestat and Louis’ relationship. Can you talk a bit about crafting this very delicate relationship on screen with Jacob Anderson?   
A: It is balanced when you look at it from just the angle of the objective at hand. The objective for Louis is to tell the story to Daniel, and there's clearly an agreement between Louis and Rashid that this interview is going to happen. But there are also hints, if you look back on those scenes where Rashid is involved, that he may have more of a hand than you think in how Louis gets to tell the story. Rashid’s mere presence may have impacted the way Louis tells his story, what information he chooses to give and not give, or what information he chooses to embellish. So, their relationship has some equality, but I think it's not completely equal.
That's a choice that Jacob and I definitely talked about. We talked about keeping that feeling alive and how we show it in certain forms. But I've got to say I was very aware that it was really important that we don't get bogged down by the dynamic between Louis and Rashid. The story is what’s important, because what Louis's telling Daniel is important, and their exchanges were the focus. So, it was tricky as an actor. I knew I had to honor that. I still had a role to play, even though I knew that Rashid is not just Rashid, and that Louis and Rashid's relationship is something more nuanced. My biggest hope while filming my scenes was to get that balance right, to make sure that Rashid doesn't come across as giving orders. I think that was the trickiest part, to have authority but to never have more authority than Louis or even Daniel, because then you stop believing that he's Rashid. You start thinking this guy has something else up his sleeve or this guy is running things.
I had to honor that Season 1 has to tell this story, and if we started flagging too many little Easter eggs within those scenes the audience may lose track of where the story was going. Which is not to say that that was ever going to happen because Sam, Jacob, and Bailey are just phenomenal. Phenomenal! They're telling this beautiful story in such an amazing way. I binged it all and I finished it thinking, "Oh s–t! I've got to step up quite a bit in Season 2 if I'm going to meet the level that they're on." Which is so exciting as an actor. So, so exciting!
Q: There’s definitely a calmness and composure to Rashid that keeps him at arm’s distance from Daniel Molloy and it seems anyone else who isn’t Louis. He glides in and out of rooms without a sound, but somehow still feels and looks human at first glance. How did you aim to achieve this balance when bringing Rashid to life on screen?   
A: Well, I don’t know if you can tell [motions to himself], but I'm sat on the floor. Any opportunity I have, I'm one of those really annoying people that just likes to take his shoes off and just get comfortable anywhere I am. I'm also quite jittery! At drama school, my movement teacher used to say, "Assad, you're never in your body! You need to be more in your body. You're always bouncing around. It's like you're trying to free yourself from your body." So, I used to find stillness and just being calm and being grounded quite difficult! So, in a nutshell, it was quite hard to just reach that!
I think once I realized that Rashid’s objectives are very simple, that led me towards taking more time with my movement. I think the more direct I was, the more I could get done without giving away who I was. I tried to tackle it from the inside. Asking myself where his head was and where his heart was in those scenes that he's around watching and observing. I think observation was key. In order to have control over all these small tasks and make sure that everything happens the way I want it to happen, I've got to be observant. That requires you to not think about your body too much. It brings a stillness, I think. It just brought that stillness in Rashid, where he was very economic with his movements and when he chose to speak. 
Q: So far this season Rashid has been kept to the confines of Louis’ Dubai penthouse. I cannot wait to see Rashid in other spaces taking up room and revealing more about his past. Based on the book, in Season 2 we can expect to learn more about Rashid/Armand and how he and Louis met in the first place. Are you already thinking about Season 2, and how are you mentally preparing yourself to peel away the layers of Rashid/Armand for ravenous audiences? 
A: It hasn't eluded me that certain hardcore lovers of Anne Rice and of the legacy are going to be very, very curious as to how we depict this character. It's been a bit of a ride the last few months. I've just been living and breathing the texts and the world, and without saying too much, I also cannot wait for Rashid/He Who Must Not Be Named Yet to unleash his inner life and be who he is… or maybe who he isn't. He may be playing another version of himself! There's all of that to play with because in Season 2 we're going into a very new and tense dynamic with the interview, which is super exciting. I think it's going to be really, really exciting for new fans as well as fans of the book. I think we're going into very curious territory, which might be new for all of us. I've just been immersing myself in him. I have been learning French, which is also really, really exciting for me. I love it. It's really hard, but it's really fun. I don't know what else to say without giving away where the journey's going to go, but yes, he’s going to be unleashed. I can't wait for it! I'm as curious as anyone because I don't know where it's going to go. There’s only so much I can really say about it. It's like I’ve been playing a shell and I’m about to hatch — where we go from there we don't know! What does he hatch into? None of us know. I just hope that it's as good as what's been revealed so far, if not better!

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