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. In Episode 4, we come to learn more about vampire fledgling Claudia, the newest addition to 1132 Royal Street. In this interview with amc.com we speak with Bailey Bass about Claudia’s relationship with her new uncle and dad, what it took to become Claudia, and the backstory she dreamt up for the precocious teen.
Q: We meet Claudia at the end of Episode 3, and by the start of Episode 4 she’s transformed into a young vampire with a LOT of energy. When you first read the script, what was your initial reaction? What drew you to Claudia?
A: What’s so fun about her is that I’m just free and I get to explore. Playing Claudia is a gift to an actor because really there's nothing I can do wrong. I can do the craziest thing, have the craziest expressions, and it's so fitting for her because she feels everything so deeply, being stuck in this young body. Her mind matures because of her experiences, but truly she's always going to act off from instinct and emotion because the biology of her brain will never mature.
Q: Creator/writer Rolin Jones took the source material and tweaked it in a variety of ways. When it comes to this version of Claudia, she’s a bit older and is going through the ups and downs of puberty... only now she’s trapped in that life stage forever. Can you talk a bit about creating this internal chaos within Claudia on screen?
A: What I did was just technique. I used Uta Hagen technique, which is building a character that's not a part of you at all and not really using experiences that I've made personally, but instead experiences that the character would have had. Fortunately, I had the book to base it off of and I just annotated it like crazy. I would write quotes from the Anne Rice novel and then compare them with quotes from the scripts, and then build Claudia from that. From there I just had to live in her shoes. She reacts from emotion and she doesn't think anything through, which is really fun to play around with because everything is really sharp and quick. I always work from the ground up instead of tackling this really, really big thing that is Claudia.
Q: That’s so interesting because often when I talk to cast, they talk about pulling from their own life experiences, so it's so fascinating to me that there's a completely different technique of acting where you're purposefully not doing that.
A: Yeah! Yes, I've been 14. Yes, I'm Black. But besides that, Claudia has a way more pessimistic mindset than I do and her thoughts are very, very dark — that's just not who I am. So, the easiest way I could have stepped in her shoes was to really think, "Okay, what has Claudia gone through?" I made a very, very big backstory for her on her parents and how they treated her. I always held this image of who Claudia was before she was a vampire, and that was just a girl wearing probably the same outfit every day that was dirty, and she did not care. She had her only blanket that she would take with her from house to house, and she would just run around barefoot with the kids in the neighborhood. Even when you see Claudia in the other episodes, I tend to carry that through.
Q: I love what you're saying about building her backstory because I was curious about that too. Obviously, she mentions her aunt who died in the fire, but you're right, we don't really know much about her parents or her backstory.
A: As an actor I always ask "why?" All the whys need to be answered for me in order to play the character fully and truly. I asked, “why is it so easy for her to just quickly fall into Lestat and Louis being her dad and uncle?” That's a bit odd. But the reason why it's so easy for her is because she never had a loving parental figure. Her parents were not in her life. She lived with a mean aunt, who didn't really see her as a person but more as a tool. That's the backstory I made up. She would do all the cleaning and just anything her aunt would want her to do. Her aunt would belittle her, which is why this freedom of her running around and hanging out with kids her age is so special because it's not an experience that Claudia had all the time. Now she gets turned into this vampire and there are these people in this big house. She's never even seen a house like this! Never even stepped by it, walked by it because she didn't even live near it, and now she's in this house. She has all these clothes, and she enjoys playing dress up. It's not until later in the episode that she realizes, "Wait, there's more to life than this."
Q: What’s so fun about watching Claudia this season is seeing how she finds confidence through her clothing. She may not be able to show her age like a regular human, but the evolution of her maturity seems to be reflected in her outfit choices. Did you feel like the costuming added to Claudia’s journey?
A: Costume, hair, and makeup are always my favorite parts of my job. I love talking to the people in those departments, because as much as acting is my art, costume, hair, and makeup is their art. I always want to see, when they read the script, what were their first thoughts? It’s a huge collaboration. I want to know what they think, because then it helps me build my character. [Costume designer] Carol [Cutshall] was always so open to collaborate and we talked a lot about posture in the beginning. Claudia didn't have a lot of strong female role models, so her posture was always hunched over. She squats down.
She just wants to run around, play, be feral, and kill what she wants, when she wants, how she wants, and that was really important. We also wanted to make sure that my womanly figure was not shown, so Carol had all of my dresses and skirts start to shape at the hips rather than above the hips, so we wouldn't have that curve or the tightening, so it would really look like a little girl dress. You see that when I play Claudia. I see myself outside of work and then I see myself playing Claudia and I'm like, "These are two different people," which I love because I can step into this costume and become that person.
Along with that, there’s her makeup – we added a liner towards the end when she's becoming a tween. We had a Baby Claudia look, which was just really fresh skin, and then when she became Tween Claudia towards the end of Episode 4, we added a little dark liner, just to show she's trying. But one of Rolin's key notes was that Claudia always needs to do something wrong. We never should hit the nail on the head because she's never going to reach that point. So, with my hair the bows are always a little bit out of place or the updos are never as tight as they should be because she's trying, but she can never quite get it right.
Q: Even though Lestat is her maker, Claudia immediately shares a connection with Louis and positions him as her dad while Lestat is her uncle. What was it like working with Jacob and Sam to create this weird little family on screen?
A: It was really, really easy to do it because they were so dedicated to their characters. They also had some time to be in those spaces to establish a relationship between Louis and Lestat before I came in. So, the destruction that we wanted to create of just Claudia stepping in and changing the dynamic in this family was so easy and effortless. They're so dedicated to the craft and their job and they're such giving actors. If I ever needed something more to get a reaction in a scene, or if I needed to talk something out, they always made sure that I was comfortable and I felt safe on set. Claudia gets some very dark emotions and it's not easy for an actor to get to that place because you have to get very vulnerable. There's a fine line between the actor and the person, and there's a fine line between Bailey and Claudia. Sometimes I would pass that line and they always made sure that my mental health was great.
Q: So much happens in Episodes 1 through 4 that really sets the stage for the rest of the season. We learn about Storyville, about Louis’ relationship with his family, his reckoning around his own sexuality, his early relationship with Lestat and now his growing relationship with Claudia. There’s so much more to unravel, throughout S1 but what are you most excited for viewers to experience as the season continues?
A: I'm excited for them to see the journey of Claudia! It was so fun to create every episode, especially Episode 4 because it's such a big time jump for her. She's 14 and then it ends when she's 19, so we have those years in between that I got to play around with. I'm excited for audiences to see her evolution, see how she grows, and see how all the circumstances that she's put in affect her. The murder of Charlie, that's a huge turning point in Claudia's life. Throughout her entire life that will be a big, big moment and it changes the trajectory of who she is as a person. I'm excited for audiences to see the mark Charlie left in her life and how that will affect her throughout the rest of the season.
New episodes of Interview with the Vampire air on Sundays at 10/9c on AMC. Full episodes are available to stream on amc.com (with a cable provider login), the AMC apps for mobile and devices, and a week early on AMC+. AMC+ is available at amcplus.com or through the new AMC+ app available on iPhone, iPad, Android, Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku. AMC+ can also be accessed through a variety of providers, including AppleTV, Prime Video Channels, DirectTV, Dish, Roku Channel, Sling, and Xfinity. Sign up for AMC+ now.