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. Creator and showrunner Rolin Jones wanted to take on a love story and relished the opportunity to dive into the luscious world Rice created. In this interview with amc.com we speak with Jones about putting his own spin on this iconic story, the collaborative energy that propelled him on set, and what viewers can expect to see in Season 2.
Q: How did this show come about? Was the source material something you were personally invested in taking on or did something else spark this as a challenge for you?
A: When I came in for my first meeting with the execs at AMC, we were going over all this stuff that I was interested in. Actually, one of the things I had told them was that I really wanted to write a love story. We just went back and forth about what books they had the rights to. Literally I'd gotten up with my stuff, put my backpack on, was heading out the door, and they were like, "You know? There's one other thing we got. You're probably not going to be interested in it." They said it was Anne's Vampire books and I stopped, I closed the door, and I sat back down. I was like, "Let's spend 20 more minutes talking!" A lot of the stuff that I was pitching to them and they wanted to see was something of scale, something large. I wanted it to have a very strong design element. So suddenly it was like, "Let's take a look at this."
Then I went on a two- to three-week odyssey reading all the books and increasingly saying, "You know, there might be something here. Don't give this to anybody else." Then I think I came back pretty definitively and I said, "I want it. Don't give it to anybody. I want to do it for you guys." I read the first book and then when I read the second and third books I was like, "There’s plenty here" and it feels really, really adaptable and open for serialization. I thought this was a good thing to become a TV show. I saw it pretty clearly.
Q: You made some changes to the source material, and the inclusion of Storyville was such an awesome way to incorporate a piece of real history into the show. Another change is making the interviewer more than just bookends and really fleshing out Daniel Molloy.
A: We're building Season 2 right now and I cannot tell you how important the relationship between Louis and Daniel is and how important the first interview is. There is a lot on Louis's side and Molloy's side yet to be discovered about what actually went on in San Francisco. It's pretty cool. It's actually turned out to be very cool.
Q: Once the scripts were solidified and the wheels started turning, you continued collaborating with the cast and crew. In chatting with Eric and Mara, everyone has said that you were so open to feedback and suggestions and had a lot of fun in the process. So, it seems like creating the show was an ever-evolving process, even once everyone was on sett.
A: The only way to do these things well is to collaborate constantly over and over again. Actors just have certain knowledge that you can try to fake sitting at a keyboard, but it's in their bodies. They know stuff that you don't quite know, so you have to be open to adjustments and keeping it all spontaneous. If you’re just slavish to a script, it’ll lack some spontaneity to it. I had to write the pilot in isolation in Covid. I normally would have gone to put my ear on the ground in New Orleans, but it wasn't a possibility at the time. So, one of the first things I did was to try and hire as many New Orleans people as I could. "Hey! What'd I get wrong?" It was a big round table. And it's the first season too! You're figuring it out on the fly — what works and what doesn't, what you gotta fix in post — all that stuff. Seeing the good ideas with really talented people, then getting the f–k out of the way. The things that they're doing, they’ve spent 30, 40 years figuring out, so woe to you if you want to micro-manage that. That ain't smart!
Q: How much input did you have into things like casting and how important was it for you to be hands-on throughout?
A: This is a collaborative art and scripts are maps for this giant production. So yeah, I'm in on casting, but I had two really sharp casting directors that were pulling talent from both sides of the ocean. There was an exhaustive search for Louis, Lestat, and Claudia. All three of them had very different journeys to how they got there. It wasn't one audition. I wanted to test range because I knew how volatile the show was going to be and how big and operatic it was going to be. I wanted some actors that could ride that edge, could go really big and really, really small and still be specific. I knew I was probably going to need actors who had some kind of facility for language so that they could take this high prose and make it feel like it's everyday conversation — and that's not a gift of every actor. It doesn't mean that those are bad actors, it’s just that not everybody knows how to do that. So yeah, I try to be involved in everything and try to have a foot in. I also like to listen to professionals, get out of the way, and cheerlead more than anything so that they can feel like they're in a place where they can do their best work. They're inspired to do it.
Q: I love what Eric said about the fact that all the voiceover that we hear is actually Jacob saying it by memory to Eric. That's so cool.
A: I've said this to a couple of people: I don't think there was an actor on earth in 2021 who worked harder than Jacob, strictly if you just went by the number of scenes he's in. He's literally in almost every scene. In normal television shows, even your lead actors are generally in one out of every three scenes. He's in every single one and it's unheard of. So, the fact that we gave him a break – "Hey, you don't have to memorize this" – he's a marathon runner. He's like, "What do you want me to do? 24 miles out of the 26? I'll do the last two. I'm just going to be complete about it." I think we got very lucky in that casting. I really do. You know so much from the audition, but you don't know the work ethic and you don't know the level of commitment. It was just heroic stuff.
Q: What were some of the most fun times you had on set? Were there any scenes or episodes in particular that you were extra excited about?
A: I have no hesitation saying that my favorite episode was Episode 6. It’s clear we have to kill Lestat, but it takes a full episode, like anything does in life, to really come to that conclusion. And so writing that as we were producing Episodes 3 and 4, and seeing that begin to come to fruition was like, "Oh, the reveal can be this way." A lovely thing happened too. Levan Akin, who directed Episodes 5 and 6, I don't think I've ever had a closer mind meld with a director in 18 years of doing TV! I took 75 percent of his cut when his director's cut for Episode 6 was turned in, which is a really high percentage.
There wasn't a day where I didn't feel totally humbled by the fact that there's 100, 200, 300 people every day working their ass off during these crazy vampire hours for this show that I don't know any other network would have made the way we're making it. Everybody was all in on it — because we really pushed these people to the brink — was pretty cool. I think everybody had some skin in the game, which is a different kind of set to walk onto. It's kind of the best gig I ever had! I hope Season 2's going to feel like that too because it's pretty special.
Q: Season 1 ends with Rashid’s formal introduction to Daniel Molloy and for those that are familiar with the book, we’re about to dive into Part 2. That means we’re headed to Europe, we’ll hopefully be meeting more vampires, and we’ll get to see what happens to Claudia and Louis as they endeavor to fully extricate themselves from Lestat. What can you tease out about Season 2?
A: I can tell you a couple things. The challenge is that in the second half of the book, there's less plot than there is in the first half of the book and there's so much internal dialogue. There are long scenes of people having discussions. What we're finding that's really cool about that is even though it's not giving you a wealth of plot, what it does have are these really big emotional tentpoles. There are big plot moments that we're retaining from it, but there are these emotional moments too within our plot that might be slightly different than what’s in the book. I'm feeling really, really excited about that.
We’re going to Europe and Part 2 of the novel is Episode 1 of Season 2. So, we're going there and we're going to experience that. Then we're going to Paris. We're going to see what coven life is all about, and we have some more time than the movie or even the book. We're continuing to make the interview part of this and just as important as the flashback, in that there are some very active things that are going to be happening in Dubai. Then, more than anything, and we teased it out a little in Season 1, the idea of memory and what is true and what isn't true is a big player in Season 2. It's all going towards, groping towards, who am I? How did I get here? What is to become of me now? There's a lot!
We’re having a good time and we’re going to try to squeeze as much French as we can in. People have to learn to play instruments. It's not easy. It's not easy being a vampire on our show! You’ve got stuff to learn. We're excited. We're happy. Season 1 is out of my hands and off into the world, and now we can build this next thing thoughtfully and beautifully.
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