Interview With the Vampire Q&A — Sam Reid’s Attention to Detail Helped Bring Lestat to Life
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 5, Claudia’s absence brings misery to 1132 Royal Street, and we see a startling new side of Lestat (Sam Reid). In this interview with amc.com we speak with Sam Reid about taking on this iconic character, Lestat’s true feelings about Louis, and how Claudia’s very existence gives Lestat the validation he needs.
Q: I read that you're a big fan of the source material and relished the opportunity to play this iconic character. When you first read the script, what about Rolin's spin on the source material excited you the most?
A: I think what Rolin managed to do is maintain the mood of Anne Rice through his writing. He's made some changes, but the core essence and the feeling behind her writing really presented itself in his script, which I was so blown away by. Reading it you latch onto different types of things, but there is this overarching feeling that's there and that exists in all the books. I thought Rolin really encapsulated it beautifully.
Q: Elements from other books like The Vampire Lestat have been integrated, right?
A: Yeah. Looking at Episode 5 as an example, when I first read it, I was sort of shocked because there's a very violent act that Lestat does to Louis, which is not necessarily something that you would think is coherent to his character. But when you look at the overall arc of the show and of Lestat as a character in that show, what Rolin's done is he's managed to find a way to link the two. In the first book Lestat is very different from what he is in the second book. He's a very different character. Obviously, there are a lot of points of view and perspectives, but there's this sense that by the time you get to the end, the last books, he's really developed.
Lestat goes through major milestones as a character throughout the entirety of The Vampire Chronicles, and Rolin has found a way to link where Lestat ends up to the Lestat that you first meet in Interview with the Vampire. There’s the seed of the Prince, of someone who’s perhaps more in tune with his humanity, but he's not there yet. We're seeing this primordial version of him. In Rolin’s adaptation he worked out a way to — and once I understood this, I really appreciated it — build that character's arc. He has to go to certain places to be able to start a redemption arc. Once I got over the changes he made, because as a fan of the material, it's quite difficult to deal with changes – I looked at what those changes were doing to serve the show, and I thought he'd done an extraordinary job.
Q: You’ve put your own unique stamp on this character and really dance a fine line between utter elegance and absolute terror with this iteration. How did you prepare for this role? Were there specific elements that you used as touchstones to really get you into character? It must have been daunting to take on a character you love so much.
A: The good thing was that I could always go back to the books. It’s one thing that was very useful. I always went back to the books. The books give you this sort of internal dialogue written by Anne Rice for a scene interpreted by Rolin Jones, so it's quite a fun exercise as an actor. And then were also obviously the French lessons, the piano lessons, and things like that! Discovering what his voice was actually going to be like was exciting because I didn't really want it to be just French. He’s just under 200 years old and he's been to a whole bunch of different places. When you're playing somebody who's speaking another language that's not their first language, you have to ask where they've learnt it. So, by the end of the show, he should be speaking a bit more ‘American’ because that's where he's consuming most of his English. He’s not learnt English in America, so in the beginning when we first meet him, he shouldn't really sound American. He should sound more like wherever he's learnt English from. Rolin and I spent a long time discussing where and how he’d learnt English. In the books, you can go back and say he's learnt it from the oarsmen who were rowing the boats that he rode into the city and things like that. So, I pulled from the books, but there were things Rolin and I had to work out. We thought maybe he's coming out of a big sleep pre- Interview with a Vampire and perhaps he was listening to some colonialist archaeologist in Egypt, where he's picked up some English from them!
Anne also describes him as this very graceful, feline-like creature, so looking at cats and felines was really helpful. He’s capable of killing a pack of wolves with his bare hands, and a flail and sword. So, there's this duality within him that I always wanted to keep playing with. So it was kind of fun! You sort of think, "Okay, this guy's really elegant, graceful, effeminate, and feline-like, but he's also very tough, hard-shelled, and aggressive when he wants to be." So you play with that oscillating duality, which I think is really fun. He does change — that's the great thing about Lestat. Some days I'd be like, "Oh dear, I don't know where he's gone today. I don't know what's happened!" But he'll be different tomorrow because he's never the same. As an actor it's very satisfying to know you don't have to make a firm decision, because he’s also an actor and he also has a performative quality to him, so you don't always have to know who he is. He's sometimes pretending to be something.
Q: The relationship between Louis and Lestat is rife with complications, but at its core there’s a real connection there. What was it like crafting this tumultuous relationship on screen with Jacob Anderson? You two are quite good friends having come out the other side of Season 1 so if anything, I’m sure the experience brought you closer together?
A: Yeah, definitely. It definitely brought us closer together. It was really crazy this stuff that we were doing together. We'd have these massive scenes, and it would be just him and I in the middle of the night playing opposite each other, not really being able to see each other all the time with the contact lenses. You just rely so heavily on one another. You also rely on each other because you're like, "Have we pushed it too far? Is it too much? Is it enough? Like, do we believe each other?" Because it's this very intense relationship but we’re also supernatural beings. So, you're constantly having to reframe the way that you look at a relationship and say, "Well, hang on, my character has all this power." Like in Episode 4, I remember saying, when all the police are coming over to the house, I was like, "Why are we even worried about this? I don't understand why I would be even concerned about this at all." But you're negotiating with someone who's going, "Yeah, but my desire to have a connection to humanity makes this important," and so you're like, "Oh, okay." We managed to balance off each other in that way, because my character's way past any connection to humanity and Jacob's character is holding onto those last threads of his humanity. When we'd both be examining a scene, we'd both be coming at it from different angles. Because of the love between the two characters, there's always that negotiation and blunting of the other's real intention. I couldn't really imagine doing it with anybody else! We did all of it, everything, together, really.
Q: Having talked to much of the cast and crew it’s clear that everyone was all in and committed to what they were doing, across every different part of this project. There was just a deep feeling of cohesiveness that I guess happens when everyone's giving 100%, right?
A: Everybody was 100% in! I think everyone realized how special it was. It was a beautiful script. It was really challenging material, it was vampires, and they were Anne Rice vampires too! It was this heady concoction of a just really chaotic, and exciting place to be at work. We were all working through the night for six months, so everyone went slightly mad! You feel that watching it too. You sometimes think, "Whoa, this is crazy," because the show never lets you relax. And it felt like that while making it, that there was this snowball effect. It was really fun, particularly when you step back and you have a look at what was made. It's extraordinary!
Q: Even with all the manipulation, violence, and toxicity between the Louis and Lestat there are also incredible moments of levity and comedy as well. My favorite exchange between them in S1 has to be in Ep 4 when you’re discussing Claudia’s new skirt. It’s just the perfect exchange.
A: So that line — we were sitting there and I think the way that the blocking of that scene happened, it took Bailey a little bit longer to get to the drunk man at the fountain from the car, so there was a delay. Rolin just came up and said, "Sam, why don't you just say, 'I'm not sure about that pleated skirt,' and Jacob say, 'It's chiffon. It has movement.'" And we both found it so funny. We literally just did it on the spot. Rolin came up with it on the spot, and it just ended up being this lovely moment that we just kept finding so hilarious! I thought it was such a lovely insight to both of their characters as well because you always wonder who was dressing Claudia. I think at first Louis is dressing Claudia, and Lestat does not think well of the way that Louis's dressing her, but of course Louis has an incredible sense of style.
Q: By Ep 5 when you’re both faced with parenting Claudia, you’re completely overwhelmed. Do you think Lestat wants to be a guardian in any capacity or did he just do it to keep Louis placated and present? Parenting an angsty teenage vampire is hard!
A: No, I don't think he had any intention to ever be a parent. He doesn’t want to live a vampire existence looking after a teenage girl, a teenager, or child in any capacity. But I think what happens is that he can see a way to make Louis happy and he wants Louis to be happy because he wants to be happy himself. He does love Louis. I don't think he fully understands how to love properly obviously, but he does love Louis. And Louis wants this and so he gives it to him. I do think through the creation of the vampire Claudia, Lestat is validated in a way. Now he's got somebody who’s like him, who’s vicious like him, and has that monster quality in her that he also has in him, which Louis fights so hard against. So in a way, Lestat's very validated by that, so he appreciates Claudia, I think. What he doesn't want Claudia to do is make the same mistakes that he has made in the past. Lestat has made too many close connections to humans. When you get yourself tied up into human business or human affairs, you very quickly are exposed to your own demonic nature and that's a really confronting thing to deal with. I think Lestat's trying to encourage her to just be her preternatural demon vampire self and I think Louis's always trying get her to also hold onto her humanity, and that’s the problem between the two of them.
Lestat and Louis are not right for each other right now. I think they're a wonderful couple and I think they love each other somewhere, but I think Claudia was a Band-Aid for this broken relationship. She continues to expose their differences, because they can't really work out a way to raise a child together while being faithful or honest to their individual needs. But going back to Claudia, I think Lestat really does appreciate Claudia's validation that she gives him as a monster. When she leaves and then returns, I think he hates her because Louis is more depressed. He pays Lestat far less attention than even before she was there when they were fighting. At least he was willing to fight with me. Now he's just ignoring me in the corner, and to ignore Lestat is just the worst thing he can do to him! You have to remember that this guy was ripped off the stage to be turned into a creature that has to hide in the shadows. It's not something that he's dealt with or can deal with particularly well. He had his life really going for him before he got turned into a vampire. He's making the best of it, but to ignore him is not a good thing to do!
Well, he wants the spotlight on himself, for sure.
A: Yes, and I think he also wants to feel validated. I think that’s that question that the show and Anne Rice ask all the time: if I'm a monster and I'm evil, then why do I exist? What is the value of my existence? Is it just to be evil? Or maybe I'm not so bad or maybe I'm just going to embrace myself and not give myself such a hard time. The thing is you can really carry the weight of your existence as a monster and you'd either be really depressed by it because it doesn't fit your true sense of self, or you embrace being a horrific monster and you walk around with a cloak on and scare people. Or you're like, "Okay, I'm bad, but I'm also beautiful, amazing, and awesome." I think that's Lestat's M.O. He's like, "Yeah okay, I am an evil creature who survives off killing people and I'm into it because it does feel good to drink blood, but I'm not going to be made to feel like I'm just some Satan creature. I'm going to embrace myself and accept it.” I don't know if he's really done that, to tell you the truth! But he keeps telling himself that and that's important.
He's faking it until he makes it.
A: That's right! He fakes it until he makes it! But I think that's why Louis's really important. We have to remember that in the books Lestat only kills bad guys and that's how he makes sense. You have to ask yourself why Louis and Lestat have found each other, and what do they really need from each other? Lestat and Louis living off the blood of evildoers was Louis's intention and Lestat's not really there at this point. He’s learned something from Louis, but he’s not there yet. I think Rolin's managed to take all the Lestat information from these books and start to create one singular show, and I think that's really beautiful. In terms of what happens in Episode 5, we need Lestat to go all the way to realize he's gone too far. He needs to start to rebuild himself in a new capacity. Unfortunately, I don't think that happens this season.
Q: There are only two more episodes remaining in S1. What are you most excited for viewers to experience in these final two episodes? Season 2 can’t come soon enough!
A: Well for the next two episodes I think most people don't know what's going to happen or how we're going to get there. I think it won’t go quite the way you thought it would go. I think I'm most excited for people to see the unfolding of the aftermath of Episode 5, because it was surprising to me when I read it and it's a pretty complicated twist and turn of events. You get to learn a bit more about Lestat, which I think is lovely. To keep being able to dig a little bit into this figure who you don't ever fully understand. You don't really know him, and I don't know if he fully knows himself yet. So, you start to learn a bit more about Lestat throughout the next two episodes. And of course, you really get to see the mastermind of Claudia step up to the plate.
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.