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Because of their charm and seduction, it's easy to forget that vampires were also meant to be frightening and tragic. Author Anne Rice made sure that was clear when she introduced Claudia in her book Interview with the Vampire. Claudia, a 5-year-old child that Louis fed on and Lestat turned, is then tormented to live for eternity with the mind of a woman and the body of a juvenile. In the pages of Rice's book, Claudia experiences a myriad of disturbing moments, stuck in this perennial visage, which makes for some indelible reading. But actually showing those things committed by a 5-year-old actor in a film or television adaptation is an entirely different line to cross.
In the AMC adaptation of Interview with the Vampire, Claudia (Bailey Bass) is introduced in Episode 4, “The Ruthless Pursuit of Blood With All a Child’s Demanding" which features an origin story that departs from the source material in terms of situational specifics and the age when she is turned. Despite loving Claudia's extremely dramatic turning in the book, showrunner Rolin Jones tells SYFY WIRE that he knew it would be almost impossible to beat, so he came at it a different way.
First, when it came to Claudia's age in the series, Jones says he followed Rice's decision in her screenplay for the 1994 movie which featured Kirsten Dunst in the role. "When Anne did her adaption for the movie, she sort of gave us a roadmap. She aged up Claudia to around 11," Jones points out. But even that age meant there would be severely restricted child labor laws for an actress playing Claudia in a television series, which often shoots for 10-hour days. "Claudia is such a huge part of this show and this universe, so we wanted to have as much screen time as possible," Jones explains.
Knowing their limitations, Jones says, "You throw all of that down and then you go to the writers’ room and ask what do we do? We thought there would be a third way to go about this, and that is to lock Claudia in the chemistry of a 14-year-old, with the body chemistry of that and all the fluctuations and passions that happen."
The right actress for that iteration of Claudia ended up being teen Bailey Bass. "Bailey’s done a really remarkable job of giving us this third version of Claudia. And I think everybody’s going to be quite thrilled and surprised by it," Jones says.
Bass will soon be seen in the Avatar sequels as young Tsireya, but right now she's a relative unknown, and most audiences will first discover her as Claudia. Bass says she was excited to step into the role of the infamous young vampire because this version of Claudia is doomed to exist in eternal puberty. "She has all of those emotions for the rest of her life that she has to deal with, on top of dealing with the fact that she’s stuck in a 14-year-old body even though she turns 20, 30, 40, 50," she says.
Series director and executive producer Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) says that using Claudia's "crisis point" as the basis of their take on the character became a unique and beautiful story to explore. "I have two teenage daughters and it’s fascinating to think what would happen if this phase was extended for potentially eternity," Taylor says. "The fact that Bailey took that on and made it her struggle in her first audition, it was like, 'Okay, yes! We have it now. This works.'"
From Episode 4 onwards, audiences get to see Claudia's mental acuity speed right along under Louis and Lestat's "parentage" with combustible results. Bass says they dubbed the different versions of vampire Claudia's evolution as Baby Claudia, Tween Claudia, and Adult Claudia. But Episode 4 is perhaps the creepiest stage with Baby Claudia's pink coffin and juvenile bedroom decor. "We had scenes where I got to play around with the environment," she says. "And if it wasn’t for [production designer] Mara LePere-Schloop's beautiful and smart [design], I don’t think those scenes would have been as impactful as they are."
New episodes of Interview with the Vampire air Sunday nights on AMC.