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There have been a gazillion complicated vampire love stories, but in the modern age, Anne Rice's pairing of Lestat de Lioncourt and the human he turns, Louis de Pointe du Lac, is the ship upon which all others are compared. Both were introduced in Rice's 1976 bestseller Interview with the Vampire and she continued to chart their tempestuous love/hate affair over 40 years within the 13 novels she wrote for The Vampire Chronicles. So, translating them from Rice's pages to screen is no small thing when it comes to wanting to please both the existing fan base and sell those who have not read the books the importance of their immortal connection.
Back in 1994, director Neil Jordan brought Interview with the Vampire to life for the big screen and cast megastars Tom Cruise as Lestat and Bradd Pitt as Louis. For the new AMC series adaptation, the weight of "perfect casting" fell on showrunner/executive producer Rolin Jones. And after wide scale casting searches he picked Brit Jacob Anderson (Games of Thrones) for New Orleans-born Louis and Australian Sam Reid (2:22) as the centuries old, Lestat.
Jones calls the process of finding the two leads as one that was "battle-tested" because of all the layers of auditioning and screen testing each actor had to do. Anderson, who was coming off multiple seasons playing Greyworm on Game of Thrones, still had to go up against a "zillion other actors with callbacks and finally chemistry tests with actors in the running for Lestat," Jones tells SYFY WIRE. "You really go through a gauntlet for it. But what we were constantly seeing was that there were these built in things about Jacob. You liked him and there was this depth of feeling and humanity.
"He also had a facility for language that was going to be really, really helpful," he continues. "Both he and Sam speak this heightened prose and dialogue, as if they're just talking. Not everybody has the ability to do that. A lot of actors have to act in between the lines. They could do it on top of the lines, which is just something that was going to be easy for the kind of writing I was doing here."
What has since blow Jones away is Anderson's ability to be the anchor of the series with such drive and determination across a shoot that includes Louis in just about every scene in the series. "There's no break," Jones says of Anderson's stamina, not just as an actor but as a new parent. "You go and you do your 10 pages of dialogue this day, and then you come back the next day while he's also raising a 1-year-old in a city he doesn't live in. Say what you want about his performance, which I think is lovely and nuanced and beautiful, but just on a pure stamina level, there isn't an actor alive on planet Earth, who worked harder than he did in the year 2021."
Jones has equal praise for Reid, joking that he initially recoiled from the Aussie's headshot and tape because he was so perfect looking. "I would be lying if I didn't say right from the first audition that Sam was the front runner right from the beginning," he admits. "I told everyone near me to stop and watch. And everyone's like, 'Oh, my God, what is that?'"
In Reid's first audition tape, Jones remembers being struck by a decision Reid made about Lestat's dialect and delivery. "It reminded me a little bit of Jeff Bridges in Star Man in that Reid added a little French accent, but the center of it was this is a guy who, I felt like, had been around for 200 plus years. He sounded like a guy who has traveled the world and has picked up things along the way to create what is only a Lestat accent. And I was like, 'Oh, that's interesting. Anytime that guy walks into any room, immediately heads are going to turn.'"
Ironically, Reid told Jones that he was worried that he'd blown the audition by making it too campy. Jones disagrees.
"The first audition scene was the 'meet cute' scene at the bar and then it was the climactic church scene," Jones says of two crucial scenes in the pilot episode. "And he f***ing went for the church scene! I think everybody was like, 'Oh my god, that's too much!' And of course, it looks like too much because he's sitting there behind a blue screen in his apartment. But, I knew how big and operatic I wanted this to be and if he could do that, I was like, that's what you need. I just knew he has just this gigantic range and I got very, very excited about that."
The first episode of Interview with the Vampire is available now for AMC+ subscribers. New episodes air on Sundays on AMC.
Looking for more blood-sucking fun? Reginald the Vampire debuts on SYFY Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 10 p.m. ET.