Jacob Anderson as Louis de Pointe Du Lac in Interview With The Vampire. Image: BBC / AMC
Jacob Anderson is already filming the second season of Interview with the Vampire when he calls The Big Issue. The lavish, sensual morality tale, which has already won admirers in the US, is set to capture the hearts of millions here when series one arrives on BBC2.
Anderson, 33, hails from Bristol, releases music under the moniker Raleigh Ritchie (joining Stormzy onstage at Glastonbury in 2019), and is best known for his Game of Thrones role as Grey Worm – the stoic, solid, dependable eunuch leader of the Unsullied and loyal soldier of Daenerys Targaryen. His new role could scarcely be more different. As Louis de Pointe Du Lac he is passionate, driven to embrace vampirism by his lust for handsome vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid).
We see him in the present day, interviewed by journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian). We learn that they first talked back in 1974 – a neat conceit to update the story to the present day and enable reference to Covid and Enron and lines like “I told my editor I was meeting the most dangerous man in the world. He said: ‘Bezos or Putin?’”
But as he tells his life story, we soon flash back to New Orleans in 1910. Louis is a young business owner frustrated at being held back within high society by racism when he meets mesmeric stranger Lestat.
This is just one break with the original books and 1994 film starring Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and a young Kristin Dunst – in which the protagonist was white. Similarly, if the Pitt and Cruise film only hinted at the depth of the relationship between Du Lac and Lestat, the 2023 version of Interview with the Vampire is overtly, proudly queer. It’s also bloody and brilliant and bold – with a truly beguiling slow southern style…
Were you a fan of the books or the 1994 film?
I was aware of the film as a kid and for some reason – I’d have to some kind of rewind therapy to find out why – the idea of the film freaked me out. It scared me. Then when I watched it in my teens, I saw it was really fun, lavish, gothic storytelling. I know it sounds a bit woowoo, but when I got the pilot script, I had this feeling of anxiety. There was stuff in it that felt personal. But you always run towards what you’re scared of – and it’s such a beautiful meditation on human guilt and shame and desire. All these things are explored through the lens of vampirism, and I love stuff like that.
What was it in the script that felt personal?
A really striking thing for me with Louis is that he is trapped in these spirals of guilt and shame and he has really low self-esteem. It comes out at first as this sort of brash, braggadocious tough guy. For me, it manifests differently. But since as early as I can remember, I overthink everything, I run in circles around myself and around the universe to figure out why do we do what we do, why we think how we think, why did this happen?
I was a very anxious child and that spilled into my adult life and I’m trying to work on it. Now I’ve got a child of my own and I don’t want to her to pick up on those same patterns – but something about the way Louis processes the world felt really familiar. So I told myself that if I didn’t use this as an opportunity to go to places with myself then I wasn’t doing my job. I had to dig in a little bit and it was a really therapeutic experience.
There has been 30 years of societal and cultural change since Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise played Louis and Lestat. What does this version do that they couldn’t or didn’t?
There’s something really interesting about vampirism and how it relates to race and sexuality and Otherness. Vampires are outsiders. They exist in the shadows. But there’s something so deeply human and meditative and thoughtful and tortured about them. And not to pin those things on to any particular sexuality or race, but that’s how you’re made to feel in society when you’re othered. You feel you feel like you’re in the shadows.
So I think it would be a missed opportunity to not explore that – especially in New Orleans, which is such a big part of the books. It’s a 60% Black population. So to not have Louis be a Black or Creole man feels odd.
And how does that inform the storytelling?
Something I really responded to is the idea that you can’t buy yourself out of the perception or labels that society puts on you. No amount of power can enact that change. It’s a big thing for Louis. He thinks getting this vampiric power is going to give him power in a human context. But it doesn’t. He still comes up against the same stuff. Because there’s no amount of power that can buy you out of racism. I thought that was a really cool thing to frame around vampire mythology.
Louis is a reluctant vampire – in that he is reluctant to kill humans. But he does kill a racist white man…
He kills a couple. In the books Louis is constantly battling with this idea of his own sense of mortality and his humanity. All the adjustments to the story for this adaptation only enrich that idea. What is there to save about humanity? What is there to care about? Louis could be a powerful vampire, but he still wants to be accepted. He wants to be included. Because he’s never been allowed to feel human.
There has been a lot of talk of living forever recently, like it has almost become a new final frontier for the super-rich to try to reach – but does this series show immortality is overrated?
Absolutely, that’s the main thrust of season one. It’s all about this idea of endurance. If you live an immortal life, it’s so painful because the world is not permanent. The things that attract you to the world and ground you have an impermanence to them, and you have to live through that and keep building yourself back up again.
We also see that in Doctor Who, which you’ve been in recently, where the Doctor has to carry such loss and grief with them. And this is not your first major book series adaptation – did making Game of Thrones as part of a huge ensemble help you take the lead in Interview with The Vampire?
There were lots of days on Game of Thrones where I was just stood there in my armour looking stoic, trying to keep as still as possible, and wasn’t necessarily a participant in every scene. But something I learned was that you don’t have to be speaking to be part of telling a story.
I learned how you can do a lot with your face and your body. Not to sound pretentious, but you have to be present, keep watching the scene, and stay part of it. You have to make yourself a participant. That was really useful for Louis, because he is stuck in his head – he doesn’t talk a lot in the old New Orleans scenes.
But I also got to see Emilia Clarke and Peter Dinklage being joyful, brilliant people to be around in Game of Thrones. If there were days on Interview With The Vampire when I was really tired, it was good to remember that Emilia used to get up at four in the morning to have that wig put on and she would be a delightful human being all day.
There is much more sex in this new version – it’s been described as coming out of the narrative closet…
They are in a romantic relationship in the books. They’re married by the end. Maybe Anne Rice didn’t fully know what their relationship was at first – the style is very different in the first book. Lestat is this kind of goblin monster torturing Louis. But when you look back with the context from further books, you see this man was just very repressed and so hurt by what happened between him and Lestat that he couldn’t acknowledge him as his lover, as his partner, as his great love.
But by the second book, they’re absolutely a couple. And because we’re adapting the whole of The Vampire Chronicles and taking things from later books and repurposing them, the idea of telling this story and them not being a couple… well, there’s no show! Their love story, as messed up as it is, is the heart of it.
Was there any trepidation in signing up to another long-term role – especially after just becoming a dad?
There are sometimes things where you go, I can’t not do this. But I also have a family and a life at home. And I can’t just run off for six months at a time. So I was really, really fortunate that my wife [Jacob Anderson is married to War and Peace star Aisling Loftus] came to New Orleans with our daughter and lived there. We’d see each other at weekends and for a few hours in the morning before or after work. That’s a sacrifice that she had to make in order for me to be able to do this.
So it’s not something I can or would want to constantly do, but – I think I can say this – initially, I wasn’t signing up to a big long series. I was signing up for this one self-contained story with potential to come back later on. But I am quite wary. And there are things I’ve decided not to participate in because they were too intense for my life.
What is your Big Issue at the moment?
How do I pick just one? No, there’s a charity I am involved with called Place2Be. When I was growing up there were a lot of things that happened that I couldn’t quite understand. And I didn’t really have anywhere to put that. I was lucky I figured out I could write songs and deal with these feelings. I found an outlet. But a lot of young people now are anxious or depressed and haven’t been given the tools to understand things about themselves. Those children can grow up to be adults that are struggling, every day, and in some cases are lucky if they get to adulthood.
So the idea that we can keep talking about our mental health, continue to open up and not be uncomfortable talking to our children or with each other about where we’re at. That’s something I so wish that I’d had for myself. Place2Be provides a space for children at school where it’s completely safe, they can go and talk to a professional about anything ranging from things happening at home or school or social things or their education and pressure. I’m really passionate about what they do.
That’s great – and did you want to pick another Big Issue?
On a more selfish level – maybe not selfish – but I want more diverse stories in the UK. I want us to have more opportunity to talk about our own rich lives. We still have quite a homogenous white output in the UK. There’s stuff that I’ve worked on with channels and production companies that didn’t get made or hasn’t gotten made yet. But I’m trying.
And I want to find a way to do more. Having a creative outlet was so important to me. As a child, it saved my life. It literally saved my life. I want to find a way to help young people know there is an option, you can do something creative. It doesn’t have to be your job. But it can be a good way to dispel some of the difficult energy that can sit inside you.
Interview with the Vampire starring Jacob Anderson is on BBC2 and iPlayer from October 12