"A thin veil": Why that "Interview with the Vampire" letter to Louis rings true to Anne Rice's style

Salon spoke to writers Jonathan Ceniceroz and Shane Munson about "Do You Know What It Means to Be Loved by Death"

By Kelly McClure

Nights & Weekends Editor

Published May 20, 2024 5:29AM (EDT)

Jacob Anderson as Louis de Pointe du Lac and Sam Reid as Lestat de Lioncourt in "Interview With the Vampire" (Larry Horricks/AMC)
Jacob Anderson as Louis de Pointe du Lac and Sam Reid as Lestat de Lioncourt in "Interview With the Vampire" (Larry Horricks/AMC)

The following contains spoilers for "Interview with the Vampire" Season 2, Episode 2 "Do You Know What It Means to Be Loved by Death"

Comparing the writing in AMC's adaptation of Anne Rice's 1976 debut novel, "Interview with the Vampire" to that of the network's ambitious but clumsy reimagining of her "Mayfair Witches" series is, fittingly, like night and day.

In "Interview," episode after episode, the writers effectively tap into the thrum of Rice’s own words, providing viewers — even ones who have no prior experience with her work — big gulps of the guilt, longing and love her vampire characters spend endless years trying to wrap their arms around. The exquisite pain that can threaten to make eternity feel like an impossible burden to shoulder, when joy and anguish are always hand in hand. While, in "Mayfair," the established roots of the source material are left dry – with much of the cast and crew admitting in past interviews to not doing their homework going into production, which would have been evident – even left unsaid. The difference is like watching a well-costumed high school performance based on a beloved work or, in the case of "Interview," watching with the feeling that the original creator is behind every shoulder, guiding every hand, whispering the words in their own voice, in their own cadence, just beyond the veil. A possession of creativity. 

In "Do You Know What It Means to Be Loved by Death," the second episode of "Interview with the Vampire's" sophomore season, Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) is getting settled in 20th century Paris, dragged through its lonely and war-torn streets by a bloodthirsty Claudia (Delainey Hayles), haunted by the memory of Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) his maker and lover, whom he betrayed at the end of the first season. Complicit in a botched attempt at murdering him; but knowing full well that he'll always be with him, in some form, in some way; Louis tortures himself by going to Pierre Roget & Associates, the law firm that handles the vamp family's finances, to hear from something other than his own guilty conscience that Lestat's death is probable, but not confirmed. While there, Louis is given an ornate keepsake box containing a letter from Lestat, pre-written in the event of his death, and the words of this letter are so much in the style of Rice herself that I spent days doing a deep dive into it, which brought me back to her archives, put into the care of Tulane University after her own death in 2021.

Finding an opportunity to, once again, sit at a table surrounded by Rice's perfume-scented journals  – revision pages marked with rusty paper-clip indentations, and day planners filled with every tip she ever left a server, accounts of most of the meals she ate each night, and notations of the alcoholic beverages she tried not to drink, but did, most evenings – I found myself moved to tears, beyond reason. Having to lean back from the table several times to avoid dripping on the stacks, because they're irreplaceable, and we'll never get any more of them. But as I flipped through hundreds of her pages – including a first draft of "Interview with the Vampire" that had been kept in her office in her home in New Orleans, in a keepsake box I imagine being similar to Lestat's – I couldn't find the origins of the letter read in this episode, leaving me to conclude that the show's writers, Jonathan Ceniceroz and Shane Munson, wrote it themselves. With the help of the show's team of publicists, I was able to hear back from the writers about this, which was such a pleasure for me.

“We felt it would be totally romantic if Lestat left an 'open upon my demise' letter to Louis, solidifying his eternal love, and yet one that signals that he may still be alive in some way, 'waiting on the other side,' etc." Ceniceroz and Munson said in a response via email. "Moreover, we wanted to introduce Pierre Roget as a character, and having Louis visit his office would most likely reveal some documents or objects of Lestat's left under Roget's care, which could be an unexpected way for Louis to confront their fateful romance early on in Paris.” 

In response to my prodding on how they were able to nail Rice's writing style so perfectly, Munson said, "We were reading the books and keeping them forever close. The letter speaks to love's otherworldly (dare I say, supernatural) power among all beings. It is a double-edged sword of hope and despair for Louis."

“Rice’s influence is a flickering candle, always," adds Ceniceroz, "but we can choose which areas of the room to illuminate." 

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No writer, or team of writers, has ever given me the sort of emotional goosebumps Rice has. But Ceniceroz and Munson pulled it off with this:

In the event that you are reading this, something dreadful has occurred. Which is not my own death, but rather, the fact that we both now exist in two different worlds. Do not waste your life seeking revenge on the person or persons who did this. Do not give them the satisfaction of the hunt. Let treachery eat away at them from within. And you, you go carry on with your living. Know only this, mon cher: you are the only being I trust, and whom I love, above and beyond myself. All my love belongs to you. You are its keeper. A veil will now forever separate our union. But it is a thin veil, and I’m always on the other side, face pressed up against your longing. 

Hearing Lestat — not his physical form, but Louis' memory of him — read this letter, it's easy to not only imagine Rice writing the words, but saying them herself, as she, also, now exists in a different world. In the literal sense, she rests in the Rice family mausoleum in New Orleans' Metairie Cemetery. But, for the fans who loved her, and love her still, the veil, as Lestat said in his letter, is thin. And this show brings her back to life, in so many ways, although she didn't live long enough to see it, and her son, Christopher Rice, wants nothing to do with it.

Interview with the VampireSam Reid as Lestat de Lioncourt in "Interview with the Vampire" (Larry Horricks/AMC)

In 2022, I slid into Christopher's DMs on X (Twitter at the time) to share with him a story I'd written about "Interview with the Vampire" last season, and received this response: "Dear Kelly. Thanks so much for writing and for reaching out and for your kind words about Anne. It's always deeply moving to hear how others were affected by her passing. I have no comment on the series and must direct all inquiries to AMC. Hope you are well and enjoying this spooky fall season. Best, Chris." A kind response to me, yes. But reading between the lines, it says a lot about his feelings towards the series. I hold on to hope that he gives it another chance. But I can only imagine how difficult it must be to — perfect or not, in his eyes — be haunted by the memory of her in this way when, as Louis has said of Lestat, nights are reserved for remembering.

Weeks ago, at the start of my research at Anne's archives for this article, Christopher sent out an email regarding preparations for a massive celebration of her life, the planning for which has been underway for some time now. 

"We know there’s a long and glittering reputation of lavish, nighttime costume balls celebrating Anne’s life and legacy," He writes in the email. "Anne’s Celebration of Life is going to be a complement to those wonderful parties, but with its own unique flavor. Costumes will most certainly be welcome, but we are envisioning ours to be a daytime, multimedia theatrical event where the stage will play host to a variety of musicians and speakers, all of whom will join together to tell the story of Anne’s dazzling life and legacy. In other words, we plan to put on a pretty big show! That’s why we’re taking the time to make it perfect." 

With her name permanently tattooed on my arm and her words indelible in my heart and mind, I'd like to think that, yes, I do know what it means to be loved by death. And all of Anne's other fans, friends and family do as well as we wait for this celebration of her life, faces pressed up against her longing. 

In researching Lestat's words, I'm called back to Anne, his true maker, and a journal entry from 1974 where she writes, "It's just before 4am on Monday morning, Jan. 14, and I have just finished my vampire novel. Three hundred and thirty-eight pages. Even as I write this, the flaws occur to me. Perhaps I'll go in and add something terribly essential. But right now I want to enjoy the moment of being finished." Further down, she continues with, "I feel that even the writing of this entry is important — I dream, hope, imagine that this will be my first published work. I feel ashamed of nothing in it. Not even what I know to be flaws. I feel solidly behind it, as though Louis' voice were my voice, and I do not run the risk of being misunderstood."

Louis' voice, mentioned by Anne here, is a perfect way to end this, as he speaks in this episode of the importance of time, beauty, and leaving your mark on life with creative pursuits. Describing it as: “Wrestling time to the ground. Staring it into submission. Holding it in your hand."

"I was there. This occurred," he says. And it, like Lestat's letter to him, is all but a whisper from Anne herself. 

By Kelly McClure

Kelly McClure is Salon's Nights and Weekends Editor covering daily news, politics and culture. Her work has been featured in Vulture, The A.V. Club, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, Vice, and elsewhere. She is the author of Something is Always Happening Somewhere.

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