"One night in New Orleans": How location plays a big role in "Interview with the Vampire"

Louis and Lestat turn the page on their romance in the city where it began — setting up a lot for Season 3

By Kelly McClure

Nights & Weekends Editor

Published July 1, 2024 1:29PM (EDT)

Jacob Anderson as Louis de Pointe du Lac in "Interview with the Vampire" (Larry Horricks/AMC)
Jacob Anderson as Louis de Pointe du Lac in "Interview with the Vampire" (Larry Horricks/AMC)

In New Orleans, a city shaped like a soup bowl and situated between one and 20 feet below sea level, the presence of the dead — and the ghosts that linger — is part of the everyday atmosphere.

This location, which Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid) refers to as "the humidified daughter of Paris" on "Interview with the Vampire," is the perfect setting for Anne Rice's Immortal Universe — AMC's re-imagining of her most beloved works — because, in New Orleans, the dead has already risen. And, by design, what has been lost is impossible to bury.

Any Crescent City cemetery tour worth its price of admission will tell you that, prior to 1804, coffins kept underground would regularly pop from the dank Louisiana soil like corks in a champagne bottle. And by 1818, when above-ground tombs became commonplace, the heat combined with the utilization of a broom or long stick — the purpose of which, I'll leave to your imagination — made it so that entire families could fit into one final resting place. 

For vampires like Lestat and his fairweather fledgling and lover, Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson), loneliness, not death, is feared above all else. And it's easier to beat in New Orleans, where even the dead have companions. But over the lip of that soup bowl, the veil is pierced and all manner of torment is imaginable. As evidenced in the finale, "And That's The End of It. There's Nothing Else," which completes the two-season arc of Rice's debut novel and lays the groundwork for "The Vampire Lestat," the second installment of her "Vampire Chronicles," which Season 3 will, presumably, center on.

While AMC's adaptation of "Interview with the Vampire" has strayed from the source material here and there — but not nearly as bad as in "Mayfair Witches" — it remains true to one main theme: Lestat's love of Louis was never fully reciprocated. And because he couldn’t get Louis to return his affections, he made attempts to "break him." But, in the end, Lestat suffered the most when, time and time again, Louis fled from his attempts to make amends or, if not that, at least his efforts to get back to having hot coffin sex. 

The story of the first 70 or so years that the two spent together in New Orleans has, so far, been told mostly by Louis — with a fair amount of mind-bending influence from his rebound, Armand (Assad Zaman), who helps to edit the memory of Louis' entire vampiric existence up to that point, and the role Claudia (Delainey Hayles) played in creating a wedge in his and Lestat's already fragile bond. But in Season 3, we'll get to hear the story from Lestat's side.

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The flip-flopping of perspective in both the first and second seasons of "Interview with the Vampire" is a two-way mirror, allowing us simultaneous narratives of Louis and Lestat's ties — however toxic, and from whomever's point of view — as it's experienced in both New Orleans and Paris. And, like The Upside Down in "Stranger Things," what we see of Paris, and the memories relived while there, is a warped and distorted version of how they actually are, and were, in New Orleans. 

In the first episode of this second season, “What Can the Damned Really Say to the Damned," Louis and Claudia leave Romania for “the mother of New Orleans” — as Louis is heard saying in narration — Paris. En route, in a truck transporting priceless works of art, Louis tells Claudia that if she were the last vampire on earth, it would be enough. And while Daniel Hart’s gorgeous composition, "The Whole World Was Ready To Return" plays, the camera pans to the right to reveal a vision of Lestat, with a pained expression on his face after hearing these words. But as this isn’t Lestat in the flesh, only an imagining of him, what we’re actually seeing is Louis’ own pain reflected back at him. Because as much as he’d like Claudia to believe that what he’d said was true, and to believe it himself, it will never be. And each step he takes from here, whether in the forefront of his intention or in the back, takes him further from New Orleans, where Lestat calls out for him — and returns to wait for him in the season finale — as keeper of the ghost of their union. 

Louis has previously referred to Lestat as being "for Lestat." But he has that — like so many other things — very wrong. We come to see clearly in these two seasons that Louis is, actually, "for Louis." Putting his own needs and wanderings above all else, resulting in the untimely death of who he claims to love the most, Claudia. 

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

The first and second seasons of "Interview with the Vampire" position Louis and Lestat as bookends — two lovers who meet in New Orleans and spend their time pushing against each other in the hope of filling the gap between them, and in their own selfish and gluttonous hearts — reuniting at the end to bury what they had. But, just like the previously mentioned pre-1804 caskets, things will continue to pop up again.

In the season finale, the two reunite in New Orleans in a full circle moment, embracing in a run-down Creole cottage, the structure of which is rattling from a hurricane blowing outside. This moment contains an immense amount of visual symbolism, and the house it takes place in is VERY important.

Fleeing Paris — the city he spent his formative years in as a mortal — Lestat returns to New Orleans and secludes himself in this house, haunted by the memory of Claudia and the relationship with Louis that he mourns being unable to fully wrap his arms around, or keep where he wants it. And in Season 3, which begins the story of "The Vampire Lestat," he'll emerge from it (well, from under it), confused but, eventually, growing to embrace the modern world he's "re-born" in.  

In late 2023, as production for Season 2 was coming to an end, NOLA Twitter was abuzz with images like the one above, shared by locals who joined the crew to make this season's pivotal end scene in New Orleans come to life via exterior shots of Lestat's sad house, and shots of Louis smirking at incorrect information relayed during a modern-day ghost tour.

As most of this season was shot, not in New Orleans, but in Prague — standing in for both the mother of New Orleans, and the city itself — a lot of the magic fell on the shoulders of production design. And after a bit of pestering on my end, I was able to glean some intel on how Lestat's Creole cottage was fleshed out so perfectly in interior shots filmed thousands of miles away, and how they arrived at the location for the brief on-site filming in New Orleans for exterior shots. 

“I designed the set off of standard proportions and materials of the Creole Cottage," production designer Mara LePere-Schloop wrote in an email to me. "The team went out to look for historic creole cottages we could make look abandoned and on a street we could simulate a hurricane on and found several around town, but the one that really sang to me was in the Treme neighborhood on (1509) Dumaine Street. I thought the Treme house would make the most sense for Lestat as it is the closest neighborhood to where Storyville used to stand. We worked to make the house look derelict and abandoned on the exterior, so that it matched the level of decrepitude we had established in our built interior set in Prague. The New Orleans unit was on Royal Street at our hero location (the exterior townhouse) from Season 1 and at Dumaine Street for the reunion house.”

As AMC expands its adaptation of Rice's Immortal Universe with the announcement of another series, "The Talamasca" — continuing the story of Raglan James (Justin Kirk) and the rest of the society tasked with researching, investigating and tallying paranormal beings around the world — Lestat will be the focus, from here out, as the handsome vampire turned rock star (literally) who will be targeted from all sides for violating one of the coven's major rules . . . exposing his true nature to the entire world via a world tour. 

But until then, he exists in hurricane-prone New Orleans, waiting to blow the house down and expose Louis for what he is, the sum of his flaws.

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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