Jacob Anderson of AMC's Interview With The Vampire; Plus, why vampires are queer : It's Been a Minute Spooky season is upon us, so we decided to sink our teeth into the world of vampires. Host Brittany Luse kicks off the conversation with Kendra R. Parker, who teaches a class at Georgia Southern University about Black vampires in film and literature. They talk about the racial and sexual politics of vampire narratives and why humans continue to find vampire stories compelling.

Then Brittany sits down with Jacob Anderson, star of the AMC reboot of Interview with the Vampire. The two get into the shaky ethics of vampirism and the trauma of immortality.

Follow us on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin or email us at ibam@npr.org.

Our undying cultural obsession with vampires

Our undying cultural obsession with vampires

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Arturo Holmes/Getty Images; LMPC via Getty Images; Alfonso Bresciani/AMC; Photo Illustration by Kaz Fantone
Jacob Anderson plays Louis de Pointe du Lac in Interview with the Vampire.
Arturo Holmes/Getty Images; LMPC via Getty Images; Alfonso Bresciani/AMC; Photo Illustration by Kaz Fantone

Twilight. True Blood. The Vampire Diaries. When we think of 21st-century vampires, we usually picture them as – well, hot. But glamorous good looks are a recent pop culture update for these creatures of the night, whose stories have both terrified and tantalized us for centuries.

In this episode, we sink our teeth into our enduring cultural obsession with vampires. Host Brittany Luse kicks off the conversation with Kendra R. Parker, who teaches a class at Georgia Southern University about Black vampires in film and literature. They talk about the racial and sexual politics of vampire narratives and why humans continue to find vampire stories compelling.

Then Brittany sits down with actor Jacob Anderson, star of the AMC reboot of Interview with the Vampire. The two get into the shaky ethics of vampirism and the trauma of immortality.

You can listen to the full episode at the top of the page, or on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. These excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

Before they were sexy, they were feared

Kendra R. Parker: When we think about our vampires in the 21st century, we think about them as sparkly, seductive, misunderstood and kind of loved. But that's not always been the case.

When Dracula appeared in the 19th century, there was all of this fear, the English were preoccupied with borders, boundaries and nationalism. Between like 1881 and 1900 there was an increase in the number of non-English Jewish people. There was this xenophobia, this fear of Jewish people, this sort of threat of external colonization. And so these fears about the threatening outsider, who is going to come in and disturb the national pure body, finds its way into Bram Stoker's Dracula.

And if we come to the United States in 1898, we have newspaper images popping up out of North Carolina that depict Black men as vampires because there was this fear of Black men. There's this fear of black men being in politics and so that if you got black political power, then they're going to take over and destroy white women and all of that. And so you've got all of this propaganda.

And there are two images in particular. One is called "The Vampire that Hovers Over North Carolina." It appears in 1898, and it's a Black male vampire coming out of a ballot box. And there's another image that same time period in North Carolina where you got vampires coming out of the grave to vote and they're Black. And so there's this fear that if you let these monsters vote, they will take over and destroy our way of life.

Vampires have always been queer

Brittany Luse: I wonder what layers are added to vampire stories when a vampire is explicitly queer, or if a vampire is a monster of color, or possibly both?

Parker: If you think about what a vampire does, they bite your neck. Vampire teeth are often very pointy, and they [can be seen as] phallic symbols. So it can be a kind of sexual exchange when a male vampire bites a female victim. The same thing applies when Dracula wants to bite a male. The vampire doesn't really care who they get their blood from. They need to feed. But there's also usually this sort of orgasmic feeling that's supposed to happen when you get bitten by a vampire, because that's how you shift from being this whole monstrous thing that's feared to something that's desirable, [is] if there's pleasure associated with the bite. There has to be that transition if they're going to be this monster that we accept.

Monsters illuminating history

Luse: What makes vampire stories good vehicles for stories about race?

Parker: You get to add history, right? Vampires have to have some sort of history. We rarely think of a vampire who was born in the 21st century. It helps you think about things that you may not think about otherwise, including race, including gender, including fatphobia, sexuality. So I think that's why.

Jacob Anderson in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire (2022)
Photo by Alfonso Bresciani/AMC/AMC

Why we are obsessed with vampires

Jacob Anderson: It's something about them being in the shadows and only being able to come out at night, it ties into intrusive thoughts or the things that we think or feel that we would never want anybody else to know that we think or feel.

Luse: Shadow selves.

Anderson: Exactly. And they are also arguably the most human monster myth that's been created. Vampires are more or less just immortal human beings. It's just that they can only survive by taking the life out of other human beings, I think that there's a human thing about desire that's like, well, what if my desire is harmful to somebody else? Or like, what if my desire would make me a pariah to others? That feels like it ties into vampirism.

Luse: I wasn't even thinking about it from that way. Thinking about it like the fact that vampires really they're relying on humans, you know, to survive. Why do you think audiences continue to be so fascinated by vampires?

Anderson: There is something very alluring about immortality, but also very frightening about it. And that's often the line that people sit on when they go to horror or to comedy. It's something that's dangerous but also enticing. And vampires definitely fit that mode with immortality.

Luse: It's like, I can live forever. But then the flip side of that is you're stuck with your own thoughts.

Anderson: Yeah. Maybe this is revealing too much about myself, but I remember having this thought – it haunts me now: What if I just kept living? Like, what if this is just forever? I find that really terrifying as a concept. Because then you have to live with all of the people you disappoint, or the times you disappointed yourself. You have to just sit in that. But that's also being an adult, right? You are an immortal version of your childhood self that can look back and go, "Whoa, whoa, wait a second. I have to find a way to feel OK about it."

This episode of 'It's Been a Minute' was produced by Barton Girdwood, Jessica Mendoza, Liam McBain, Janet Woojeong Lee and Jamila Huxtable. It was edited by Jessica Mendoza and Jessica Placzek. Our executive producer is Veralyn Williams, our VP of Programming is Yolanda Sangweni and our Senior VP of Programming is Anya Grundmann. You can follow us on Twitter @npritsbeenamin and email us at ibam@npr.org.