Who Is Armand, Anyway? A guide for AMC Interview with the Vampire fans who haven’t read the books.
So you’ve devoured the first season of AMC’s sumptuous Anne Rice adaptation like a lukewarm bag of AB negative and made it to the big reveal: Rashid is actually Armand. The love of Louis’s life, apparently??
Who is this fucked-up, intense little guy??? Let’s find out!
[Contains MAJOR BOOK SPOILERS. CW: sexual assault, underage sex, gore, violence, suicide, general vampire mayhem.]
The Story of Armand
Armand was consecrated to the Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv as a child because of his skill at painting Byzantine-style religious ikons, which he created in a trancelike state that led the monks to say they were “not made by human hands.” (One of many, many indications that Armand is autistic, by the way.) He expected to take his vows and become a monk when he came of age, but his father objected. He dragged his son—whose given name was Andrei—out of the grim, subterranean monastery when he was about fifteen and had him create an ikon to be delivered to a local prince, whose castle was known to be in wild lands overrun with barbarians.
On the way to the castle, their party was overtaken by Tatars. Andrei’s father was cut down with arrows and Andrei was carried off by horsemen. He was taken by ship to Constantinople, raped, and sold to Venetian brothel keepers, who thought he was mute because he refused to speak. In Venice, he was beaten and starved, locked in a dark cell for refusing to comply. He was on the verge of death when the ancient vampire Marius de Romanus heard him calling out telepathically, praying to die.
Marius was 1,500 years old by this time. In mortal life he had been a Roman historian from the time of Augustus Caesar, but he passed as a human painter in the thriving Venetian art world. (Observant show viewers will remember “Rashid” showing Daniel Molloy one of Marius’ paintings in the Dubai penthouse.) He would often take in downtrodden boys and put them to work as apprentices in his studio, which was his intention when he purchased Andrei from the brothel. Then he got one look at those tousled curls and big, brown eyes and…hoo boy.
Marius gave him the name Amadeo, “beloved of God,” because of the images of religious paintings he had seen in the boy’s mind. (The traumatized Andrei had forgotten his own name and much of his early life.) Marius nursed him back to health, with a side of [censored] and [redacted], and Amadeo flourished in his new surroundings. He soon learned Italian and befriended the other apprentices but found that trying to paint caused him extreme distress for reasons he couldn’t articulate.
Over the next two years, Marius gave him the best education Renaissance Italy had to offer, with the intention of sending him off to the University of Padua. Realizing their sexual relationship wasn’t healthy for Amadeo (NO SHIT), Marius banished him from his bed, only for the stubborn little bastard to hack through his chamber door with a battle axe. Marius resigned himself to the fact that he meant to bring Amadeo into the Blood eventually and encouraged him to go enjoy all the mortal pleasures (i.e. freaky sixteenth-century sex) while he could. And boy, did he ever!
He became friends with benefits with a witty and charming courtesan, Bianca, and had various other affairs. All these shenanigans eventually led Amadeo to be wounded by a poisoned blade in a duel. He killed the other guy, but the damage was done. Amadeo had a haunting near-death experience in which the monks he’d known guided him to the gates of a celestial city, and all his lost memories of childhood came flooding back. To pull him back from the brink, Marius was forced to make him a vampire at the age of seventeen.
Marius spent the next several months imparting to Amadeo the code he had lived by for centuries: kill only the evildoer, and otherwise live among mortals without harming them. Change with the times and observe the movement of history. He traveled with Amadeo back to Ukraine to let his family know he was still alive, and Amadeo reconciled with his shitty, abusive father, who had survived the attack by the Tatars but was drinking himself to death because he blamed himself for the loss of his son. He gave his mother gold and jewels for the family and promised he hadn’t been corrupted, apart from, y’know, becoming a reanimated corpse.
The Underground Years
Back in Venice, the bloody honeymoon was about to end in flames. Marius’s house was attacked by a Christian vampire cult called the Children of Satan, who wished to punish him for living brazenly among mortals. They set Marius on fire with torches and burned his lavish palazzo, overpowering Amadeo and kidnapping him along with the rest of the apprentices and taking them on a ship to Rome. (OH GREAT time for another traumatic boat ride).
The cult burned the human apprentices alive in a huge bonfire and threw Amadeo on the flames, only taking him out when he swore to join them and abide by their rules. Their leader, Santino, saw great potential in Amadeo, who had incredible mental powers even as a fledgling, able to hypnotize, spellbind, and create elaborate illusions. Amadeo was locked in a basement cell and starved of blood until he went insane. The vampires finally brought him a victim and he killed the young man instantly, only to discover that, to his horror, it was his best friend Riccardo. This cycle of starvation lasted for months, until even the fiery Amadeo lost the will to rebel.
He became Santino’s protegée and was groomed to lead the Paris vampire coven. He took the name Armand (since Amadeo had godly connotations), and for over 250 years he lived beneath Les Innocents cemetery and ruled the vampires of Paris with an iron fist and a disturbing willingness to dismember anyone who crossed him. He took no pleasure in anything except the kill, and for decades he trudged forward, enforcing coven laws he knew deep down were bullshit.
[Now we are getting into POSSIBLE FUTURE SHOW SPOILERS, so be advised.]
Then, in the 1780s, news reached him of a tall, blond vampire striding proudly in places of light in a red velvet cloak. Could this be his old Master, come at last to save him from this endless nightmare?
Lol, no. Fuck no. It was only an upstart fledgling named Lestat, who had committed the supreme crimes of entering a church, living among humans, and making his own mother into a vampire. To punish him, Armand kidnapped and tortured Lestat’s mortal lover Nicholas. Lestat came to confront the coven in the catacombs and decimated their ancient beliefs with his Enlightenment reason, proving that there was no need for them to fear living among humans or shun holy ground and sleep among moldering bones. Armand’s coven disbanded—by which I mean he burned most of them on a pyre—and he was left shellshocked and facing a frightening new century.
As retribution, he seduced Lestat with the Mind Gift, draining his blood in an attempt to kill him, but Lestat snapped out of the enchantment and beat the everloving shit out of Armand—like, cracked his skull—then took pity on him and took him home to the stone tower where he lived with his mother/fledgling/lover, Gabrielle (yeah, they’re…a whole other thing). There, Armand shared his tragic backstory with them telepathically and begged them to take him with them. Lestat refused, for obvious reasons, but he pitied Armand—possibly because he looks like an eternally lost teenage boy. Lestat left Armand with the deed to the Paris theater where he had worked as an actor before being turned into a vampire against his will. He also left Armand in charge of his boyfriend Nicki, who had gone catatonic after Lestat turned him into a vampire. (I’m sure this will end well.)
Along with the vampires from the old coven who still remained loyal to him, Armand created the Theater of the Vampires, and for the next century they killed people onstage in an orgy of gore for the amusement of the boulevard crowds who thought it was a clever illusion. (He also chopped off Nicki’s hands and drove him to suicide because he wouldn’t stop playing the violin and bumming everyone out.)
Armand fell back into old patterns, leading the coven but living a life devoid of passion as the nineteenth century stretched on. That is, until he met an alluring, melancholy American vampire named Louis. In Louis he saw a kindred soul, someone who could understand his pain and loneliness. There was only one problem, and her name was Claudia.
During this time, a mangled Lestat came to find Armand and beg for his powerful healing blood, having survived Louis and Claudia’s attempt on his life. Still bitter that Lestat had refused his love (and, uh, general unhinged qualities), Armand punted him off a building and broke every bone in his body, which Lestat took two years to heal from in his weakened state. Armand lied to Louis about Lestat still being alive and did nothing to prevent his coven from executing Claudia for his murder. He was secretly relieved when Louis killed them all in revenge.
At last, Armand had Louis all to himself to wander the long nights with. But the grieving Louis would not be consoled, and all Armand’s attempts to protect him from the worst of his pain with the Mind Gift–also known as hypnosis and gaslighting–left him a shell of himself. After a long, sad divorce era, Louis eventually dumped him in the early decades of the twentieth century.
What is an immortal insane person to do? Find a depressed, rat-sucking Lestat in New Orleans, obviously, and tell him you are single and ready to mingle and I know I stole your husband and killed your daughter but please love me. Understandably, Lestat told him to fuck off, and Armand walked the earth for years, lost and alone, until one night in the early ‘70s he found Daniel Molloy lurking around Lestat’s abandoned townhouse (because he was also lurking there).
The Devil’s Minion
Armand imprisoned the intrepid boy reporter in a basement for several days (are you sensing a pattern here?), then told him to start running. If he proved entertaining, Armand wouldn’t kill him. Daniel was flush with cash after publishing Interview with the Vampire as a wildly successful novel, so he led Armand on a merry chase around the globe, and their fucked-up game of cat-and-mouse soon became a fucked-up romance.
Daniel became Armand’s guide to the modern world, and Armand kept him in luxury that put Marius’s Venetian palace to shame. Armand became obsessed with technology, making horrible concoctions in kitchen blenders and endless video recordings. For ten years he gave Daniel everything except the one thing he thought he wanted—to be a vampire. He did, however, give Daniel a vial of his blood to wear around his neck so everyone would know who he belonged to. As you do.
This caused terrible fights. Daniel would leave, go on a bender for days or weeks, and call Armand to take him home. The blood exchanges between them only maddened Daniel, and by his early thirties he was wasting away from alcoholism, drugs, and subtextually implied AIDS. Armand was left with no choice but to turn him—breaking a vow to himself he had kept for 500 years never to sire another vampire.
When Daniel received the Dark Gift, Armand’s worst fears were realized. With their minds sealed to each other by the Blood, they drifted apart. Daniel wasn’t prepared for the grisly realities of being a living dead guy, and he started to unravel. Armand, never the sanest knife in the drawer to begin with, was ill-equipped to deal with this.
Enter Marius, who stepped in to look after Daniel until he got back on his feet. (Surprise! Armand’s maker survived being horrifically burned by jumping in a canal, but he took a whole century to heal from his injuries. Once he was strong enough, he secretly sought out Armand in Paris, but decided he was too brainwashed to attempt a rescue. Ouch.)
This Bleak Modern Era
In the mid-‘90s, Lestat experienced a Divine Comedy-style journey through the afterlife and apparently met Christ and the Devil, which left him in a coma for several years. This awakened Armand’s long-dormant religious streak, and he attempted suicide by sunlight. He was too old and powerful for it to work though, and two humans helped him recover, a young concert pianist named Sybelle and her adopted brother Benji. Armand took them under his wing, and they became his companions. As a gift to Armand, Marius (who you will recall is GREAT WITH BOUNDARIES) made them into vampires so he wouldn’t have to wrestle with the moral implications of doing it himself. Armand was furious at this, but eventually forgave him.
Daniel lived with Marius for about fifteen years, until catastrophic events in the vampire world brought everyone together once more in 2013 in Armand’s New York residence, Trinity Gate. Daniel and Armand were reunited, and Armand once again fell out and (partially?) reconciled with Marius. This is the state of things at the end of the Chronicles, as far as we know.
I love Armand so much because this demented goblin boy is a survivor. He would face nuclear fallout with grim determination and an army of cockroaches he controls with his mind. His ruthlessness and capacity for violence frighten even other vampires. He will straight up disembowel a mf. His love is grasping and possessive because he has been abandoned so many times. His short human life was one of nearly unbroken suffering, and like Lucifer, he decided it’s better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
Andrei. Amadeo. Armand.
A castoff thing with no surname. Brutal and tender, master manipulator and lost child. The most tragic character in the Vampire Chronicles, and, I would argue, the best.
As the man himself once said: “If I am an angel, paint me with black wings.”
So far, the show has already made the wise decision of aging Armand up a few years and transferring his eternal adolescence angst over to Claudia. It remains to be seen how much of his origin story will be maintained, but with the smart adaptational choices already on display in the handling of Louis’s and Daniel’s characters (and the excellent casting all around), it’s safe to say everyone’s favorite murder gremlin is in good hands.
I for one am waiting with bated fangs for Season 2, when we’ll hopefully get some answers about what happened to Daniel’s memories, what’s going on with Lestat, and just who is behind this interview anyway. My money’s on the most feared iPad-wielding coven master on earth.
Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire is available to stream on AMC+.