ABC Reporter: Did Friends Mock 'Jesus Freak' Anne Rice?

March 6th, 2008 4:18 PM

"Good Morning America" correspondent Chris Connelly talked with horror novelist, turned religious fiction writer, Anne Rice on Thursday about how friends reacted to her becoming a "Jesus freak." Though the interview was a friendly one, Connelly did ask, in a jovial tone, what it was like when friends said, "'Oh, my gosh. She's out of her mind. Oh, no. Look, she's become a 'Jesus freak.'"

Now, he did attempt to distance himself from the phrase "Jesus freak" by using air quotes, but would any reporter employ a similar term when dealing with a member of another faith? Continuing the over-the-top "conversation" that Connelly assumed people had with her, he imagined, "'She's gone over to the bright side. Where is our empress of vampiric alienation?'"

Overall, however, the segment was mostly agreeable. Part of that might have to do with the fact that Rice, who appeared to promote her new novel about Jesus, is a liberal Christian. In the interview, she expressed her support for gay marriage.

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 8:43am on March 6, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: And now, novelist Anne Rice, best known for her best selling "Vampire Chronicles." Rice has turned a page in her life, embracing a new focus in her fiction, Christianity. Her new book "Christ the Lord" is the 26th book and the second in her series about the life of Jesus Christ. Chris Connelly sat down with her to talk about her new life on the page and in her heart.

CHRIS CONNELLY: These beautiful dolls, they made the trip up from New Orleans? Is that how--

ANNE RICE: They did. I had a huge collection in New Orleans.

CONNELLY: Across the hall from each other in Anne Rice's new home near Palm Springs are images of this best-selling writer's past and present. The author of "Interview with the Vampire" returned to the Catholic Church in 1996. Then in 2002 vowed to write books only for the Lord. The newest is "The Road to Cana," second in her series of novels about the life of Jesus.

RICE: What I want to do with this book and what I wanted to do with the first one was create a probable reality for the Jesus of the Bible. You know, take the Jesus I believe in and say, well, what was it like for him on a dusty winter afternoon in Nazareth.

CONNELLY: How did it feel when people in your life started to say, "Oh, my gosh. She's out of her mind. Oh, no. Look, she's become a Jesus freak. [Does air quotes.] She's gone over to the bright side. Where is our empress of vampiric alienation?"

RICE: [Laughs] Well put. Well, there was some tough moments.

CONNELLY: There have been other challenges too. Her husband, poet and painter Stan Rice, died in 2002. She had gastric bypass surgery and dropped 130 pounds. And after 15 years as beloved icon of New Orleans, she moved to California six months before Katrina hit.

RICE: I left, really, because my husband had died and my son, my only son, had moved to California and I found myself completely alone in this enormous house that had once been filled with a great deal of vitality.

CONNELLY: Have you been back since Katrina?

RICE: No, I have not been back. I have not been back. And I am fiercely afraid of going back. I will. I will go back. And I know it's going to be very hard. All kinds of people have gone there to help. Habitat for Humanity has gone there. I mean, and celebrities like Brad Pitt have done a great deal.

CONNELLY: You had a big role, in terms of introducing Brad Pitt to New Orleans. You can take credit, I think, for the work that he's done down there.

RICE: That's an interesting take on that. I never thought of that.

CONNELLY: Her commitment to Catholicism has not altered her political views. You're a proud Catholic and yet you support gay marriage.

RICE: I knew it was going to be difficult. My son is gay. He's a gay activist, a gay novelist.

CONNELLY: Some people would say he is going to hell.

RICE: Well, they would. But, but I don't think believe anybody in my church would say that. I think our view is far more compassionate. See, I trust in the lord. I know my son. And I trust the Lord knows my son. He's not going to send him to Hell. That's not going to happen.

CONNELLY: "Road to Cana" features a Jesus tempted by the devil in the desert. I can imagine the joy you must have taken in writing the scenes with the devil.

RICE: I was scared to death.

CONNELLY: It's like, you must have thought, you know, I kind of used to write from this guy's perspective. Now, I'm sort of writing from that guy's perspective. You changed teams in the confrontation.

RICE: Yes. Yes, I did. And I sat down to write and I started to think, now, what would the devil have really have done?

CONNELLY: Boy, if you don't know what the devil would have done based on the writings you have done, who would?

CONNELLY: The film of her best known work featured the rare pairing of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. She's thought about what actor could take on Jesus. Anybody you want to play Christ?

RICE: Oh, I think Johnny Depp would be absolutely fantastic in the role of Jesus Christ. I think anyone who has seen the full range of what Johnny Depp can do--

CONNELLY: She says many readers have told her they are enthusiastic about her new direction. For those who miss her old characters like the vampire Lestat, she offers some hope.

RICE: I'm thinking about writing one more book, but it would have to be a completely Christian book about Lestat, and it would have to be about salvation. If this is not a novel that's going to be Christian, I can't write it. So, Lestat's going to have to wait in the wings, 'til I'm sure. You know?

ROBERTS: And our thanks for Chris Connelly for bringing that to us. And you can read an excerpt of Anne Rice's new book on our website on