Bates Motel Executive Producer Carlton Cuse on ‘Magical’ Rihanna and Norman Bates’ Destiny

Co-creator of the Psycho-based A&E horror series also talks about Dylan and Emma’s dilemma and promises more Chick Hogan.

by | March 6, 2017 | Comments

Two episodes into the final season of Bates Motel and the series has already pulled back the shower curtain to reveal some familiar elements of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film Psycho: The guy checking into the motel under the alias David Davidson turns out to be Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols). His lover, Marion Crane (Rihanna) will appear soon, but Loomis is also the husband of Norman Bates’ (Freddie Highmore) new friend Madeline (Isabelle McNally), who bears a striking resemblance to Norma (Vera Farmiga). Being dead hasn’t stopped Norma from appearing to Norman, who also wears her dress and wig just like Anthony Perkins did.

Meanwhile, the new characters Bates Motel created are in uncharted territory. Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Emma (Olivia Cooke) are living happily far away from the motel fray until Caleb (Kenny Johnson) showed up. Since Emma sent him away, Caleb wound up discovering Norman’s secret. A broke and distraught Chick Hogan (Ryan Hurst) showed up to make Norman a deal to buy his hunting carcasses for taxidermy. Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is still in jail, dealing with the criminals he once put there.

With only eight more episodes to go, executive producer, writer, and co-creator Carlton Cuse teased the fates of Norman and his family, guests, and neighbors and reflected on how far the series had come in five seasons. Cuse, who co-created Bates Motel with Kerry Ehrin and Anthony Cipriano, spoke with Rotten Tomatoes by phone before Monday’s new episode.

Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: You’ve made it clear that Vera is still on the show. Was there ever any worry that viewers might doubt she’d still have a presence?

Carlton Cuse: I don’t think Kerry Ehrin and I ever worried about that. I think we worried a little bit more internally about giving her enough to do. I must say to Vera’s credit, she was always about what’s best for the show. I think that she understood in the overall arc of the series that her role this year was going to be different. Because her character is dead, she’s not as involved in the show as she’s been in previous seasons. She’s still in a lot of the show and when she’s there, she’s great. It was part of the overall architecture that we always had for the show.

RT: Did you ever consider not introducing a Marion Crane on Bates Motel?

Cuse: I think there was a phase in which we were worried about finding our own take on Marion Crane that was unique. What we didn’t want to do was cast someone who was a pale imitation of Janet Leigh, someone who would just make you think of that version of the character. We wanted to take Marion Crane and make her contemporary both in terms of the attitude of the character, the behavior of the character, and find some way to spin who that character was. Rihanna was kind of a magical dream-come-true choice. Had it not been her, I’m not quite sure what we would have done, but we were lucky enough to get her.

RT: Does introducing Sam Loomis’s wife give Norman a lot of new territory to explore?

Cuse: Her resemblance to Norma is very intentional. Let’s put it that way.

RT: How much work did it take to make Isabelle McNally look like Vera?

Cuse: A little bit of work, but when we first cast her, we felt this will work. They were close, but we tried to enhance it a little bit with wardrobe and hair for sure.

RT: Has it been fun coming up with scenes where Norman knows enough to make Sam uncomfortable?

Cuse: Yes, it was a lot of fun sort of pulling the strings of how this was all going to play out. Obviously when you meet Sam Loomis, you know that this character existed in Psycho, and he would visit the Marion Crane character in Phoenix, although in our story she’s from Seattle. They’re having this affair. We sort of set the hook at the beginning of the season in some of the same ways that the movie did, but things will not play out exactly the same.

RT: When you and Kerry created Dylan and Emma as original characters, did you know they would end up together from the beginning of the show?

Cuse: To be honest, no. That’s one of the great things about television is it’s a living, breathing entity. We reacted to the chemistry that we saw between the characters and it made sense to put them together. That was just part of the organic process of discovery that happens when you build an on-screen family. You put characters together, and you see how they connect or don’t connect. It really felt right to Kerry and to me that was the direction we should go.

RT: Will they get pulled back into the Bates nightmare? Eventually Dylan has to find out his mom is dead.

Cuse: Yes. How about that? Yes, he will find out that she’s dead. It’s a huge part of the drama the second part of the season: What does Dylan do once he finds out that Norma is dead?

RT: Kenny Johnson is in the teaser for Monday’s episode. Is Caleb going to be around the rest of the season?

Cuse: That I would rather not answer.

RT: Could Caleb exist in the same capacity as Norma, in Norman’s head?

Cuse: I suppose theoretically. We do play a little bit with reality, but maybe not that much. I don’t want to ruin anybody’s ability to interpret the show as they wish.

RT: Is it gratifying to you to hear the questions people come up with about what they’ve seen so far?

Cuse: Yes, absolutely. I think the sign of a good show is when it activates your viewers’ imagination and you start thinking about the world of the show. That’s great.

RT: When you created the character of Chick, did you imagine he might become the one who’s providing Norman with his taxidermy animals?

Cuse: Chick is just one of these characters, because Ryan Hurst is so awesome and plays the character with such a weird, quirky conviction, we fell in love with Chick. Chick, again in the sort or organic way in which television is created, we’ve made more out of Chick than we ever thought we were going to make out of Chick. Chick has taken on a really nice significance. We get to play out Chick’s story too. There’s a really cool part of Chick’s story that I don’t want to reveal.

RT: Did you go through a lot of different designs for Norman as Mother?

Cuse: We did. There’s some cool stuff coming up this season which, again, I don’t want to spoil. A lot of time was spent talking about how that would look.

RT: In 2017 the idea of a man dressing as a woman isn’t totally foreign. Is it safe to say the circumstances through which Norman does it is not what you would call a healthy expression of gender fluidity?

Cuse: Yes, the whole premise of the show is Norman’s descent into this multiple personality disorder and the consequences of that. The level of distortions going on for him are just growing and growing. That’s what the show is really examining. There are some interesting ways that we illustrate that thematically.

RT: What additional problems might Romero encounter in prison?

Cuse: The whole Romero story, which is kind of a crime story, I think is very fitting of the way in which we always saw this show as kind of an amalgam. Kerry and I always talk about the show as a romantic tragedy crossed with a pulpy crime drama. That is an interesting juxtaposition of genres. Romero is definitely going to play a key role in the pulpy crime drama as it goes through the rest of the season.

RT: Back when you and Kerry created the show, was there ever a version of Bates Motel that was more of an episodic “guest of the week” show?

Cuse: No, not at all. I think right from the very beginning when Kerry and I first sat down together, we saw this as the journey of a mother and son. We felt the ultimate question the show was going to ask is: Is Norman Bates destined to become the guy that we know from the movie? Is his fate inevitable? This season we’re going to answer that question. We’re going to find out exactly what his fate is. That’s really rewarding and is the result of five years of narrative work. The version of them entertaining guests at the Bates Motel like Aaron Spelling’s Hotel was never in the cards.

Bates Motel airs Mondays at 10/9C on A&E

Tag Cloud

X-Men batman police drama 24 frames science fiction Superheroe Rocketman MTV criterion MSNBC Sci-Fi TCM adaptation psychological thriller black ghosts worst movies Fox Searchlight Television Academy binge streaming Sundance TV Marvel Television rotten movies we love FOX Schedule Infographic animated DC Comics Horror RT History Biopics name the review CBS All Access concert nfl award winner Countdown documentaries cops 2019 reviews 72 Emmy Awards Walt Disney Pictures theme song Sundance Character Guide game show TruTV dark Starz strong female leads blaxploitation Song of Ice and Fire dramedy a nightmare on elm street Photos twilight Hallmark Christmas movies foreign New York Comic Con social media spider-man BBC One SundanceTV FXX serial killer BET Awards 2017 First Look President TV renewals USA cults stoner Disney universal monsters french cars satire football ID comiccon japanese Box Office game of thrones TNT Mary poppins Amazon Prime Lucasfilm Mudbound facebook Animation mission: impossible die hard screenings VOD jamie lee curtis sag awards movies Video Games justice league PlayStation Star Wars boxing festival Captain marvel dragons Trophy Talk Election Watching Series The CW critics Tubi nature Fantasy Turner Classic Movies A24 Columbia Pictures best Amazon Prime Video Marvel Studios Kids & Family APB Pop TV NYCC CW Seed witnail political drama Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Extras dc Crunchyroll 4/20 DGA docudrama Creative Arts Emmys Rocky Quiz Drama christmas movies YouTube Premium Amazon GLAAD stand-up comedy anime Rock Spring TV 45 2018 Certified Fresh technology HBO Max talk show south america archives ABC WarnerMedia Nickelodeon Netflix singing competition SDCC Nominations See It Skip It Opinion Musicals remakes Film The Purge Reality Competition indie reboot 2015 Comedy Star Trek HBO golden globes Toys Logo spy thriller Classic Film Syfy GIFs hist Netflix Christmas movies BBC America Rom-Com ratings cinemax Disney Channel Stephen King scary movies Disney+ Disney Plus Peacock indiana jones movie Warner Bros. Amazon Studios Martial Arts OWN what to watch DirecTV Anna Paquin cancelled TV series The Witch biography Fall TV TCA Winter 2020 Oscars Sneak Peek emmy awards Action unscripted Paramount crime RT21 vampires Country 71st Emmy Awards cartoon Best and Worst PBS Christmas Trailer Mystery teaser comic books Vudu Paramount Network miniseries Pirates renewed TV shows Ellie Kemper Calendar psycho versus Brie Larson parents crime thriller Travel Channel ITV Endgame Set visit sequels Nat Geo Comic Book OneApp El Rey spanish NBC Cosplay italian Super Bowl The Academy Avengers Mary Tyler Moore asian-american mutant ESPN Britbox Valentine's Day zero dark thirty CBS politics finale obituary TV Land natural history doctor who Year in Review Mary Poppins Returns Ovation halloween latino Polls and Games Comedy Central Tomatazos halloween tv series war BBC fast and furious documentary AMC MCU E! Cannes Cartoon Network cancelled television romantic comedy ABC Family E3 video Grammys boxoffice The Arrangement anthology adventure child's play spain American Society of Cinematographers Holidays tv talk Comics on TV Shondaland nbcuniversal news revenge blockbuster Ghostbusters IFC Films canceled zombie Turner Hear Us Out CMT Spike cooking Marathons DC streaming service Shudder spinoff PaleyFest dceu space LGBTQ sports Interview comics Holiday kids dogs superhero Winter TV harry potter TCA Epix discovery Apple crime drama Superheroes Elton John Reality Pixar Food Network Funimation Tarantino romance YouTube Red FX on Hulu Emmy Nominations GoT Awards disaster Sony Pictures rt archives cancelled true crime laika Lifetime Christmas movies video on demand crossover BAFTA 2016 venice rotten based on movie Mindy Kaling Premiere Dates comic mockumentary joker Crackle Tumblr cancelled TV shows films Podcast Pride Month Arrowverse richard e. Grant LGBT Musical transformers USA Network HBO Go A&E History Emmys Showtime zombies comedies YA supernatural 2020 Acorn TV fresh toronto festivals children's TV travel aliens Masterpiece Western Apple TV Plus chucky scorecard quibi FX Bravo casting medical drama thriller breaking bad cats Awards Tour Universal Lifetime composers sequel Dark Horse Comics free movies Fox News directors green book Apple TV+ San Diego Comic-Con australia Black Mirror First Reviews TCA 2017 Alien hispanic Academy Awards werewolf VICE diversity Spectrum Originals Red Carpet robots elevated horror spanish language Heroines Winners TIFF Freeform Summer all-time Teen TV franchise 007 classics CNN IFC BET Hulu Chernobyl book TBS Thanksgiving sitcom television The Walking Dead TLC Lionsgate SXSW canceled TV shows Marvel Women's History Month Disney Plus VH1 Music Adult Swim Writers Guild of America National Geographic Black History Month Pop DC Universe Binge Guide 21st Century Fox Family hollywood Baby Yoda worst historical drama Disney streaming service Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Pet Sematary toy story period drama stop motion YouTube Hallmark james bond independent deadpool WGN screen actors guild Television Critics Association Discovery Channel 99% Sundance Now Esquire slashers Trivia Film Festival 20th Century Fox TCA Awards