News

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

zombie Television Academy biography toronto Cosplay BAFTA award winner tv talk breaking bad twilight politics TIFF Winners nature Comedy Central Mary Poppins Returns Mindy Kaling concert free movies 2018 video critics TCA scorecard franchise Martial Arts name the review IFC Films See It Skip It 2020 green book children's TV The Walking Dead San Diego Comic-Con robots TCM Drama Disney Channel streaming jamie lee curtis richard e. Grant festival CW Seed DC Comics TLC spain Acorn TV based on movie Lifetime Christmas movies ITV superhero spinoff Lucasfilm Ellie Kemper golden globes Star Wars TCA Winter 2020 Arrowverse Tomatazos docudrama hist adaptation 21st Century Fox mission: impossible FX Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Funimation laika cartoon dogs psychological thriller singing competition Photos hollywood The Arrangement Summer PaleyFest Hallmark book BBC child's play Pop TV AMC elevated horror festivals historical drama Sundance TV Emmy Nominations mockumentary Cartoon Network Rock boxing venice Shudder political drama werewolf 71st Emmy Awards christmas movies social media Awards Tour foreign Paramount Network discovery Netflix ghosts golden globe awards Nat Geo video on demand spanish language SDCC TV One comic psycho RT21 canceled TV shows halloween tv screen actors guild satire 2016 Chernobyl Super Bowl Character Guide strong female leads Black Mirror YA GIFs miniseries Television Critics Association cops dceu TCA 2017 space talk show BET Awards archives Academy Awards NBC President Biopics Syfy universal monsters Emmys Musicals Comics on TV A24 Podcast E! Black History Month Extras series canceled nfl diversity technology emmy awards YouTube Premium transformers Marathons American Society of Cinematographers Rocky HBO comic books obituary cults Sneak Peek Brie Larson Warner Bros. game show Set visit Peacock NYCC 99% 2019 Horror Fox Searchlight Interview VOD TruTV TNT Amazon Prime Video classics USA Network teaser reviews X-Men war Binge Guide Epix The Purge 007 Starz IFC CBS All Access OneApp VICE adventure National Geographic Walt Disney Pictures USA Box Office Mudbound Song of Ice and Fire best rt archives Baby Yoda unscripted blaxploitation Election anime Thanksgiving true crime cancelled slashers Captain marvel movies Food Network chucky Apple TV+ ID Certified Fresh science fiction El Rey news Reality Competition Spike stop motion worst Amazon A&E Tumblr zombies Family 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Creative Arts Emmys dragons natural history Paramount Lifetime Turner Year in Review Discovery Channel Amazon Prime GLAAD crime First Look dramedy CNN ABC Signature Oscars cooking binge stoner die hard Star Trek MCU Action police drama Superheroe Nickelodeon sag awards ABC Amazon Studios Watching Series composers SXSW television CBS Opinion Spring TV sequel game of thrones Apple remakes Disney+ Disney Plus BET revenge japanese romance Teen MSNBC french HBO Go dark Showtime documentary toy story Classic Film Holiday mutant criterion versus Disney streaming service spider-man Adult Swim indie The Witch facebook Apple TV Plus Musical vampires MTV Hear Us Out documentaries Crackle boxoffice BBC One Reality nbcuniversal Hulu crossover Winter TV worst movies The CW joker Pirates YouTube Red Shondaland First Reviews sports indiana jones Freeform YouTube trailers football scary movies DC Universe Comic Book Britbox Disney Plus pirates of the caribbean VH1 Sony Pictures Trailer comedies Superheroes Anna Paquin rotten movies we love sequels rotten serial killer Avengers LGBTQ 2015 comiccon theme song Quiz Schedule TV Land spy thriller james bond Marvel Studios Heroines FX on Hulu ABC Family The Walt Disney Company Pride Month Comedy jurassic park crime thriller deadpool Pop Trophy Talk fresh period drama batman harry potter Animation Stephen King medical drama casting romantic comedy DirecTV APB Bravo Best and Worst dc quibi Fantasy ratings Spectrum Originals WarnerMedia Netflix Christmas movies Dark Horse Comics Sundance Now New York Comic Con reboot Rom-Com parents justice league fast and furious films Nominations OWN Toys screenings asian-american Marvel Television Infographic zero dark thirty Music PlayStation anthology GoT disaster Esquire Awards Travel Channel Mary Tyler Moore witnail Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Lionsgate History black Pet Sematary Rocketman Ovation Video Games Masterpiece 20th Century Fox WGN Hallmark Christmas movies cancelled TV series Country Sundance travel sitcom finale DC streaming service Alien Pixar The Academy directors ESPN what to watch independent spanish Fox News FXX comics animated cancelled television Valentine's Day Writers Guild of America Red Carpet Fall TV cats TBS Tarantino E3 TCA Awards movie Kids & Family PBS Grammys Premiere Dates DGA Calendar rom-coms RT History Universal CMT Cannes BBC America hispanic Trivia Countdown latino 72 Emmy Awards Mystery Sci-Fi halloween australia Film cars Tubi HBO Max italian LGBT TV renewals Film Festival doctor who cancelled TV shows crime drama Turner Classic Movies south america Western Crunchyroll Disney TV FOX SundanceTV thriller 45 Columbia Pictures Ghostbusters Christmas a nightmare on elm street 4/20 Elton John Mary poppins Endgame Holidays Logo 2017 cinemax aliens kids renewed TV shows Vudu Marvel Polls and Games all-time Women's History Month blockbuster supernatural 24 frames stand-up comedy