Interview with Nestor Carbonell and Carlton Cuse of BATES MOTEL
We here at Agents of Geek had the opportunity to participate in an interview with members of the Bates Motel cast and crew in actor Nestor Carbonell and Executive Producer Carlton Cuse. Carbonell and Cuse answered many questions about the direction of the show, its characters, the story, and its conception. We decided to ask a few questions related to the conception and development of the show, as well as its place in the history of the Psycho lore. Continue below for our excerpt from the interview below for more behind the scenes details on the show!
Craig Doleshel: Hi, Nestor, Carlton. Thank you so much again for doing this for us. So a couple of questions here on some related topics.
The mythology behind the character of Norman Bates and Hitchcock’s Psycho obviously loomed large before the series, but the show has been a great success anyway. Obviously, there’s a huge fan following and it’s received great reviews from critics, but what was it like preparing for a production like this with that history behind, both for Nestor as an actor and now as a director? And then, Carlton, as a writer and producer?
Carlton Cuse: Well, you know, I think, obviously, there was some in trepidation about taking on this very storied franchise. And, you know, Psycho to me is in that category of a perfect movie. It’s one of my favorite all-time movies and I think it’s just impeccable. And, you know, the sequels and other projects that had fallen kind of behind it, not so much. I mean they weren’t so great. So, you know, obviously, there’s this little fear about trying to kind of walk in the footsteps of that movie in a way that will be entertaining and hopefully original.
So that, kind of, spurred this idea to embrace the idea of really changing it up to not make it period, to make it a contemporary prequel. To just take a couple of these iconic characters and iconic graphic images of like the house and motel and tell a mostly brand new story. And in fact, Kerry Ehrin and I sat down and we started talking about it. The thing that really interested us was really subverting the audience’s expectations and you know if you watch that movie, (Norma Bates) is, kind of, one of the great characters of cinema who we actually really know nothing about, you know?
I think from the movie your expectation is that she is this horrible shrew who berated her son into becoming crazy. We thought what if we actually flipped that completely around and then she’s incredible loving woman whose son has sort of this fatal flaw in his DNA and she sort of smothers him with love and affection. And then maybe that actually has the opposite effect in that it, kind of, helps catalyze this flaw in his DNA. And what if we told the story not as a kind of a typical serial killer story, but as an incredible tragedy/love story.
And so those ideas seem to counterweigh the dangers of taking on the Psycho franchise, but we just got so excited about them. And we thought that they had so much potential. And that I think really allowed us to go and make it. And I think for a while, and I think even honestly to some degree now, that the show gets it’s just due because it’s under the Psycho moniker. I mean, honestly, I would, I will put this season on Bates Motel up against anything on television this season on a quality level. Hands down, I think it’s as good as anything on television.
And, you know, I think there are some people who ignore the show because it’s some sort of Psycho remake in their brains. But they haven’t watched it and seen that really it’s an original show that borrows from the mythology of the movie. But we’re not retelling the same story. We’ll be telling our own brand new, original, unique story. And I think we’re doing an incredibly good job.
And I’m so proud of Kerry and my other fellow writers and the actors on the show. I really I get frustrated a little bit because I feel like I don’t think the show is as recognized as it should be on a quality level.
Nestor Carbonell: Well, I agree with Carlton. I think you put it so well. The taking on this iconic feature, I’m sure was daunting. You know, your take on it, yours and Kerry’s take on it, exploring a dynamic that we only imagined in the movie. You know, Norman and Norma and exploring that that sort of unamiable relationship. And obviously turning it on its head and making her extraordinarily sympathetic. That to me was that’s where the show takes off.
You know, that exploring that and then you add a brother and then all these characters that and it’s all reimagining. You take some license there. But adding Dylan into the mix and making that dynamic even more complex. And then exploring the town the way you did to me was extraordinary. I remember you sent me the first six scripts when you called me to see about joining. And I was up until I think four in the morning because I couldn’t put them down. They were so extraordinarily well written. And obviously, like any good writing, character-driven. So that was another thing that obviously jumped off the page to me is that they’re all, everything is motivated through character.
But no, I was, and from my part as an actor, Sheriff Romero was a completely new character even though it was the Sherriff in the original. I had a fairly blank canvas to work with so I didn’t have the illness that Freddie did to take on the iconic role.
Craig Doleshel: Season 1 blew me away and obviously the fan following has continued strong because you guys built such a strong world and such strong characters. It wasn’t just Norman, it was all the other layers around Norman and Norma getting some bigger history. Whether it was Bradley and Sheriff Romero or Caleb and Dylan. You guys did a fantastic job.
And like you said, I think for the show the fan following speaks for itself. It should be even larger because it is, like you said, such a strong show. As it continues to grow stronger over time, in home releases, and, eventually, syndication, knowing that you’ll forever invariably be linked to Psycho. Is that something that makes you happy, something that you wanted to stay completely separate, or do you mind having that relationship?
Carlton Cuse: You know, I feel that we’re, we’ve used the Psycho moniker to tell this sort of gray, sprawling, kind of, pulpy romantic tragedy. And, you know, that would have been a hard sell without the Psycho label. So I’m grateful that the label allowed us to tell an original story that probably wouldn’t have been made without out, you know.
One of the great things about television is that shows get discovered over time now. The Wire, for instance, wasn’t, a huge hit when it first came out,but now it is universally acknowledged as one of the best, if not maybe the best show, ever on television. Because people started watching it when they could binge it.
And I think binge-watching Bates Motel is going to be a really rewarding experience because I think some of the things people questioned or didn’t understand at the beginning now make a lot more seen in the context of four seasons of storytelling. And, you know, I think it will be super interesting just because of like Freddie Highmore, for instance, his evolution. He started the show as a kid and he’s this, you know, really this teenager and he’s grown across the, you know, across this. Will have been working on the show for about six years by the time we finish it. And, you know, he’s matured and become, you know, a young man.
And I think that actual physical transformation exists concurrent with his evolution as a character. And I think it will be really evident and really interesting when you are actually binge-watching the show. And, you know, because you know, we will have made that show over, you know, basically five to six years. And you will have seen the physical changes in that character which, kind of, corresponds with the change in his psychology. I think that’s really great. And, you know, again, I just feel like all of the things that we did. This weird cocktail of this sort of nuanced romantic tragedy played against the sort of pulpy crime story of this town. I think it all makes a lot more sense in the context of seeing a lot of episodes of maybe it did to people right at the very beginning.
And you know, I hope it becomes one of the shows that say, Oh, my God, I got to binge, you know, Bates Motel because I think it will be a really rewarding experience.” And, you know, we have some incredible stuff coming up this season. And I think that will make the show, even more, binge-worthy for audiences.
Catch the final two episodes of Bates Motel on A&E, Mondays 9pm/8c.
More information on the show can also be found HERE.