Producer Spotlight: Carlton Cuse on 'Lost', 'Bates Motel' and More—'I Like to Make Shows With Big Stakes'
Producer-writer Carlton Cuse “likes to make shows with big stakes,” he says. “And I really like cross-genre storytelling.”
Cuse has stayed true to that course throughout his TV career. He describes his first series, 1993’s The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., as “an irreverent Western with science-fiction elements.” Lost, which made him a household name, “was an adventure show with science fiction.” And The Strain, returning to FX on July 16 (10/9c), “is an epidemiological thriller mixed with horror.” Here, he reminisces about some of his favorite projects.
Cuse reunited with Lost’s Josh Holloway for USA’s dystopian thriller, which returns next year. “When you think of an alien-
invasion show, you expect to see aliens and humans fighting. We wanted the drama to be about the propensity of humans to subjugate one another given the opportunity. Next season, we’ll dig in a little deeper. There will be a stronger sci-fi proponent and the audience will get a lot more answers.”
Bates Motel (2013–2017)
“[Cocreator] Kerry Ehrin and I had a five-year plan” for the Psycho-inspired series, Cuse says. “The final season was supposed to show our version of Norman after his mother [Vera Farmiga, above] is dead. We hoped the audience would really care about Norman by the time we got to the last episode. We never wanted to just deliver the ending of the movie, [we wanted] the story to stand on its own.”
“Everything worked perfectly in Lost,” Cuse says. “We had alchemy in spades, with the right cast [including Matthew Fox, above], a wonderful director and the right location in Hawaii. Our show, an intentionally enigmatic, complicated mystery, came along at the right moment in time, when social media was being born. And we violated traditional rules of network television—that made it fresh and different.”
The Strain (2014–present)
“Creature shows are only as interesting as the creatures, and I knew that [my partner] Guillermo del Toro, who cowrote the books it’s based on, would have a compelling and fresh take on making them interesting,” Cuse says of The Strain, now in its final season. “I love that the vampires are not brooding dudes with girl problems but scary, parasitic monsters, getting back to the root of what they represented in the horror universe.”