As the doors prepare to swing open again at the Bates Motel (returning for Season 3 on March 9), we sat down with the town’s resident lawman, Nestor Carbonell. Carbonell’s face should be familiar to fans of the show Lost—his signature darkly lidded-eyes are hard impossible to remember. On Bates, his character rides a tenuous line with Norman and this mother Norma, so we asked him where Season 3 might lead—and what his chances of survival are.
You’ve played many lawmen in the past. What drew you to this role in particular?
Sheriff Romero’s Dirty Harry-style justice, his disdain for the cruel and deceitful, his inability to suffer fools, his unapologetic moodiness, and his fascination with Norma Bates are just a few of the things that drew me to play him. That and, of course, getting to work with such incredible writers as Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse, and a ridiculously talented cast. The role of the ornery, enigmatic sheriff jumped out at me immediately. Most serious regular roles on TV ask that the actor endow them with some level of sympathy. I was thrilled at the chance to get to buck convention. To borrow from Vince Vaughn in Swingers, Romero is like that “guy in that R-rated movie that you’re not quite sure you really like yet.”
Were you a fan of the original Psycho? How does it feel being a part of an adaptation of such a beloved work?
I was a huge fan of Psycho. I remember my mother introducing me to so many of Hitchcock’s classics when I was a kid, and they had an enormous impact on me. When Carlton and Kerry called me about possibly joining them in their modern-day prequel to Hitchcock’s opus, I was busting to see what their take was going to be.
Not only was I a Hitchcock fan, but I was also a big fan of Kerry’s from Friday Night Lights and I’d already had the great privilege of working with Carlton on Lost. They sent me the first six episodes of the first season that night. I figured I’d read the first episode after my wife and I put the kids to bed and get to the rest of them the next morning. I started with the pilot that very night and was up all night reading the other five. The show is a brilliantly nuanced, character-driven, psychological thriller. I mean, truly brilliant. Needless to say I couldn’t wait to get on the phone with them to accept the offer.
What’s surprised about your Sheriff Alex Romero’s trajectory so far? What can we expect to see from him in Season 3?
One of the best surprises in playing Sheriff Romero has been falling for the quirky, strong-willed, and elusive Norma Bates. When the Bates family moves to White Pine Bay, Sheriff Romero seems to find his match in Norma. It’s a mercurial relationship that goes through so many twists and turns and rocks the usually unflappable Romero to the core. Expect the unexpected from their relationship this season.
Do you think your character will survive this season? If he doesn’t make it, would you want him to go down by Norman or Norma?
I’m not at liberty to say whether or not my character survives this year. But should he not survive, I think I’d rather see Romero fall at the hands of Norma than Norman. There’s something about the old adage of there being a thin line between love and hate that seems fitting with Norma and Romero, where passionate love can just as quickly turn to murderous rage. Then again, it’s just a hypothetical…
What sort of review would you leave the Bates Motel if you were a guest?
My Bates Motel Yelp review: “As rank and sticky as a roach motel. Manager’s a psycho and water pressure sucks.”
When you have the time, what shows do you watch?
I enjoyed binging True Detective last year. And I’m looking forward to catching up on Better Call Saul when we wrap. Like everyone else I know, I couldn’t get enough of Breaking Bad.
Don’t miss the Season 3 premiere of Bates Motel on March 9 at 9/8c on A&E (Ch. 265).