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Q&A: ‘Bates Motel’ Showrunner Carlton Cuse Reflects on His Big Break

As an executive producer and writer on “Lost” and showrunner of “Bates Motel” and the upcoming FX series “The Strain,” Carlton Cuse knows how to keep a secret. But the two-time Emmy winner said that seeing his name alongside Army Archerd’s in the pages of Variety meant he wasn’t a secret any more.

What do you recall from that time in your life?
I started my career as a development executive. On the side, I was writing, honing my craft so that I could jump across the desk and be the person coming in and pitching projects rather than the person trying to develop them.

Did you learn a lot from reading scripts?
I learned what it meant to be a good writer and what it meant to write a script that would get made. It also inspired me to put in the hours honing my craft.

Did you have a hero at the time?
It was Larry Kasdan, who had famously written seven unproduced screenplays before he got something made, then had this incredible run that included “Body Heat,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Big Chill.” The thought that it took him seven scripts before he was able to go on this run of amazing movies helped me persevere.

What was the best thing about that time in your life?
The best thing then and now is my wife, for sure. I got married when I was 26.

Who were some of your contemporaries, competitors, allies?
I had many friends at the time who were living in people’s guests houses and had shitty jobs, and it’s amazing to see how many of them — like Gary Ross and Chris Meledandri — have gone on to be successful.

What was your big break?
I went into partnership with a writer named Jeffrey Boam, who was an established feature writer, and we worked together for about five years. During that period, I helped develop movies that he was the writer of record on, like “Lethal Weapon 2,” “Lethal Weapon 3” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” That was an incredible education in terms of refining my craft and having a chance to really see and participate in how big franchise movies were put together and developed.

Are you nostalgic?
I’m very glad for the experiences I had that have led me to where I am. Each one is a litmus test that helps you get closer to finding yourself. I look back fondly on all the twists and turns.

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