“Bates Motel” has given Michael O’Neill’s character Nick a slow introduction. As the father of the murdered Blair Watson and a key member of the White Pine Bay drug world, Nick is a key part of the unfolding Season 2 story.
He also could be Norma Bates’ new — and only — ally in stopping the bypass from being built. But does she realize how potentially dangerous the man she’s working with is? Zap2it spoke with O’Neill about his character and the role Nick has to play in “Bates Motel” Season 2.
Zap2it: Can you tease some more information about Nick and his motives here in White Pine Bay?
Michael O’Neill: One of the things that they established pretty quickly with Nick is he’s driven by the loss of his daughter. He really wants closure on that, he wants to find out who did it. Obviously there was some unfinished or unresolved issues between the two of them. I think he wishes that he could have been a lot closer to Blair, but for whatever reason, whatever issues existed between them — which the writers know — there was a terrible interruption there.
More than anything, I think he really wants closure on that. All of his moves, all of his ulterior motives, are in that direction. Though he has this marvelous presence in White Pine Bay. He keeps an eye on everything that’s occurring, and he’s a bit of a Rasputin character, I think. We will find out a great deal more about him. He’s now met Norma. He’s intrigued by her — cautiously so, I believe — and we’ll see where it goes from there.
We know Norma has her own concerns about Norman’s potential involvement in Miss Watson’s death, but she doesn’t know Nick is Blair’s father. Is that a potential cause for conflict, considering she sees him as a new ally?
I do think that she sees him as a potential ally. This whole thing about this bypass is threatening her livelihood, threatening the hotel, has really come into play. I admire her gumption. I love the fact that she took on the city council in particular, one of my nemesis that she went off on. That was the beginning of our connection.
Now, both characters are manipulative enough, I’m sure they both have interested motives in this little dance that will be coming henceforth. But in terms of Blair and the Bates, that remains to be seen. I don’t have a thread there at this point.
We also know Nick is involved in the drug families in White Pine Bay, and we’ve seen Zane go off the deep end in this past episode. Will Zane’s actions motivate Nick to get more involved in that storyline?
It’s interesting that you ask about that, because Nick has worked really, really hard to keep a balance in the drug industry. He was sort of the old godfather in his family, and created a barrier as it were for that business. He likes to think of himself as a very legitimate businessman now. The truth of the matter is the city’s wealth came from that business, but he’s also a believer in the old school that if you keep a low profile, business will run smoothly.
The thing that Zane has done has gone off the reservation. So he’s immediately in conflict with Nick’s philosophy about the drug operation, and then he makes the awesome mistake, and crosses a line. I think it’s safe to say that Nick will have a very sharp interest in what he is and isn’t doing. I don’t like anything to threaten that business. It is the unofficial economy of White Pine Bay. [laughs]
With you as a new actor coming on the show, how did executive producers Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse present the history of White Pine Bay?
They did give me background, but it also began to unfold for me chapter by chapter by chapter. I was able to watch the first season, so I was privy as a fan to the complications of that town. I’ve often said, the Bates couldn’t have picked a worse town to move to, a worse environment. Given their own pathologies [laughs], this was just the wrong sandbox for those poor people to have to play in, but it is what it is. And the writers, Kerry and Carlton, have picked a marvelous complication for them, and tableau to paint in.
You had one brief scene with Freddie Highmore earlier this season, so can we expect to see more of Nick and Norman together?
I hope so. I really hope so. It was such an interesting plant the first time we see Norman taking pictures and has suspicions of Nick — not a bad man to be suspicious of, by the way. I think his instinct to account for Nick was smart. He has no way of knowing what my relationship to Miss Watson was, different last names, both in respects of deep water unknowable characters. I’m hoping that the revelations will include more and more about Norman and Nick. We’ll see.
One of the biggest questions of the Season 1 finale was who killed Blair Watson, but that’s sort of fallen by the wayside in lieu of more pressing storylines. Can we expect to see it come back and be a priority before the end of Season 2?
It never leaves for Nick. It never leaves. There are other atmospheres that move in and out of this play, but it never goes away for Nick. You can be sure for as long as I’m there, that’s what I’m looking for.
Nick is shadowy and dangerous, and yet it could have been so one-dimensional and the writers just would not allow it to be. In a way, part of Nick’s danger is his charm, and that he’s so knowledgable about what’s going on in all avenues. So the fact that Norma’s popped up on the scene and he sees this interesting character who likely reminds him a little of himself. There’s a wonderful kind of intelligence and desperation to her that I think Nick appreciates and sees opportunity in.
“Bates Motel” airs Mondays on A&E at 10 p.m. ET/PT.