Michael O’Neill knows anything goes when you check into “Bates Motel.”
Playing straight-arrow Secret Service man Ron Butterfield on “The West Wing” set the actor on a long run of authority figure roles, though he also wrought hospital havoc as the shooter in the Season 6 finale of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” He’s closer to that end of the spectrum again as Season 2 of A&E’s “Psycho” prequel begins Monday (March 3).
Nick, O’Neill’s new character, is the father of ill-fated teacher Miss Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy). His probe of her death eventually, and inevitably, leads him to Norma and Norman Bates (Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore).
“It’s a remarkable project to come into,” the very amiable O’Neill tells Zap2it, “because of the writing and acting company. It’s a dark world they’ve created, and I thought, ‘The poor Bates family. With their own pathologies, they couldn’t have picked a worse place to move to.’ It’s a lot of fun to work on, though … and it’s never uninteresting, I can tell you that.”
Expectedly unable to go into extensive detail about Nick due to the nature of “Bates Motel,” O’Neill reasons that “broken characters are really the most interesting to play, because they’re so complicated. In a strange way, you get in touch with even more of your humanity. I think of this guy as quiet, though he can be charming. And terribly lethal. He’s not a man you want as an enemy.”
Also seen in the much-honored movie “Dallas Buyers Club” and set to appear opposite Halle Berry in this summer’s CBS miniseries “Extant,” O’Neill is grateful for what has been an extremely active career as a supporting player.
“It’s been extraordinary,” he reflects of his longevity. “You can never see any of it coming. You just try to keep showing up and hope for the best.”