When Bates Motel returned for season 2 last Monday, a new character appeared at Miss Watson’s grave, Nick Ford, played by Michael O’Neill (Dallas Buyers Club). Nick is a businessman and Miss Watson’s father, but there’s much more to his story.
I spoke with Michael O’Neill by phone to get the scoop on the mysterious Nick Ford and to find out how far the father will go to find out who murdered his daughter. Read on for edited excerpts from the interview.
On Nick Ford
The character is complicated. It’s a complicated guy to explore. He’s a wealthy businessman. He has his hands and fingers in everything that’s happening in White Pine Bay. Nothing escapes his visions but underneath, like all of White Pine Bay, there’s this really dark, bruting shadow of a life that he’s built in the drug industry. He’s put a thin veneer between him and it. It was fun. It was really fun to explore. And often say of Nick Ford, he’s wonderful friend to have, but a very, very enemy to make.
Nick shows up because Miss Watson was murdered. What was the relationship between him and his daughter?
It’s a sore subject. It’s a point of — It’s a very difficult relationship for him. He certainly wanted a better relationship with his daughter. It’s clearly the motivation for him to engage the community to find out who’s responsible for that. He’ll uncover any stone, push any button, squeeze any hand he has to try and gain closure there. Suffice to say, based on her behavior it was a difficult relationship with her dad and it was for him. And, yet there was a continual desire on his part to be closer to her.
She was presented initially as a good, sweet teacher, but she has some darkness to her. Did some of that come from her father?
I think so. I think some of it’s in the DNA. There’s certainly a father issue there that she’s acting out on. Whatever the difficulty is between the two of them has an impact. Nobody gets out of childhood uninjured.
Does Nick have any idea where to begin searching for his daughter’s killer?
No. I don’t think he does. I really believe he’s casting a very wide net. I think he probably has some suspicions about who the killer may be, but he’s smart enough not to be taken the garden path. He’ll do whatever he has to do to find out and eliminate who those potential suspects are.
I assume he has no qualms about going outside the law to do that.
None. Absolutely none. He’s lived his life to a large degree in that world. In that shadow world and he’d use it in a New York minute.
Where does Nick fall in the overall drug business in White Pine Bay? There’s no lack of drug trafficking in that small little town.
Nick grew up there. I think to a large degree he was one of the founding fathers, so not far behind whoever started that business. He made his way as a young man. He saw the handwriting on the wall and was smart enough to engage that business. It’s interesting because it’s the unofficial economy of White Pine Bay. So there’s a kind of tacit understanding in the entire town that the town still thrives because of that business. One of the reasons he’s so wealthy and been so successful is because he’s nurtured that business so well.
Is Norman one of the first leads that Nick follows after running into him at the cemetery?
You saw in the very first episode, Norman takes photographs of him at his daughter’s grave. That’s the first I become aware of him. I want to know why he’s doing that. I think Norman believes here’s this character who could be another suspect. The first blush of my experience with him is in the graveyard when he takes photographs of me. I actually try to catch up with him, but he’s quick. He’s a rabbit.
What else should fans know about Nick Ford going into the season?
Like any father, he’s injured by the loss of his daughter. He’s really injured by that and it makes him dangerous. He’s a wounded animal. The other thing is that my experience with the show is — it just takes turns that are unexpected. I really like that about the writing. I’m speaking as a viewer now, as someone who watches it. There’s something about that town, something about these characters, something about what these writers have created.
Bates Motel airs on Mondays at 9 pm ET on A&E.
(Image courtesy of A&E.)