Carlton Cuse

Date of birth

March 22, 1959

Place of birth

Mexico City, Mexico


Writer/Executive Producer





Carlton Cuse is an American writer and producer, best known for his work on the US TV shows Lost and Bates Motel.


Early life

Cuse was born in Mexico City, Mexico on March 22, 1959. His parents, Susan Sophia (Spurzem) and Arthur Robert Cuse, were American, and his father was working in Mexico for Cuse's grandfather, who had a machine tool manufacturing business. Cuse's paternal grandparents were Latvians, of Baltic German heritage. After a few years in Mexico City, his parents moved to Boston, where as a boy, he instantly bonded with the Red Sox and began a lifelong love for the team. A few years after the move to Boston, his dad took a job in Tustin, California. Cuse was raised a Roman Catholic.

Cuse went off to boarding school in 10th grade to The Putney School in Putney, Vermont. The school was on a working dairy farm, and placed a strong emphasis on an education in the arts, music and the outdoors. It was at The Putney School, Cuse said, that he realized he wanted to be a writer.

Cuse attended Harvard University (Class of '81) and was recruited at freshmen registration by the freshman crew coach, Ted Washburn, and became part of the rowing team. In his words, he became "a hardcore athlete." Cuse's original plan was to attend medical school but he instead majored in American history.

During his junior year at Harvard, Cuse organized a test screening for the makers of the Paramount film Airplane!. The producers wanted to record the audience reaction to time the final cut of the jokes in the movie. Cuse said that was when he started thinking about a career in film.


The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993-1994)

Because of his involvement with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade an executive at Fox, Bob Greenblatt, asked Cuse and Boam if they would be interested in doing a television version of the old movie serials. Cuse said yes and wrote The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., about a Harvard-educated bounty hunter who wants to avenge the death of his father, the most famous lawman in the Old West. Fox gave the go ahead for the series. Brisco also had a science fiction element, in the form of a mysterious orb which appears in several episodes. Boam went back to making features, leaving Cuse to co-create and executive produce the critically acclaimed series. Afterwards, Cuse gave much of the credit for the show's success to actor Bruce Campbell who played Brisco County Jr., the lead character.

Nash Bridges (1996-2001)

After Brisco, Cuse met Don Johnson, who had a commitment from CBS to make a new series. With Johnson's blessing, Cuse went off and wrote the pilot for Nash Bridges. Johnson liked it and CBS did too, ordering 14 episodes off the script without making a pilot. Nash Bridges was the first series that Les Moonves greenlit as the head of CBS. It ran for six seasons and 121 episodes.

Martial Law (1998)

Cuse created and executive produced the CBS series Martial Law, starring Arsenio Hall and Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, one of martial arts legend Jackie Chan's closest friends and collaborators. Cuse adapted the world of Hong Kong cinema to American television in a story about a Shanghai cop who comes to the LAPD on an exchange program. A team of eight top Chinese stuntmen and coordinators out of Hong Kong were hired. Stanley Tong, who had directed many of Jackie Chan's biggest Hong Kong features, directed the pilot. Sammo Hung became the first Chinese actor to star as the lead in an American TV series. Cuse was running both Martial Law and Nash Bridges simultaneously. The workload became creatively and physically difficult, which led to him leaving Martial Law and focus exclusively on Nash Bridges. Another factor, Cuse said, were creative differences with Sammo Hung about the future direction of Martial Law.

Lost (2004-2010)

Cuse was an executive producer and joint showrunner on Lost with Damon Lindelof. They met in the sixth season of Nash Bridges. Cuse hired Lindelof, giving him his first staff writer job on a TV series. A few years later Lindelof and J. J. Abrams wrote the pilot for Lost. Shortly after the Lost pilot was shot, Abrams left the show to do Mission Impossible 3 with Tom Cruise. Lindelof had no experience as a showrunner and called Cuse for showrunning advice on the side. He then asked Cuse to come work on the show.

The Cuse/Lindelof partnership was very productive. They wrote roughly a third of the episodes together as well as showrunning the series in tandem overseeing all the creative work on the series, including all story construction, rewrites, casting, production, editing, music and marketing. Cuse said, "A great partnership can lead to great TV. In the case of Lost it worked out great; I could not have had a better partner than Damon."

Bates Motel (2013-2017)

Cuse was the showrunner, co-developer, writer and executive producer of the A&E series, Bates Motel, along with Kerry Ehrin (a producer and writer for NBC's Parenthood and Friday Night Lights) who had the same duties. Bates Motel is "a contemporary prequel to Psycho, explorating the formative years of Norman Bates" as well as "his relationship with his mother, Norma, and the world they inhabit…[T]he show [provides] "access to the dark, twisted back story and [the audience will] learn firsthand how Norma helped forge the most famous serial killer of them all," From the very start, the producers planned five seasons and he made a guest appearance playing a state patrol officer in the fifth episode of the final season.  His cameo echoed that of Alfred Hitchcock's cameos in his movies.  He stated in numerous interviews that the inspiration for the show came from how Christopher Nolan rebooted the Batman franchise by taking the basic elements and putting his own story to it.


Anthony CiprianoCarlton CuseKerry Ehrin
Christopher NelsonDavid StraitonEd BianchiJohan RenckJohn David ColesFreddie HighmoreLodge KerriganMax ThieriotNestor CarbonellOlatunde OsunsanmiPaul EdwardsPhil AbrahamRoxann DawsonSarah BoydSJ ClarksonSteph GreenStephen SurjikTim SouthamTJ ScottTucker Gates
Alexandra CunninghamAlyson EvansAnthony CiprianoBill BalasCarlton CuseErica LipezFreddie HighmoreJeff WadlowKerry EhrinLiz TigelaarNikki ToscanoPhilip BuiserScott KosarSteve KornackiTom SzentgyorgyiTorrey Speer