Starting tonight, the A&E series Bates Motel will have one of the most recognizable names in pop music checking in to its murderous narrative. Guest star Rihanna is appearing for a two-episode arc, and it’s one that, for the first time, directly connects the series with its cinematic forerunner: She’s playing Marion Crane, a.k.a. the character portrayed by Janet Leigh in the original film by Alfred Hitchcock, and one who ends the first act of the movie by suffering arguably the most famous fate in film history. You’ll have to watch to see how the show handles its version of the Bates/Crane meetup, but the whole thing only happened because executive producer Carlton Cuse happened to be reading Vanity Fair one day. As he told The A.V. Club recently, the problem of how they could possibly do a new spin on that iconic role was solved purely by chance:
We wanted someone who was wildly different from Janet Leigh, but also could carry the expectations of this character. I mean, if you think back to 1960 when Hitchcock made the movie, and he set up Janet Leigh, this famous actress, as the protagonist and then killed her at the end of the first act, it was just the craziest thing ever. It was this wildly subversive narrative act at a time when nobody had ever done that. So we felt like the bar was pretty high for Marion Crane, and we just fell into clover…we couldn’t have predicted she was going to do our show. I was reading a profile of her in Vanity Fair, and she said Bates Motel was her favorite show. I had been talking to Kerry about how we were going to cast Marion Crane, and how we were going to get someone that wouldn‘t be a pale imitation of Janet Leigh, how we would solve that problem. I said, “How about Rihanna?”, and Kerry said, “Oh, great.” Of course, it felt very pie in the sky, but I made a couple calls—the worst thing that can happen is just someone says no to you—so we had low expectations that it would happen, but it did.
The lesson here for pop stars looking to be on their favorite shows is clear: Make sure the executive producer reads Vanity Fair, and then call the magazine and tell it all about your love of Ballers. (This fictional music star doesn’t have very good taste, it seems.) You can read the entire interview with Cuse and showrunner Kerry Ehrin, talking about adapting this famous narrative for the show’s final season, on Monday, March 27, immediately following the broadcast of Bates Motel at 10pm ET.