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Actors of New Show, ‘Bates Motel’ Tells it All!

By InCinemas  /  16 May 2013 (Thursday)

The new TV series, ‘Bates Motel’ is a modern re-imagining and prequel to the movie ‘Pyscho’. Psycho is an internationally acclaimed film, known to be one of the classics in cinema’s history.

First and exclusively on Universal Channel, the modern day prequel of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho,” executive-produced by Carlton Cuse ("Lost") and Kerry Ehrin ("Friday Night Lights"), follows widow and motel manager Norma Bates and her son, Norman, as they begin to settle into life on an idyllic coastal town in search for a fresh start. Fans will have access to the dark, twisted backstory and learn first-hand just how deeply intricate his relationship with his mother, Norma, truly is and how she helped forge the most famous serial killer of them all.

However, they discover that the residents are keeping many secrets from them -- which they are not too keen on sharing. Re-imagine in present day as the mother and son duo toil through a ganglion of tragic and eerie stories, shaping their characters before evolving into what the master of suspense, Hitchcock, designed for this good boy turned bad.
Get to know the film further from the cast, Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) and Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Golden Compass)
Bates Hotel premieres 29 May at 10.50pm on Universal Channel (Starhub Ch 512)

Freddie Highmore

1) What did you know about Norman Bates? Had you seen Psycho when you first heard about this project?

Freddie Highmore:
Yeah, I’d seen Psycho and I guess the interesting thing was, ‘what makes Norman Bates psycho?’ That’s the question you have having seen the film. And that’s what this explores in an exciting way.

We’re talking a bit about nature versus nurture. Was Norman Bates destined to become a serial killer or is it his mother or the dodgy town that they moved to and their influence upon him? And so if it’s the latter, if it’s the fact that his upbringing has conditioned him in a certain way that means he’s more likely to end up as we know he must, then what does that say about us? If we’d had his upbringing would we be slightly different? We all go a little mad sometimes. Would we be more like him? It’s fascinating to ask the questions.

2) What was the most difficult thing about playing a character that’s so iconic in another era?

Freddie Highmore:
I guess you just want to do the character justice. There’s perhaps a certain pressure from Anthony Perkins’s great portrayal of Norman Bates, but I felt more pressure from wanting to do him justice or doing the storyline justice and feeling like the show, which I think can be special, is just that.

3) And because the show is set in contemporary times, do you feel
that the character is changed in any way?

Freddie Highmore:
It maybe allows us a greater sense of flexibility in this because it would be neat for Norman to end up at the end of this show, however many years it ends up going for, as that Anthony Perkins type. And so the arc is something unique, because I’ve never done television before and I really appreciate the time you have to work on a character and to show change. It doesn’t need to be immediately obvious from episode one that Norman Bates is going to be a serial killer. You’ve got ten episodes in the first season and hopefully more to get that development in there. And so there’s no need to rush or go all-out from the start in making him crazy. You can slowly build in those things at the piece goes on.

4) How do you find the balance of the “sweet Norman” knowing what he becomes?

Freddie Highmore:
I think it was important for the audience to empathize or sympathize with Norman from the start despite knowing where he ends up. I think there’s that sort of hope that we have for him, thinking maybe he doesn’t have to turn up like that! He’s a nice guy; he doesn’t have to go down that line! And so it’s about hopefully people rooting for him despite the impending tragedy, because it is a tragedy in that you know he can’t break out from that destiny that has been written in right from the start.

5) So did you avoid playing him as a future serial killer?

Freddie Highmore:
You have to build in things from the start so that it’s believable at whatever point it is that he takes his first victim. So it has to be a level of believability to it, he can’t be a completely normal guy, but at the same time there’s something very chillingly normal about some people who in real life perhaps have acted in the way that Norman does.

6) Is it intense to film or do you all crack jokes on set?

Freddie Highmore: 
No, there’s time for jokes as well. There’s a sense of dark humor to the show as well, so it’s not all full on all the time.

7) How did you feel about Vera when you first met your TV mother?

Freddie Highmore:
She’s absolutely lovely. She’s certainly my new best friend. And unlike perhaps Norma to Norman, she’s certainly a great mum to her kids and her kids are certainly lucky to have her. Whether or not Norman is lucky to have his mum is another story. And in terms of her acting, it seems so effortless, it seems that it’s so natural but I’m sure it takes a lot of effort to get to that stage where she can throw away and play against emotions. It all adds to the sense of unspoken, of the important stuff being left unsaid. I think her portrayal of Norma makes her so full of different things and contradictions that you’re not sure where the truth is and that’s great.

8) Looking back on your career, I would imagine that Johnny Depp was a huge inspiration or influence for you. Can you talk about him and what both of those experiences meant to you and his friendship and support?

Freddie Highmore:
Yeah both as a friend and as an actor, his choices have always been incredibly interesting. What made him such a special actor is that he manages to play so many different people. You see Finding Neverland or Pirates of the Caribbean or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they’re all incredibly different. As a person he shows you that you’ve got to keep your feet on the ground and he’s one of the most down to earth people that I’ve ever met. And I think that says something for so many people that have built him up to be a star. He recognizes that he’s just like everybody else and he’s got a fantastic talent for acting but he doesn’t think he’s better than anyone because of that.

9) After Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, people were surprised you went to university and not Hollywood. Are you focusing on acting as a career now?

Freddie Highmore:
I think there has to come a point whenever I graduate, that I have to go down one route or another. Unless you just carry on extending your school career further and further, but up until now I’ve had this school career and continuing with my studies and also doing a few films and now this show. Of course there will come a time where you have to commit to it, or not. But I think you learn as you grow up, you don’t have to do one thing, it doesn’t have to be you leave university and you do that and you’re stuck doing that for the rest of your life. You can start one career and hopefully by my having the education, it also gives me the chance to do something else if I want to. But for the time being it’s fantastic. I’m very lucky to be here. You’re working with lovely people doing a fantastic show, the scripts are great, and hopefully there’ll be more.

Vera Farmiga

1) What was your reaction when you first heard about this project?

Vera Farmiga:
Well obviously when there’s a commercial offer that your accountant will be very happy about it’s always very pleasing. And it’s always very appealing when you read it and you’re challenged by the material. I hadn’t felt that way in a long time so I was just really psyched to roll up my sleeves and bite down on a juicy character. I didn’t know we were filming in Vancouver when I first heard but I met my husband in Vancouver and have romantic associations in the place. I knew it’d be a tough winter but well worth it once the cherry blossoms came in the spring and we enrolled the kids in school and basically we lived there and we’re Canadians for the moment.

2) The movie was based on a book about the serial killer Ed Gein. Did you read the book?

Vera Farmiga:
No, I think I took inspiration more from other literary resources, and these are resources that have random things throughout but it wasn’t anything specific. I would say that Ibsen and Chekhovian heroines are more of an inspiration to me than anything I could find in Psycho or reading anything off the Internet that I had read about Hitchcock developing Psycho or reading about the initial inspiration for Psycho. So it’s stories like Medea and Oedipus Rex and stories like Aladdin - not the Disney version because the mother was wiped away completely - but these have informed me in various ways.

Nora from The Dollhouse and Hedda Gabler; these are little inspirations that I’ve had along the way and my own mother was a huge inspiration for the role. My own relationship with her was a huge inspiration.

3) What is your take on Norma Bates?

Vera Farmiga:
I think she’s an amazing mother. I really do think that. That is my approach...that is my interpretation. I’m sure it will be misinterpreted and misconstrued, and the thing about maternity and as a mother you can say this; you do not know for many years whether your theories about child-rearing were correct. And she is doing what she thinks is right. I would have handled that very delicately, with the rape scene, in an entirely different way. But she’s doing what she thinks is right as a protector; she missteps.

4) What is her relationship to the town’s police officer who could implicate her in a murder before she sleeps with him?

Vera Farmiga:
I think there are a couple of things going on in that relationship. The way I approached that relationship is that she’s hungry for that. She really is. She’s hungry for friendship other than with Norman. I think it’s in one part to protect him, but I think there’s another part of her that very much needs that relationship. You’ll find out more. It’s hard to talk about that.

5) What do you think of her relationship with her other son, Norman’s half-brother Dylan?

Vera Farmiga:
The Dylan relationship is a whole other diad on the mother- son relationship, those two notes, as far as mother and Dylan are concerned versus the diad of Norma and Norman. It’s a completely different tone and I think as the story unfolds it’s as compelling a relationship as she has with Norman. Because one she perceives as victorious and one as a failure. Dylan was her first stab at maternity so to speak, and she failed miserably. I don’t know, maybe she didn’t have her parenting handbook available, for whatever reason, and I think that is still yet to be revealed to the audience and even partially to me, but it’s a fascinating one.

6) How do you get along with Freddie Highmore?

Vera Farmiga:
I saw him in a little film a few years ago and there’s a “uniqueness” about him. I just love watching him perform and we didn’t meet before shooting so I think it was just fingers crossed hoping it would work out. From the start I admired his openness. He’s such a gentleman. He’s so sharp - he’s so brainy, and charming. And he’s the kind of guy you want as a son and a scene partner.

7) So how would you describe this show to people not familiar with Psycho?

Vera Farmiga:
Emotionally, it will be horrifying. There will be horrifying moments. But I would say it’s an anxiety-inducing suspense thriller and from my perspective a love story, that’s essentially what it is for me and that’s why I signed on to do it. It is an exploration of that particular and dynamic kind of love between a mother and a son.

8) Does your own reality as a mother change the way you play this role?

Vera Farmiga:
I’ve had a mother. I know how intricate and sensitive and delicate it is relating to her and I grew up with three brothers. So witnessing that relationship, from infancy to adulthood and seeing how it morphs in wonderful and weird wacky ways, I think that informed me quite a bit as well as watching my various boyfriends and friends relate to their mothers. But I do understand a mother’s love for their child now. I would fight wars for my children. I would sacrifice everything for my children so I understand Norma in that way.

9) Did your Oscar nomination for Up in the Air change your life? Was it what you expected?
Vera Farmiga:
To be honest, I don’t know. I think I’ve had great opportunities before that film came and I’ve had a blessed career and opportunities since. I’ve always had amazing chances to work with heavyweight champions of cinema who are really just talented and special and visionaries and I continue to do so. But now there’s a hundred foot tall billboard with my face on it so that’s changed!

10) What’s been the most challenging part about playing this character?

Vera Farmiga:
It’s a very emotional role and I suppose I’m finding that balancing that with maturity has been very difficult for me because I find that the first thing that’s compromised is my immune system and the kids bring stuff home all the time from preschool and we film on top of a dump so the actual house and motel are built on an old transfer station and I don’t sleep these days, because I have an insomniac two-year-old so my biggest challenge is just making sure that I have enough energy for the kids and that it doesn’t interfere with my health.

The material is so fun to play and the words are so sharp and precise, and these characterizations are so well-etched that it’s a real treat but it does require a lot of effort because of the emotional demands of the role.
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