(PCM) We are always more than happy to extend our stay with A&E’s “Bates Motel” and season three definitely has us not wanting to check-out anytime soon. We recently had a chance to speak with “Bates Motel” star Freddie Highmore and executive producer Kerry Ehrin to dish on details about the show’s third season, Norman’s disturbing new direction, new characters and so much more!
On getting into and creating the character of Norman Bates
Freddie Highmore: I don’t consider myself to be very similar to Norman. I think in – I mean the American actor did obviously one thing and I just try and stay as much as possible sort of on set in Vancouver and off stage as well. And then the rest of it is a character I guess now that’s having done two seasons before this one, you’re more aware of and you can easily slip into.
And this season was more changing him and making him a bit more mature with the self-awareness that he gained at the end of the second season and so perhaps trickier than giving a look or finding out who Norman was in this third season, it was more about discovering in what ways he would change and grow up.
Kerry Ehrin: It’s definitely an evolution where Carlton and I began with the character in the first season. It’s a very different person at this point – and a lot of that has to do with self-awareness and also the natural development of teenagers to start seeing their parents as real people as opposed to gods or goddesses in their universe.
I think there’s a bit of that in it as well. And also this season very much playing with the game of control between him and Norma and the power struggle which is really delicious.
On the influence of the original Anthony Perkins performance in the film “Psycho”
Freddie Highmore: I’ve re-watched Psycho before every season and in some ways tried implementing what Anthony Perkins brought to the role especially as the show continues because I’ve always seen that the end of Bates Motel not necessarily as the end of Psycho.
But the end of Norman is a lot closer to Anthony Perkins’ version than the boy that we saw at the start. But certainly we, I don’t think any of us feel tied constrainingly to Psycho or to any performance that came before.
Discussing the atmosphere on set and the creepy feeling surrounding both the house and the motel
Freddie Highmore: I think the first time I stepped on the set, it kind of has this weight already behind it when you look up and you see a very similar version of the house and the motel to the one that was in the original.
And then over time it seems to become in view with your own memories and events that took place n Bates Motel. Like from the set, for example, leading up, there’s still the blood stain or whatever they used to pretend to be blood from Deputy Shelby’s death in last season.
So there are little reminders to us all of how far he’s come.
Kerry Ehrin: There’s definitely a texture to that set that is emotional and you feel it when you’re there. It’s very cool.
On Norma knowing about Norman’s blackouts and trying to protect him
Kerry Ehrin: It’s sort of like any mother. If your child had something wrong with him, especially something you couldn’t control, your instinct would be to literally tie them to your ankle. I mean you would want to be in as close proximity to them at all times as you possibly could be.
And then you add to that all the dark undercurrents and suspicions and that a terrifying ordeal for Norma. And yes, her instinct is to keep him as close as possible.
On Dylan and Norman’s relationship in Season Three
Freddie Highmore: I guess you see in the first, in the first episode how Dylan starts to get in between Norma and Norman. And I think that previously they have both been, they have both shared this unbreakable bond and no one could come between them.
And I think for the first time in the third season Dylan starts to breech that a little bit and Norma will start to confide in Dylan things that she can’t say to Norman. So that’s kind of where their – their threesome is headed to some extent. Unless Norman …
On Emma and Norman’s relationship in Season Three
Freddie Highmore: I guess we’ve seen in the first episode how Norman wants to try and establish, wants to try and date Emma. And I guess the reasons behind that become clearer as the season goes on and it is entirely, it is purely out of the feelings that he has for her but a lot of it is also out of feelings for his mother in the way that he feels like he should feel dating Emma.
And not only does he on some level want to, he also feels like he’s doing the right thing by asking her out.
Kerry Ehrin: And Emma in general has been, you know, she’s done some growing up as Norman has and she, you know, when Norman first met her she was very much in many was still kind of a little girl, very idealistic. I think lonely. And she, you know, was really grateful to have this friend who was Norman Bates.
And I think as she grows older and she has to deal with the reality of her health which clarifies a lot of things in life when you have a crisis like that. She starts to mature and part of her story this year is her starting to understand things about Norman that are concerning to her.
Discussing any teasers for how Season Three will play out
Freddie Highmore: There’s this power, there’s this struggle for power between Norma and Norman in their relationship that will start to become ever more important.
And whereas Norman has always been very much the son or the younger person in the relationship before, that dynamic is starting to shift and even in the shots that we see in the first, in the first episodes, it’s much more set up as these two equals are either lying in bed together or on some level equal.
But I don’t think that that will, it won’t stay that way. Norman will seek to be, to take more and more of a control in their relationship and become the person who’s more dominant by the end of the season.
And I think that’s interesting. He’s become slightly more manipulative and capable of toying with Norma and using his knowledge about what he’s capable of to gain things from her. And he gets to (wearing) some of her clothes so that’s another side to him.
On Norman being a likable anti-hero in the series
Kerry Ehrin: When you write these things, we love the characters and in a way, you know, actors have to love the character they portray in a way because they have to do the best version of it from that person’s point of view and I think the writing is kind of similar.
If you’re going to take on a bad guy, you have to get inside of them and feel the world through them and no one, you know, wakes up in the morning and says hey, I’m a bad guy. I’m going to go out today and do bad things.
Everyone wakes up in the morning and lies to themselves so Norman is no different. And, you know, he’s been through a lot. He’s been through a lot that people would have a lot of sympathy for, empathy for.
You know, tough, very violent childhood, home life and, you know, dysfunctional family. No father figure present. A mother who loves him to pieces but is very emotionally needy.
He’s been through a lot of terrifying things and he’s very endearing because he always tries to do the best that he can. And I think that we love him for that. He doesn’t want to be a bad guy.
Freddie Highmore: And at the same time, it’s one thing to be a bad guy. He does become, in spite of his best intentions, I think he does become so over the course of, well over the course of the entire show but moving towards that in the third season.
And so I feel it was especially important to set Norman up in the first two seasons as someone we supported and whose side we were so as now we can start to, start to make us challenge whether we were right to get on his side and to start supporting him in the first place.
On the biggest challenge of the new season
Freddie Highmore: The third season has been really interesting because of how Norman, because of how Norman changes, scenes in which you have kind of learnt how to resolve in past, you can’t use, you can’t get out of it with the same emotion. And so you know that in certain scenes where Norma, Norman in the past have ended with Norma on the winning side of the argument and so the trick this season for Norman was to find a way in which he can start to change that.
And gradually bit by bit in every scene between Norma and Norman, we this – this small shift, hopefully.
Kerry Ehrin: Honestly, the biggest challenge is not literally killing Vera and Freddie. We ask so much of them. The storylines we do, tend to be very emotionally aparatic while still grounded but that is such a feat to pull off for an actor and they’re truly amazing, the performance that they, that they do every day. We just marvel at them in editing or if we’re on the set.
It really is a tall order and we’re incredibly grateful to have such amazing talent to do it. But honestly that is the biggest worry is, you know, are we all going to survive this season physically.
On how learning taxidermy was significant to establish Norman’s character
Freddie Highmore: Taxidermy becomes – is every more important as the season goes on and we’ll have to see what he ends up, what he ends up (taxidermying) by the end. But I don’t know, it’s the trick I think, as Kerry’s spoken about in the past, is in not making those moments that are present in Psycho seem over or really noticeable when you’re watching it.
And of course part of the joy like when we see Norma, Norman as Norman is knowing oh, we know that this is also, has an extra creepy value because it will reappear in Psycho the film.
But at the same time it should never be sort of gratuitous or simply put in, in order to cause that, to cause that little wink to the audience and so I think what Kerry sort of balances so well is never making those sort of moments in Norman’s progression seem out of place within our show but at the same time allowing them to have the power that comes from referencing Psycho.
On getting out of the darkness of the character
Freddie Highmore: I pitch Kerry’s silly ideas.
Kerry Ehrin: That’s true. We do laugh a lot. You know, I think you just, I think that, like life you, if you have to deal with something sad, there’s always parts of life that renew you.
On the new characters visiting White Pine Bay this season
Kerry Ehrin: Well one of the really interesting things in structuring this show that Carlton and I have faced since day 1 is weaving together two worlds that don’t necessarily, you wouldn’t think go together.
And the, you know, part of that is these dark secrets that exist in White Pine Bay and are told through various peculiar characters that emerge from the society?
And this year we have, we have some amazing actors, Ryan Hurst plays such a cool character who’s this kind of bent mountain man who, he does such a brilliant performance.
You don’t quite know, he feels threatening but at the same time he seems incredibly, you (die) at certain times and then Dylan does not know what to make of him but he definitely brings some mystery and trouble with him.
And then another really wonderful character is played by Kevin Rahm and this is a very prominent head of a very exclusive, elite hunting club. Very old school high buy-in and he’s just such a great antagonist. He’s a really fun character.
He is a, he’s a bad buy that really likes himself, that enjoys his life and his senses and his body and dresses great. And Kevin Rahm just is so amusing in this role and so great.
And then it also takes a darker turn because he’s also someone from, who grew up with Alex Romero and the storyline reveals a lot about their own history growing up together but also Alex Romero’s history and he’s this great stoic character who we know nothing about. So we get to peel back some layers and look inside, which is really fascinating.
Freddie Highmore: We need to say though, you called him Alex Romero because I don’t think any of us have really referred to him as that on set. Nestor’s like, he’s like Sheriff Romero or we just call him the Sheriff especially in the fifth episode of the season (that Nestor) directed for the first time.
And so, you know, it certainly amuse us just to see him in his sheriff’s outfit, directing away. He was very much the Sherriff/director.
And then the other relationship I think to tease in this season is the one between Norman and his fictional version of his mother that he conjures up this persons moments and entices him and repels him various times into or from doing things.
And that’s a really interesting dynamic, the way that Norman not only, I guess Norman starts to struggle with knowing whether he is talking and whether he’s interacting with this fictional version of his mother or the reality.
On how Norma and Normans relationship will be continued to be tested this season
Freddie Highmore: There’s what’s emerging between them is an awareness on Norma’s side that he is more controlling in a way and on Norman’s side, is an awareness that she has chinks in her emotional armor.
And so we get to kind of spin that in emotion and see how that, see how that plays out. Sometimes Norman and Norma remind me of those paint things at Carnival where you pour paint in them and then they spin around and the colors fly out. Then they make like these amazing abstract art things.
And I feel like that’s sort of what Norma and Norman, like you get them in a specific psychological place and then, and then you let them go and you see what happens. And there’s a lot of spinning out this season between them.
Kerry Ehrin: I think that maybe one other interesting thing is though there will be this increasing separation between the real Norman and the real Norma, there will also be, by the end of the season, almost a complete convergence of the two at one moment where you’re almost not entirely sure which person it is in a teasing the general fashion.
On taking on the role of the imaginary vs. the actual mother
Freddie Highmore: I think it’s interesting. We’ve experimented with in many ways this season how Norman himself is behaving in those, which comes a lot from the writing, how he’s behaving in those moments with this vision of her and whether he’s purely imagining her there in front of him, whether he is imaging himself as her, whether he’s talking out loud in using her words or whether he’s merely listening and hearing them.
And from what perspective do we see those scenes? Is it purely from Norman’s perspective or is it from the kind of third person storytelling that we’re, that we’re used to in most television shows. So though they’re all, they all sort of play a part, I think when we’re, when we’re doing those scenes between Norman and this vision, this mother, this Norma character.
But there’s also a new sense of freedom to be found in them because it isn’t, ways in which they might interact, isn’t the reality and so that opens up exciting new possibilities for how both Norman and Norma can behave.
Kerry Ehrin: And also the hallucinations to him are incredibly real and I think that, you know, the big goal is to get people to go on a journey with Norman. If you’re, if you’re crazy and you, you know, if you are imaging, I guess I shouldn’t use the word crazy.
If you are imagine something that isn’t there to you it is incredibly real and that’s what you want people to be inside of, is that part of it. And it’s actually really exciting to get to get to develop the fictional, the hallucinatory version or versions of Norma as a really, you know, that’s a pretty exciting thing to get to do.
“Bates Motel” airs Monday’s at 9:00pm on A&E