After the explosive events of the first season, things on Bates Motel only got tougher and more dangerous in Season 2, for Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga), especially with the economic livelihood of the motel being threatened and their family dynamic being in jeopardy with some unexpected revelations. The series also stars Max Thieriot, Nestor Carbonell, Olivia Cooke and Nicola Peltz.
During this recent interview to discuss Season 2 and the May 5th finale, and to look ahead to Season 3, actor Freddie Highmore and executive producer Carlton Cuse talked about how the Season 2 finale compares to Season 1, how strained the relationship between Norma and Norman will continue to be, the pay-off for the relationship between Norma and George (Michael Vartan), what Cody (Paloma Kwiatkowski) brought to Norman’s life, some of the biggest writing and production challenges this season, where any other Lost actors could appear on the show, how much they’ve thought ahead to Season 3, and what the overall plan of the series will be. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
FREDDIE HIGHMORE: I think the whole arc of the second season has been fantastic for Norman. There’s always time that you need, in terms of establishing a character and seeing them as they are before they start off on this journey. Towards the end of this season, by the 10th episode, we start to see this manipulative side to Norman, that starts to question our allegiance to him. That has been great fun, as an actor, to play because you play against the sense of what people thing Norman should be like. But then, there comes a point where you have to decide to what extent you can continue to support his actions. With Norman’s growing realization of who he is and who he might become and what he’s capable of comes this sense of power for him.
Will the relationship between Norma and Norman continue down the strained path they’re on, or is there a reconciliation in the near future?
CARLTON CUSE: Norma and Norman’s relationship is at the very heart of the show, and I don’t think that will ever change. What makes the show wonderful is that incredible dynamic that exists between those two characters, as portrayed by the two actors. That’s the very heart and center of the show. The nature of that relationship, however, will evolve over time. What’s really interesting is that Norman is going from being a boy to being a man. That’s part of his journey over the course of the show. And as he becomes more of a man, that has consequences, in terms of how he and his mother relate to each other. Kerry [Ehrin] and I certainly don’t see that relationship as being static, but we definitely see it as always being very close and very intense.
What’s happening with George (Michael Vartan)? Is he too good to be true?
CUSE: Part of the story arc this season has really been about seeing how close to the sun Norma can fly. She’s always had this vision of moving to this idyllic small town and being in with the right people and having the right relationships, and George personifies acceptance and admission into the society of this town. In the finale, we will definitely see where that leads and where that leaves Norma. It will pay off.
HIGHMORE: Paloma’s fantastic and had such a different synergy to bring to the show. It not only served to revitalize Norman, in many ways, but it also brought up this whole other world for Norman, outside of the home. So, she’s been great to work with, with loads of energy and always coming in incredibly well prepared. For now, Cody has left the world of White Pine Bay, but certainly not without going incredibly noticed and leaving her mark upon Norman.
Carlton, what were some of the biggest writing and production challenges of Season 2?
CUSE: It was fun to figure out how we most effectively could expand our knowledge of the world in which these characters inhabit, both interpersonally and externally, with the community at large. We really wanted to show the characters in White Pine Bay, and get to know more about that community, and to really deepen the audience’s connection with Norma, Norman and Dylan. We’re making a show that is extensively about a serial killer, but the goal, from a writing standpoint, is to make the audience really care deeply about Norman and Norma, to like them and to root for them. What we didn’t want was the audience to be looking in at him from the outside. Our goal in the writing is to always have the audience be really deeply connected, on an emotional level, to Norma and Norman, and be right there with them as they go on this fun, but also perilous journey. The challenge is to make the show heartfelt, emotional, funny and humanistic. That’s what we work really hard at, as writers.
Have the incestual undertones, between both Dylan and Norma and Norman and Norma, been intentional?
CUSE: Obviously, there’s a sexual tension that is a part of Norma and Norman’s dynamic. I think that with Dylan, it’s really much more incidental, or not really intentional. Norma and Norman have this very close relationship that borders on being inappropriate. As writers, Kerry and I have tried to make you understand why it exists. That’s just part of the tension that’s very much at the center of the show. We’re intentionally playing into that, but at the same time, there are certain lines that we, as writers, don’t feel comfortable crossing.
Are there any other Lost actors that you would like to have on the show?
CUSE: There were so many wonderful actors on Lost. I don’t think there’s anyone on Lost that I wouldn’t want to work with again. They’re all so great. It just so happened that when we were creating Sheriff Romero’s character, Nestor [Carbonell] popped into my mind. He so vividly encapsulated everything that we wanted in that character. But, I really actually never think about intentionally taking someone from one show and using them on another. Hopefully it will happen that a character that we create might lend itself to being cast by someone else from Lost, but I don’t have any immediate plans to add anyone else from Lost.
Having covered so much story in Season 2, do you have a sense yet of what Season 3 will look like?
CUSE: Our goal is to continue to write the show on a high level, and make Season 3 hopefully even better than Season 2. Our expectations are that high. Kerry Ehrin and I have actually spent a fair amount of time talking about it and we do have a preliminary game plan that we’re very excited about. It’s tough to say too much about it because a lot of it is driven by events that are in the finale, that I don’t want to spoil. But, I feel very confident that we can make a really engaging Season 3. We do have a plan, and now that we’ve been picked up, we’re hard at work, in terms of just laying out the architecture of the new season. I think it’s going to be great, and I’m really excited about it.
How wedded are you to the source material, in terms of where these characters ultimately end up?
CUSE: Tragedy is a great storytelling form. It worked extremely well for Shakespeare. It worked extremely well for Jim Cameron with Titanic. In that movie, you have hope that Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet won’t meet their inevitable fate. I think that the dramatic tension between expectations of what’s going to happen to these characters and what’s actually occurring now on their journey is the essence of what we are trying to accomplish, as writers. And I think that Freddie [Highmore] and Vera [Farmiga] are very talented. No one could do a better job than the two of them, in executing that. We do foresee that there are some bad things that loom ahead for Norma and Norman, but it would actually rob the audience of the enjoyment of the journey, to be too specific about how we’re going to play that out. Certainly, we think that a literal necessitation of the events of the movie would not be fully satisfying.
Do you have an overall plan for however many season the series goes?
CUSE: Yes, Kerry and I have a plan. We’re having discussions with A&E and Universal Studios about just how many episodes we’re going to do, to finish the show. It’s definitely a show that has a beginning, middle and end, and I think we’re getting to the point where we need to define that with the studio and the network and figure out exactly how many more total episodes we’re going to do. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to work that out. We do know where we’re going to end.
The Season 2 finale of Bates Motel airs on A&E on May 5th.