Bates Motel has been home to one of the strangest but also fascinating mother-son relationships on television. With Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore delivering exceptional performances each week, it’s no wonder the show’s garnered such a loyal audience. Before the cast: Farmiga, Highmore, Nestor Carbonell, and Olivia Cooke hit the Comic-Con stage along with executive producers, Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin, they sat down with us for a round table interview to discuss what’s in store for Season 3.
The cast talked about their expectations for their characters and offered their opinion on some of the relationships that still remain unexplored on the show. And the producers were kind enough to give us some hints of what to expect when Bates Motel begins filming this fall. Hit the jump for more.
FREDDIE HIGHMORE: I don’t know. Nothing at all. You probably think I’m hiding something big, that I have hidden away about Norman but not at all. They haven’t handed out the scripts yet and what they have done is kind of kept away from us for now.
What do you hope happens with your character?
HIGHMORE: Realistically, it’s continuing his character’s descent into insanity and also to what point do we stop supporting Norman and loving him. At the end of last season you realize Norman can be quite manipulative about certain things and has this conscious of what he’s capable of. To what extent will he always remain the good guy or the guy that we can pretend is nice?
How much does Norman remember of what he’s doing when he’s in that state?
HIGHMORE: I guess that’s another thing to explore further but I still say he’s a nice guy. In some ways, the suicide at the end is something many people would say is selfish but I think in Norman’s case it’s a truly selfless thing. He’s taking himself out of the world because he wants to stop harming people, doesn’t want to not be able to control himself anymore. I think it’s an admirable thing to do in his case.
What side of Norman do you enjoy playing most?
HIGHMORE: From the start it’s been nice to play against people’s expectations of who Norman is. He’s such a well-known serial killer and you know how he ends up in Psycho. You can subvert people’s expectations by arriving on the first day and saying, “No, he’s completely nice.” And people will kind of portray their own previous expectations and knowledge of who he’s gonna become onto that performance. You don’t have to push it out as much, and just play against it completely and have that underlying.
I think the joy of Bates Motel is in the nuances and in the subtext, as opposed to overtly playing Norman being someone who’s nasty or a serial killer in the traditional mold. And that extends as well to his relationship with his mother. The kiss at the end that people talk about is only weird because you know that there’s something dodgy between them—or maybe not. That’s what Vera would say.
OLIVIA COOKE: They did actually, they really did. They were like, “It’s going to be really good this season.” She just doesn’t know when to quit, she doesn’t know when she’s being rejected. If ever there was a more resilient character than Emma, you know—she just goes back and forth. She’s rejected and then she goes for it again. There’s kind of no stopping her. I think the end of Season 2 was definitely the breaking down of Emma, all her efforts are just falling apart and nothing is really happening from them. When Norman gives her that little lead into their relationship, she just relishes in it.
What draws both Romero and Emma to want to be part of the Bates family?
NESTOR CARBONELL: Misery loves company? I don’t know. I think we’re all broken birds in some fashion rather and I think even though we’re broken we’re all strong, we all stick up for ourselves. I think we’re drawn to each other because of that.
COOKE: I think in Season 1, Emma saw Norma and Norman as an ideal mother and son relationship that she wanted desperately to be a part of. Now she’s seeing that they’re broken just as much as her, I think it just attracts them more.
Romero seems to give Dylan a lot more latitude than he gives Norman when it comes to wrongdoing.
CARBONELL: He hasn’t pegged Norman yet. He hasn’t fully pegged that this guy is a psychopath. He’s seen such a vulnerable side to him and obviously the evidence points to him being implicated but he’s very guarded about Norman. Whereas Dylan, I think he’s an open book. I almost feel like Dylan could be my son and Norman is sort of a kid I might adopt. Dylan is sort of a guy who wears it on his sleeve, there’s something about him that I think my character says, “I know who this guy is.”
Do you think there’s hope for a romantic future between Norma and Romero?
CARBONELL: I think the writers are open to it.
Are you open to it?
COOKE: Of course, it’s Vera Farmiga.
CARBONELL: As long as she keeps misbehaving, I’ll be chasing her.
VERA FARMIGA: You know, I want them to take their time with that. I want them to take their time with that because these are both two very guarded people and both very controlling and that’s what’s so exciting to watch. It’s this game of tug of war, you have these two very willful, very controlling people holding this rope filled with tension. As soon as someone lessens the tension, the game’s gonna be over. I tell you, it’s always what works so well. I know a lot of people are eager to explore that. I am but I want them to do it in a way that is simmering.
Where do you see Norma in Season 3?
FARMIGA: I’d like to think that I’ve done a really good job of portraying Norma as a big-hearted person and someone who has a good heart, who intentionally means well albeit being incredibly flawed. But that ultimately, sincerely you know—and even like the murky sexuality—I can honestly say that yes, those are her strange boundary lines that are blurred given her history.
Even the physicality between them, she’s clinging to him like a life raft. They’ve survived a ship wreck of a life that Norma has had. He’s seen his mother get raped, humiliated, and they only have each other. The only other person she does have that I think is a beautiful relationship to explore—the Dylan relationship grounds her and he has a calming effect.
At the same time there’s that duality and she’s looking at someone who is the tangible manifestation of something so sordid that her one true love is Norman. I think what we’re going to be exploring with my character is who Norman is creating her to be in his head.
Is there going to be a time jump in Season 3? Where is it going?
CARLTON CUSE: There’s a very short time jump. At the end of Season 2, basically all the players in the two drug families in town either killed themselves, killed each other or were killed by our guys. They’re all basically dead, so there’s this big vacuum in town. The question is, “What happens?” Obviously that kind of event with that magnitude of murder is not something that can be covered up. Now that all those people have sort of been broomed [sic], the question is, “In a town where evil has been tolerated, can that vacuum exist without other evil coming in and filling it?”
That’s sort of the starting point for what happens in the town. There’s a lot of consequences. Dylan gets offered this job by Romero at the end of the season. The question is, “Is he going to take that? Is he going to step in and decide to be this sort of drug tsar in town or not? And what will happen as a result of that?”
KERRY EHRIN: Norma and Norman are on the ongoing tangled road of their amazing, fantastic, dark, misunderstood relationship. A veil got lifted at the end of last season and they both saw some things. While Norman was absolved in a way by the lie detector test, these things are still alive in him, the knowledge of those things. How that affects their relationship to each other, two people who have always been closer than anything, and the world to each other, now there is a knowledge of that. How is that going to begin to affect them and splinter them? The psychological mind games in the road to that are very interesting.
There’s also a slow awareness in Norman because he’s growing up that he’s not exactly like everyone else. If he tries to have a relationship with a girl, it probably feels a little different than if a typical teenage boy did. I think there’s this growing understanding between both of them that there’s something under the relationship that is lurking and how that is going to come out and play out is a huge part of the story telling.
CUSE: Things are changing at the Bates Motel. We have some cool guests in the Bates Motel. We have this franchise and we’ve hardly done anything with it. We’ve had a few trimmers shows up. There’s some good story lines with people that show up at the motel this year.
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