Bates Motel is back for Season 3 on A&E, and the family strife, murder and creepiness factor are at an all-time high. Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) is trying to hold it together while his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), is becoming more fearful of what he is capable of. Forced to look at the truths about Norman for the first time, Norma turns to her other son, Dylan (Max Thieriot), which causes jealousy with Norman over their often far-too-close bond.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Tracy Spiridakos (who plays Annika, a sexy, young woman that checks into the Bates Motel) talked about getting involved with the show in a very traditional way, how fortunate she feels to be a part of this project, how nervous she was walking onto set the first day, how her experience on Revolution (she played Charlie Matheson) compares to Bates Motel, what she was told about her character before she was cast, and playing a character who knows how to use her assets to her advantage. Check out this interview for Bates Motel Season 3 below, but be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: How did you come to be a part of Bates Motel?
Did you have to do some catch up on the show?
SPIRIDAKOS: I did have to catch up on it when I started working. I had seen it, and I did like what I had seen, but I hadn’t watched it all in sequence, so I went back and started doing that. They’re so great. They’re so talented. They balance so well. Vera [Farmiga] plays someone who is so off-balance, but she’s so calming, at the same time, that you just can’t help but love her. They’re all so incredibly talented. I’m very fortunate to be a part of the project.
You were on board for Revolution from the very beginning, but you joined Bates Motel in Season 3. How nervous were you about walking into an already established show and finding your place among this cast?
SPIRIDAKOS: So nervous! With Revolution, we had all been there from the beginning. I was stepping onto somebody else’s set with Bates Motel, but the minute I got there, they were all so amazing and so lovely that any nerves or fears that I had went right out the window, and we just jumped in, right away. It’s a very warm set.
What was that first day on set like? What scene did you have to shoot first?
SPIRIDAKOS: It was the scene where I come in, actually. It was when I appear. That was my very first one, but it was cool. At first, you definitely get a little nervous, but they were making me laugh and we were all hanging out. It just all faded away, instantly. I’m very Canadian. I want everyone to love me, and I just get nervous. It’s a funny thing, but it was great.
Looking back, how do you feel about the experience that you had on Revolution, and how does that compare to the experience you’ve now had on Bates Motel?
SPIRIDAKOS: They’re so different for me, but they’ve both been amazing experiences. With Revolution, it was my big thing. I had come from Canada to do this amazing show with these amazing people behind it. It was a crazy whirlwind for me. And then, to get to work with the caliber of talent involved with Bates Motel, I feel so inspired by them and so excited about it. I was thrilled to get to be a part of it. They’re both very different, just based on what each role is about, but both were extremely positive experiences in my life.
Your character in Bates Motel was initially described as “a mystery woman who shows up at the motel.” Were you told more than that about who she is and will turn out to be, before you signed on, or did you have to take a leap of faith with this?
SPIRIDAKOS: I didn’t know much about her, actually, when I went in for it. I knew that, and that’s pretty much what we were told, going into it. But that’s the way it is, a lot of times, with shows. You go in and you don’t really know exactly what the story is. But when you know the caliber of people behind it, whatever it was, I was in. I wanted to be a part of it.
At any point, along the way, did they have a discussion with you and tell you who she would be, or did you just learn where the character was going with each script?
SPIRIDAKOS: I did have a discussion with them about her backstory and where she came from. I like to do some of that myself, if I don’t know, but I always love to hear what they’ve created and have in mind. It’s always nice to be in sync with that. So, they were very generous and sat down with me to talk about where she had come from and what her story was and what her future would be. That helped me a lot.
How would you describe Annika?
SPIRIDAKOS: Annika has been through a troubled life, but she’s somebody who’s decided to not let it get her down. She uses her situation to the best of her ability and tries to move forward in every way possible. She’s a fighter. She’s not a victim, by any means. If something bad happens to her, she just picks up the pieces and moves forward. For somebody who has such an interesting past, emotionally she’s very tough and cool.
What can you say about her arc on the show and how she ends up in this town, at the Bates Motel, at this point in her life?
SPIRIDAKOS: I’m the worst at teasing. I don’t really how much I can and can’t say. She comes to the town with a specific purpose as to why she’s there. An opportunity has risen, and she’s there for that purpose. And then, you see how that unfolds later.
What does Annika think of Norman and Norma Bates?
SPIRIDAKOS: At first, meeting them, she thinks that they’re sweet. You can tell that mom is over-protective and barely lets Norman be around her or lets them talk. Norman, to her, is just this sweet kid who can’t stop looking down her dress. She just thinks he’s a nice teenage kid who’s helping his mom. It’s quite innocent, the way that she sees them.
Would you say that Annika is someone who really knows how to use her assets to her advantage?
SPIRIDAKOS: I would say yes. She’s definitely a woman who’s confident with her sexuality and who she is. She’s very smart, as well. She uses anything she can to gain inches forward.
How did you decide on the way you wanted to play Annika, and did you do any research into what someone in that line of work might be like?
SPIRIDAKOS: I thought out her backstory and where she was coming from, and then used that to propel her forward. Based on how they had created her, I just think of her as somebody who is a nice girl that says yes to things more often than she says no to things. She’s willing to go down a scary, dangerous path to see what the outcome of that is because she’s had such an interesting lifestyle and life for so long. She just goes with it and sees what the outcome of it all is going to be. She doesn’t shy away. She’s not afraid. As far as the interaction with everybody around her, she’s constantly scanning and looking to see where opportunities lie, and how she can use those to move forward. I definitely see her as somebody who utilizes every single thing around her. She’s a survivor, in every meaning of the word.
She also has a very sexy style of dress that’s very different than what you got to wear on Revolution.
SPIRIDAKOS: I was already trying to walk on heels, and then had to walk on the gravel road. I was ready to fall. I thought I would, but I didn’t. Yeah, it’s very different. Charlie was your typical tomboy who went for practicality, more than anything. Annika is somebody who owns her sexuality, and charges forward with that first. I think part of her likes the attention that she gets from it, as much as she uses that to her benefit. I think part of her likes that look.
Do you enjoy using wardrobe to help you find a character?
SPIRIDAKOS: Yeah, absolutely! Even going in for auditions, I try to do that. When I’m playing somebody, their wardrobe, for me, is completely transformative. You just step into who that person is with that.
How do you think Annika would feel, if she knew that Norman is clearly somewhat interested or drawn to her, and even becomes a bit of a peeping tom? Would that bother her, or is she used to that kind of attention from men?
SPIRIDAKOS: Based on how Norman was, the first moment that they meant, with him looking down her shirt and the way that he looks at her, she wouldn’t be entirely surprised by the fact that he might be a little taken by her. He’s just this sweet kid who’s working with his mom at the motel that she’s staying at. It’s flattering and cute, but that’s it.
What’s it like to work with Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore, and have them to play off of?
SPIRIDAKOS: Vera is really funny, in real life. I was laughing, the whole time. They’re so sweet and so charming. I watch her be crazy, but I’m laughing. It’s just charming, at the same time. They just bring it all to the table, and they’re so talented. When you’re on set, you’re already in that environment, and then those two step on set, and they have such a great connection and such a great chemistry that you fall into their world so quickly and so easily. It was quite remarkable, watching them work.
This show has such a great attention to detail, with the wardrobe and the sets. What’s it like to be on the Bates Motel set, knowing how iconic that is for people?
SPIRIDAKOS: I love the set decorators and the way that they build everything. I was the same way on Revolution. They’re just so incredibly talented. You’re sitting in a room, and then they yell, “Cut!,” and all of a sudden, the wall comes out and it transforms into what they need it to be. It’s quite remarkable. And shooting where they shoot in Vancouver, with the weather, there’s a cloudiness. You just step onto the set and you feel different. It’s got an eeriness to it, right away.
Were you familiar with the original Psycho movie, at all?
SPIRIDAKOS: Quite honestly, no. I’d watched it so long ago that I remembered the key scenes and moments that are in it, but I didn’t rewatch it before going in to do the show. I went in blind on that. I remembered the gist of it all, but I couldn’t quote it all for you. I just concentrated on the show.
You’ve been working pretty steadily for awhile and you’ve done some really interesting projects. When you started acting, did you have any sort of plan for yourself, or any goals you wanted to reach, and has it unfolded anywhere near what you expected?
SPIRIDAKOS: Honestly, my goals shift and change, as I move along. When I first started, my main goal was to not be bartending anymore, and to not be working at the bank anymore. I just wanted acting to be my job. That was my main goal. And then, getting to that place, the goal evolves and moves forward, as I move throughout the industry and get introduced to different things and see where I want to go next. I feel very, very fortunate to have the success that I’ve had. I want to keep working and keep moving forward. Acting is my dream job. I love it so much.
Once your time on Bates Motel is done, do you know what the next thing will be?
SPIRIDAKOS: I wish! That’s one of the things of being an actor. You have to push any knowledge of any future, at all, out of your mind. You never know what’s going to happen where. But, I just want to move forward with what I love to do. I also love to travel and I love my family. If I have a gig and I’m going to do that, great. If not, I’ll go visit my family or do a bit of traveling. I try to keep life full, in every way.
Is there any type of role you’d like to do, that you haven’t gotten the opportunity to do yet?
SPIRIDAKOS: I would love to do comedy. I’m actually really animated and goofy. I talk with my hands so intensely. My boyfriend asked me to tell a story without my hands, and I couldn’t talk. I would love to do a period piece. That would be really cool. And also like to do something transformative and have to transform yourself physically to become that character. Any interesting, fun roles, I’m attracted to.
Bates Motel airs on Monday nights on A&E.