If you’ve visited Downright Creepy much at all, you’ve likely noticed that I write a lot about Bates Motel, including a weekly episode recap and review. Even though I covered last year’s Comic-Con panel for the site, I did not attend the panel this year.
What? How could I not do that? Has the California sun gotten to my head? Well, I think you’ll agree that speaking with cast members one-on-one instead of inside a giant room filled with thousands of people, better serves the show’s fans. Watch the panel on any number of websites, but come here to learn what I, Jeff Owens, asked Vera Farmiga, Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin, Nestor Carbonell and Olivia Cooke.
If you think a name is missing, you’re correct. Freddie Highmore, Norman Bates himself, had to duck out of the interviews early for another panel. But I encountered him in the hotel lobby earlier Friday morning and had a lovely conversation with him. (I may be lucky that he doesn’t remember the embarrassing question I asked him during a telephone press conference earlier this year.)
I first spoke with Farmiga (Norma Bates) and had to share the personal story of how much my mother loves her as an actress, particularly in “that movie that at the end, he (George Clooney) goes to her house and learns she has a family” (Up in the Air). It’s a great performance, but not as iconic as Norma Bates. And that’s because Farmiga has made it that way. She talked about being worried that people would think of her as an old shrew, based on what people know of her from Psycho.
It’s evident that, as a mother, Farmiga relates to the character. However, she stated that it’s not important how she feels about Norma; she has been appointed as sort of “a court-appointed lawyer in her defense.” She talked, as she has in other interviews, about how Norma will do anything to protect her child. She realizes that Norma doesn’t go about things in the same way she would, but she has to approach her with “outright compassion”.
“I tend to focus on what I appreciate about her. Because if I can always just come from a position of defending her… Ultimately she may be terribly flawed, but bottom line: she is trying to be the best mother she knows how to be.”
I asked creators Cuse (Lost) and Ehrin (Friday Night Lights) what the theme of the upcoming season might be (it begins filming in October). Hesitant to reveal too much, they hinted that trust will be a big issue. In terms of the relationship between Norma and her other son, Dylan (Max Theriot), we can’t assume all their issues were solved with one conversation.
On a larger scale, with the very livelihood of White Pine Bay being exposed in a literally explosive way, they think it will be very interesting to see how the chips fall. What will the people of the town think and how will its dynamic change. Specifically, will Sheriff Romero (Carbonell) and Dylan be allies or enemies?
I also asked Cuse and Ehrin if they feel there are specific milestones the characters must reach on the path toward their final destinations in Psycho. Nope. They prefer to let the drama and relationships evolve on their own to create any milestones. Sure, they acknowledge that we may know how the series must ultimately end, but we don’t know how it’s going to get there and that will be the fun of it.
I talked with Carbonell and Cooke (Emma) at the same time. He was the most personable of the stars, speaking in an unforced and genuine manner about his appreciation of his co-star’s work. I asked if he was a mentor for any of the young actors on the show. Cooke nodded yes, but he was more modest, talking about the gift of working with such a talented cast and writers, “the best there are”.
Cooke was sporting a shaved head for a role in the upcoming film “Me & Earl & the Dying Girl”, in which she plays the titular dying girl (leukemia). She talked about playing Emma in Bates Motel as a young woman with another affliction: cystic fibrosis. Fearing offending someone, I told her she brings great humor to the role, always dragging and banging around her oxygen machine. She said that’s purposeful. For people with cystic fibrosis, that machine is just like another appendage.
Earlier, Cuse was mysterious when revealing that we will learn something about Dylan’s past in season three. But I was more interested in Sheriff Romero’s backstory. I asked Carbonell if he had any thoughts about what it might be. He doesn’t. “I remember on Lost I would always guess what his (Richard Alpert’s) backstory was, because he was always shrouded in such mystery. By the time I arrived at the episode where it was revealed, I was so off base. So I don’t want to guess.”
I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the cast and creators of Bates Motel. When I get back to the hotel tonight, I’m sure I can watch this year’s hilarious panel video on YouTube. Shoot, maybe we’ll even have it posted ourselves by then. But I’ll be content with the more personal experience I had. I hope I was able to share a little some of it with you here.