(PCM) A&E Network premieres season two of the critically acclaimed original drama series “Bates Motel,” starring Vera Farmiga in her Emmy-nominated role as Norma Bates and Freddie Highmore as Norman. The series premieres Monday, March 3 at 9 PM ET/PT.
In season two of “Bates Motel,” executive producers Carlton Cuse (“Lost”) and Kerry Ehrin (“Friday Night Lights”) dig deeper into the twisted world of the Bates family. Picking up from last season, Norman (Freddie Highmore) is fixating on Miss Watson’s death while Norma’s mysterious past starts to haunt the family with the introduction of her brother. Meanwhile, Norman’s brother Dylan, (Max Thieriot), gets more entrenched in the familial drug war that fuels White Pine Bay and finds himself right in the middle of the danger as Bradley (Nicola Peltz), who remains on the hunt to uncover her father’s killer, is driven to precarious extremes. Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell), is caught up on all fronts as everything in town escalates and Emma (Olivia Cooke) complicates her relationship with Norman as the duo explore new love interests, bringing new and old characters along for the ride.
We had a chance to catch up with series star Vera Farmig (Norma Bates) and executive producer Kerry Ehrin to see what is in store for the new season!
Q: Vera, do you know like a lot of the story line ahead of time? And do you like that? Or do you prefer to be surprised when it comes out?
VERA FARMIGA: You know, I’m still figuring what it is that is part of my process. You know, I’ve never had the luxury of a second season. I’ve done three series before. And they all never had the opportunity to go beyond 13 episodes in the first season.
So I know first season I did feel a little disabled. Not that the – I couldn’t act because I remember Carlton asking me do you want some more clues? And I wanted to sort of take it an episode at a time and not get ahead of myself.
And so for me – but in hindsight in the experience of season one I felt all man, okay now in hindsight, especially having sort of a big bomb land in the last episode. For me it was impossible to dig as deep initially with the root of this new character.
I just had to – like it was like I felt like Norman Bates was this like huge voluptuous shrub that I just had to trust in this kind of a shallow root system. And sometimes I felt like I was like showing up to fix his toilet and my toolbox has been like packed by the wife. Do you know what I mean?
I – and but in – I love – and ask why I just reveled in the opportunity of a second season and. You know, it’s – television is a much slower process to discovering that background history, the personality, the psychology, the characters goals. And there was so many unknowns.
And also it’s like it’s – the cast is so much closer. There’s an intimacy. There’s a level of like sportsmanship now that we can throw harder jabs at each other. It’s the deeper level of trust that has been – and loved. It’s been established between us and Kerry and Carlton and between the actors.
And so I – oh God, what was the initial question man? It’s interesting developing a character over TV time and yes, I mean certainly. But that’s my own fault because at the same time I wanted to pace myself with the information that was coming at me.
But I think second season I did ask for more clues. And I did wanted to – I wanted to have the trajectory of second season. I wanted to have more answers at the start, which I was provided. So I think you’re in for a better second season.
Q: Vera, wanted to know what kind of mothering tips have you learned from Norma?
VF: First of all, you’ll probably dislike this answer. But if you hear me slurring, I’d have a wisdom tooth pulled. I am not drunk at like 10:30 am in the morning. It’s not like a maternal coping mechanism. Actually I’m in pain and a little bit of confusion.
But anyway, you know what? Man, I admire her tenacious love for her child. She goes to extreme lengths to give her child the life that she imagines for him. And that is really valiant to me.
I admire her generous heart. It you know, she’s really disarming honesty. These are like, these are amazing qualities that she possesses. Yes, there is like – the flip side of Norma Bates is that, you know, she’s, you know, her hardware is working. Her software is a bit faulty.
She’s not – she doesn’t like rap Norman in bubble wrap all the time. And, you know, and I don’t know. And so, you know, I look at that. I think what I do learn from her is – I mean this is a story after all about family dysfunction.
And, you know, what I have to work so hard to get an audience to identify with her is – and to defend her and to admire her even that I have to, you know, what I – for me the name of the game is to present to you a woman who lives every day in the trenches of maternity.
And that’s – and also in the trenches of her own stubbornness and denial. So maybe that – so that – those negative qualities influence me to be a better parent I guess for kind of like the two demons, you know, which is denial and stubbornness for Norma I suppose sort of keep me in check. Yes.
Q: Kerry, what kind of compassion do you feel for Norma?
KERRY EHRIN: I think Norma is just, she’s the mother of all mothers. I mean to me it’s like she’s in an extreme situation. But every mother I’ve ever known, they just have this passion for making everything okay for their kid.
For like stuffing the shit it doesn’t work out under the rug and stomping on it. And just constantly moving forward and making life as pretty and beautiful and fun for their kids as they can.
And it’s like we can’t help it. It’s like what mothers do. And it’s something so beautiful. And that’s what Norma means to me. I mean that’s why I think she’s beautiful. It’s like she’s, you know, screwed up and dysfunctional.
And her own limitations that have been sort of later on her by her life, her early life that was none of her own doing. And within that she’s absolutely just valiantly doing the best that she f**king can. And you got to – you have to love that. And that’s to me as being a mother.
Q: Vera, I know that you are completely, or your character is completely wrapped up with Norman. But is there any possibility of a love interest for you in the new season?
VF: Yes, I mean obviously she’s proved from first season that she’s totally over anxious. She’s too involved. You know, I mean this is a woman who’s been abused by her father, abused by her brother, discarded by demanding, unneeded by her older son.
You know, she clings to the one man that has been her protector, her confidant, her consolation, the light in her life. And it is Norman. And she’s totally too involved. And she’s unable to cut the cord.
You know, she’s – but the thing is that – and the issues of like women survivors of childhood sexual abuse, it’s really complex. And, you know, it impedes ability to trust especially if you, like Norma who – man, these demons are with them.
These poisonous feelings that she has are embedded so deep in her psyche. And she’s never uprooted them. She just like, you know, she has this vault, this sort of burial chamber that she just like where she squashes all that sadness and stress and torment.
She’s totally preoccupied with Norman because I mean imagine it for yourself. It’s like, you know, the moment, it’s like such a – it’s such a dark moments. At the faintheartedness, the doom, you know, when you discover or when you suspect that there’s something not quite right neurologically with your child.
It’s, you know, it’s not a job for the fainthearted. So like all her – every ounce of energy really is trying to, you know, is her struggle with raising normal, this atypical child. And doing it as a single parent.
She’s got her own painful history also to contend with. She’s got this like this rampart that she’s built. You know, it’s like the walls of Constantinople. It you know, it’s like – it’s a lifetime of defensive walls that she has.
Q: Will we learn more about her background?
VF: Yes. Yes because I think what’s happening, you know, she’s built this brick by brick. And it’s not, you know, the ramparts not so fortified anymore. Somebody comes in and then, you know, she has the reason for moving out to White Pine Bay is to put as much real estate as possible between her and her past and these people that have been a part of, you know, this.
And I think, you know, this starts going on. So all of this, like look, all of this has developed sort of a really complicated psychological issues like depression that she squashes and low self-esteem and fear and guilt.
And all that trauma which she hasn’t dealt with, it’s going to be really – I think it’s like the way I look at her is like on man, like the way she liked drives, oh man, you know, all these stressors. Like these are – she’s got pretty significant stressors that A, affect her parenting capacities and also affect, you know, her – every other relationship that, you know, that she can take on.
I mean the way – I feel like she’s kind of driving the bus from the backseat is the way she, you know, is. I don’t know how to explain it. Like the way she can function in society so far without not having dealt properly with it is driving this bus, or life, from that backseat.
And so she certainly going to try man, because I think, you know, it’s been I think – like the way she also – I think also on the flip side of it is, you know, it is a coping mechanism. She has a great – an incredible sense of denial.
Or she herself may look at it as, you know, creative visualization. I mean she shoves everything inside this vault. And she just takes on this fresh and fabulous outlook on life.
For her I think the hotel success, like achieving success, achieving – which she equates to happiness, which is the one thing she’s always struggled with achieving. You know, she just throws herself into sort of, you know, the success of, you know, the hotel’s success.
And that involves, you know, going out into the community and meeting people. And also there like – she also has, you know, she’s trying to repair last season’s, you know, the word is out in the street. I mean there’s already a negative association with her and what’s happened at that hotel.
So her mission at the start of Season 2 is to sort of change that. And that involves sort of sure, sort of being more involved in the community. And she develops friendships outside of her relationship with Norman.
KE: I mean just as Vera is saying, I mean Norma has a longing for normalcy. And normalcy – some of those people means you have a mate. And whether or not she actually knows how to like relate to that person or connect with them what to do with them, she has a deep longing for it. Even though she doesn’t exactly know what it is.
So yes, she has room – she believes she has room for love in her life. And because she’s not aware of her, or not, I guess she’s not acknowledging her tie to Norman.
She has hopes that she will meet someone. And she will fall in love. That she will, you know, have a wonderful life. And there is a very interesting person that shows up this season.
Q: Is it a new character we haven’t seen before?
KE: Yes it is. And it’s – this season is a lot of fun because while last season was sort of about all of these things that got in the way of Norma and Norman. And achieving what they came to White Pine Bay for, achieving this dream, the season is very much about putting them in a position where they might actually get it.
They might actually get what they want. And the things that start to screw it up are more inside them. So it really is sort of – I can’t tell you too much because I don’t want to like, I don’t want to tell you too much. But it very much is a journey of following them deconstruct things that are good in a really entertaining way.
Q: Vera when you first took on the role, were you worried before Season 1 how it would work setting it in the modern day? And why is it you think it does work so well?
VF: You know, I think – yes. I’d be lying if I didn’t have like some reservation about it when I – when initially was presented with the offer. I thought there is so many things that can go wrong.
And where we are being tethered, you know, we’re borrowing these characterizations or these plots points from like from like (unintelligible), the most successful horror film ever.
And that’s why that is a tall order and comes with – you know, at the same time, you know, continually the focus is on – I think what assured me A, was I saw Freddie’s audition tape.
And any skepticism, any trepidation, and a fear I had, any I don’t know, any – yes, I mean the risk really vanished when I saw his audition tape because it wowed me. I saw it. And then it became to me simply a story, like it wasn’t – it’s not – at the heart of the story is this relationship between mother and son.
And I just thought with his performance it had a new life. And I feel like none of that mattered. And, you know, what the point of our exploration, and we could start it – we could – I think that we could – I mean it’s also, you know, honestly also I think for me it’s not like I was playing some iconic role. I think more for Freddie, I don’t even think he felt as if this – he’d have to answer this.
But I didn’t feel any sort of pressure of, you know, everything that we knew about Norma Bates was through the fractured psyche of Anthony Perkins Norman.
You know, and so for me there was just the idea of sort of that exploration between, you know, that sort of very intimate and also I mean the uniqueness of that. It’s like I don’t – I – first of all the role itself on the written page was, I don’t know. I think it’s so original.
It was – to me it’s one of the most original characters I have ever encountered. And a lot of that has to do with Kerry and Carlton’s writing of contradiction. And I think because that was so vital. It’s like when you encounter such sort of deeper level of virtuosity in the creation of a female character, you just don’t question it.
You, you know, you just like thank your lucky stars. You thank the writers for thinking of you. And you claim it. Yes, and actually the purest in me was a little skeptical.
But that cynicism just had to do with like oh, what is everybody else going to think. And once I could just stop caring about what everybody else was going to think and find my own passion for the story.
And, you know, I’m a mom. I’m a mom of two toddlers. The story for me resonates. It’s so relate – it’s unnervingly relatable. It’s like my inspiration for the role’s development is always point-blank myself.
You know, I see the way my strength and my weaknesses shape my babies. You know, and that’s what the story is about. And so yes, that was my passion. And again it’s like I look at things musically. It’s like I don’t, you know, I don’t want, you know, (some older).
It’s like the equivalent of playing Farmer and the Dell. And all of a sudden, you know, Kerry hands you, Sheehan you like Chopin Ensenada in B-flat minor, you know, with so many dissonances and major and minor shifts.
And, you know, it’s – I – it’s a rare gift of a very personal melody that I’ve been given in the form of Norma Bates. So I, yes, like with, you know, after – but after, I was absolutely sure after seeing Freddie’s audition tape that it was a sure fire bet.
Q: Do we leave the door open for a third season at the end of this one?
KE: Enthusiastically yes. It’s like there’s so much great story to go. It’s like it’s truly, this is such an exciting show to work on because there’s something about the relationship with it Norma and that Norman that just keeps on giving. And from a writer’s point of view, it’s just delightful. So yes, for sure.
Q: Vera,is there anything you do to prepare before your emotional scenes, like any ritual or anything that you have?
VF: It’s such an elusive sport. You know, I, you know, some days things that I think are going to work don’t. And, you know, the bottom line is always to take, and I’m so close with Freddie. And so there’s a lot there. There’s a lot of instigation.
Oftentimes it’s like if I – the constant, like the best thing is just to trust him and react. Simply remind myself to react. It’s not about acting. It’s reacting and being – and always bottom line, that is always.
And sometimes you don’t quite, you know, feel it. I mean I have so much to draw upon within my imagination, just putting myself in the what if position of with my own children.
I mean certainly my maternity is like – is constantly. I’m surrounding the house too. All the pictures that you see of young Norman is my (Finn and Gita), you know, throughout there. So all I have to do is like look at any other wall in my – it’s a wellspring of emotion that is like- is accessible to me.
But I don’t know. Sometimes it’s music. It you know, sometimes it’s a quick, you know, music. Sometimes it’s – I mean Kerry you’ll probably attest to that if you watch daily’s there’s sometimes where it’s like if I feel if it’s bogus, if I feel (soft), I’ll literally just call myself out on camera. And say that it’s like dishonest.
And then all of a sudden now. For myself. And then it will like put me into like, I don’t know. It’s like you do whatever it takes. And sometimes that process is quite weird and wacky.
And sometimes it’s just like just bringing like this book that I have that I’m in, you know, that I’m – I’m constantly trying to, you know, just keep something by my side that keeps me thinking about it. Like right now I’m reading the New York Times best seller by Andrew Solomon, Far From the Tree, Parent, Children and the Search for Identity.
And it’s just like, it’s just a beautiful, it’s a joyful tribute that exults, you know, parents and how they love their alien offspring with open force. You know, and it’s – and it ranges from like doing nothing and just being present. And maybe it’s like, you know, it depends on what the scene calls for and what the moment calls for.
But it’s tough too. It’s like balancing my own maternity and the demands of that with playing this like, oh my God, this kind of this cocktail of madness and maternity that is Norma Bates.
It’s like just, I find myself it’s like if – I’m so tired that often times it’s just submitting to that weariness. That’s sort of just inspires me. Usually it’s just a matter of opening my mouth.
But I don’t know. It’s like we work at such a rapid pace. Sometimes we shoot eight scenes a day plus more. You know, you’ve got to be prepared. And constantly like learning, you know, I’m trying – I’m like a full-time mom too.
So I’m always like, it’s like I’m never – I’ve never felt as prepared as before maternity. You know, I am constantly learning guidelines like on the way to work. It’s challenging, especially with this like interpret role. It’s super challenging.
But like I said, it’s like mostly I just rely on my scene partners. I mean Max Thieriot this season, Norman too, I mean Freddie too, It’s like (mister), these actors are like – are – this second season just be prepared to see some astonishing work from all of them.
And I mean there are times where Max literally in a scene where I just forget to say my lines because I’m so enthralled with his performance that I – that I’m watching him. And it’s like I’m just in awe.
And so it’s just trying to be present with them. And, you know, and finding the right research. There’s so much online too. You just like type in, you know, typing parenting a psychopath. And there’s so much that comes up. So much inspiration that will give me so much compassion for the struggle, you know, of a mom, you know, trying to find that a limited capacity to, you know, to loving her child, you know, through mental illness or whatever it is, you know, that that child is suffering from. There so many testimonials online that are really inspiring to me.
KE: I’m sorry. I just wanted to add that in listening to Vera talking about her process. Watching Vera on the set is one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever done in my life because it really – you really have no idea where it’s coming from.
You really, it’s like I like go up to her all the time afterwards and I’m like what were you thinking about during that? Because it is fascinating to watch. It’s like she’s channeling. It’s like she’s inside herself and outside herself at the same time.
And she has such a radar about when it’s real. So I just wanted to add to that. It was very interesting for me to hear about what her process was because I’m always fascinated by it.
Q: How will the arrival of Norma’s brother change the family dynamics this season?
KE: Well I mean obviously he’s, you know, a very volatile emotional memory for Norma that she really has no idea what to do with all of that. You know, it’s like it’s not like it’s ever been talk through or worked on. Or it’s been basically just, you know, shoved into the vault.
And then this guy shows up and he’s outside of the vault. And it’s like, you know, how do you handle that. So and obviously it’s, you know, super complicated because of Norman, you know, Norman’s great protectiveness of his mother and his tendencies that even he doesn’t know. So it’s like it’s super, super complicated and intense and interesting.
Q: Now Norma is obviously such an iconic role. But as Vera said earlier, obviously in the original film you don’t really get to meet her. You sort of see her through Norman’s eyes.
But you do find out what exactly happens to her in the end. I know that Kerry had said that you’re sort of trying to be faithful to the movie but not completely beholding to it. But does that affect knowing that at least one potential outcome for her, does that affect the way that you act and write the character?
KE: Well Carlton Cuse and I have always seen this as a strange love story between this mother and a son. And I don’t mean, you know, incest love. But it’s intense. And it’s – and it is the – I mean it has to go in a certain direction.
It doesn’t, you know, the relationship you see in the film, she’s very much portrayed as one type of person. And you don’t ever get to know that in her workings of how it got there.
You just, you know, which is really fun in the film. I mean it’s great. And it’s a big surprise when you find out in the film. But there’s so many, like when you get the luxury of taking that mess and like putting it under a microscope and examining it and wondering how it got there and what the permutations were.
And was there anything in at that wasn’t just ugliness because in the film, you know, she’s portrayed as a very abusive, harsh kind of ugly parent. You know, and it’s like okay, well everyone gets mad at their parents sometimes. I mean everyone – every teenager in the world said I hate you.
And they don’t hate them. It’s like the parent is such a complex thing to a kid. So it really was just, you know, it’s the love story of those two people and how they get to that place. And what it means and what that looks like. And it’s going to be amazing.
Q: What’s the most difficult part about playing Norma?
VF: To me it’s very simple. It’s just being earnest in my emotion. You know, I mean just the write her, you know, the writing is so demanding. It you know, they really want you to cause shock waves.
And it’s just mustering that earnesty that – and keeping yourself honest is really hard and most challenging. Having, you know, that – performing the role that this like, at this pitch is – requires an enormous amount of endurance and perspiration.
And I think honestly it has nothing to do with like my time on set because I’m, gosh this material is just, it’s all on the written page. And it’s all – all I’d have to do is take it off my scene partners. They’re just, they’re that stellar.
And it’s really, for me it’s going home and forgetting about it all and being present for my own children, which I don’t have a problem doing that. Like I treat my – it’s a job. It’s an on and off switch that I’m super passionate about.
But like for me actually the biggest challenge while I’m doing it is to just, is this on and off switch of just throwing it all away and not worrying about how am I going to prepare for tomorrow’s scenes. When all I want to be is present and available and – for my own children.
So this has nothing to do with my – with the role. It has to do with my real-life role of being mother because I, you know, I treasure in value it. It’s like it’s the – it’s my favorite role in all the world of any role that I’ll ever have. And also, you know, my role as wife. And it’s just like balancing that is probably the hardest thing.
Q: So there’s a scene at the very end of this first episode for Season 2 where Norma’s at the city Council, and she is sort of getting railroaded in the meeting. And she’s stops them and calls the guy – she says you’re a d**k. And – which made me laugh out loud.
I was wondering if you find that her sort of blatant honesty and her lack of any kind of filter, do you think that the world could use a little more of that?
VF: Frankness, forthrightness, yes. You know, honesty – the way that creeps up. I mean and it’s like with Norma there’s like she has this – wonderful that pendulum swing of dishonesty. And then disarming honesty with her.
And it’s like either this way or that way and did nothing in between. And I don’t know? Kerry, what can you say about this?
KE: I think that – I think there’s times when it’s useful, when candor is useful. I mean obviously we can’t all like go around being totally honest with everybody because there would be plenty of fistfights a day.
Times when you just have to cut through the bulls**t. And I think that’s what Norma has this great instinct for doing. Which is really funny considering how much of her own internal psyche is so discarded.
You know, but that she can’t just kind of lash out sometimes with the truth in the middle of that world of chaos inside of her is kind of poetic. I mean it’s kind of beautiful.
Also be sure to tune into “Bate Mote: After Hours” premiering tonight at 11pm ET/PT directly following the “Bates Motel” season two premiere.
The live half-hour special event bringing the highly engaged “Bates Motel” community to life as fans interact with the show’s stars and creators sharing behind-the-scenes analysis and exclusive content.
Series stars Vera Farmiga (Norma Bates), Freddie Highmore (Norman Bates), Max Thieriot (Dylan Massett) and executive producers Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin share their insights into the first episode and answer fan questions about the upcoming season of “Bates Motel.”