Wicked Horror sat in on a conference call earlier in the week with Bates Motel star Freddie Highmore and executive producer/co-creator Kerry Ehrin to talk about the third season, which began last week. As we can already see from the opening episode, things have not gotten any easier for Norman and Norma following the intense second season. As Norman seems to be moving closer toward his destiny every day, it’s worth questioning how these characters will continue to grow and change from here and how much of Psycho we’ll be seeing anytime soon.
“Potentially now there are less comparisons that are made…because people see the Norman on Bates Motel as being his own entity opposed to necessarily a precursor to Anthony Perkins’ version,” says Highmore. “But at the same time I’ve re-watched Psycho before every season and in some ways tried implementing what Anthony Perkins brought to the role.”
While Norma has idolized her son and held him to a perfect image, things are coming to light about Norman that even she cannot ignore that will certainly shape the way things develop from here. “It’s sort of like any mother,” Ehrin says, “if your child had something wrong with him, especially something you couldn’t control, your instinct would be to literally tie them to your ankle.”
They also go on to talk about the relationship between Norman, Norma and Dylan, which will be very different than what was seen in the first two seasons. “Dylan starts to get in between Norma and Norman,” Highmore says. “And I think that previously they have both shared this unbreakable bond and no one could come between them…Norma will start to confide in Dylan things that she can’t say to Norman. So that’s kind of where their threesome is headed to some extent.”
Ehrin and Highmore also noted that the character of Emma, played by Olivia Cooke, who sort of fell by the wayside in the second season, will have a more prominent role in season three. According to Highmore, Norman “wants to try and date Emma. And I guess the reason behind that becomes clearer as the season goes on and it is entirely, it is purely out of the feelings that he has for her but a lot of it is also out of feelings for his mother, in the way that he feels like he should be dating Emma.”
“And Emma… she’s done some growing up,” Ehrin adds. “When Norman first met her she was very much in many ways still kind of a little girl, very idealistic. I think lonely…And I think as she grows older she has to deal with the reality of her health, which clarifies a lot of things in life when you have a crisis like that.”
Elaborating on the struggle for power between Norma and Norman that we’ll be seeing a lot of this season, Highmore says, “Whereas Norman has always been very much the son or the younger person in the relationship before, that dynamic is starting to shift and even in the shots that we see in the first, in the first episodes, it’s much more set up as these two equals…but I don’t think that it will stay that way.” He goes on to add, “I think that’s interesting. He’s become slightly more manipulative and capable of toying with Norma and using his knowledge about what he’s capable of to gain things from her.”
Adds Ehrin, “He’s starting to see the chinks in her emotional armor.”
“And,” says Highmore, “He gets to wear some of her clothes so that’s another side to him.”
On how difficult it’s been to develop a sympathetic antihero for the screen, Ehrin says “If you’re going to take on a bad guy, you have to get inside of them and feel the world through them…no one wakes up in the morning and says, ‘hey, I’m a bad guy. I’m going to go out today and do bad things. Everyone wakes up in the morning and lies to themselves, so Norman is no different.”
The return of Norma’s brother, and Dylan’s father, to the show will also not do anything to make the lives of the Bates family any easier. “An exciting dynamic of the story is that there is a ticking time bomb present in that family community and we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know if Norma’s going to see him. We don’t know if Dylan’s going to bond with him. We don’t know if Caleb is full of it and is duplicitous.”
On that, Highmore also says, “There’s one fantastic scene that I guess I should tease in the widest of possible ways where…everyone comes together and that’s going to be this amazing meeting of people.”
As Norman is increasingly interacting with both his real mother and the hallucinatory Norma, as well as drawing closer toward adopting the mother persona, Highmore speaks to the challenges of such a complex relationship in terms of both story and acting. “It’s interesting,” he says. “We’ve experimented with in many ways this season how Norman himself is behaving in those, which comes a lot from the writing, how he’s behaving in those moments with this vision of her and whether he’s purely imagining her there in front of him, whether he is imagining himself as her, whether he’s talking out loud in using her words or he’s merely listening and hearing them.”
“And from what perspective do we see those things?” Highmore notes. “Is it purely from Norman’s perspective or is it from the kind of third person storytelling that we’re used to in most television shows… but there’s also a new sense of freedom to be found in them because it isn’t the reality and so that opens up new possibilities for how both Norman and Norma can behave.”
In regard to any further teases as the season develops, Highmore says, “It’s safe to assume that Norman will be killing again. That’s what everyone knows. It’s just when does he do it?”
Bates Motel is currently airing its third season. You can catch new episodes Mondays at 9:00pm on A&E.