VANCOUVER, BC. It's mid-October on the set of A&E's “Bates Motel,” cold and rainy outside, dry and warm inside.
The stars of the “Psycho” prequel can't say very much.
Things are generally kept under wraps with the “Bates Motel” cast, with co-creator Carlton Cuse and showrunner and co-creator Kerry Ehrin keeping a close eye out for potential spoilers. In this case, though, it's fairly easy for the stars, minus the absent Vera Farmiga, to remain mum, since a small group of reporters is visiting on the eve of the start of production on Season 3, so while the actors may have been told general arcs for the season, they couldn't be overly forthcoming even if they wanted to.
So Freddie Highmore can discuss what Norman Bates' near suicide attempt at the end of Season 2 meant at the time, even if he can't tell you what it will mean for the future.
“Certainly it impacts a lot on Norman's relationship with his mother in the third season,” Highmore teases. “The fact that he's taken this, in some ways this selfless step of saying, 'I'm going to remove myself from this world because I think that's for the greater good and in order to protect everyone and especially Norma,' it's the kind of ultimate thing he's trying to do in terms of loving her and so with the knowledge that that's taken place, there's this added pressure and added dynamic in their relationship in the third season that I think hinges around the fact that they're so close and that he loves her more than anything, even himself.”
Highmore also has a sense of what it will mean that Norman is now aware of his fugue states and what comes with them.
He says. “It's so interesting for Norman, of course, to not know exactly what goes on in certain moments and starts doubting himself even at times when perhaps he shouldn't be, but there's always going to be this side to him that's slightly unsure about what has happened and waking up one morning and thinking, 'Oh, is this actually what happened or was it not the reality.'”
And Nestor Carbonell can tell you where Romero finds himself vis a vis the Bates family at the start of Season 3, without necessarily knowing how that will impact that narrative, other than that Romero may have a tenuous business pact with Max Thieriot's Dylan.
“I think the dynamic between our characters sorta came to be sorta a working relationship or hopefully a working relationship at the end of Season 2. Part of it was due to the reality that these two families that essentially ran the economy of the town took each other out and Dylan was left standing, but I think Romero sees in him all of these incredible possibilities and he's also strangely drawn, in some way, to the whole Bates family,” he explains. “He as been drawn, obviously, to Norma. I think he sees a female counterpart in her. She's equally as stubborn as he is, equally as guarded, but also resolute in her ways. I think in Norman he sees the possibility of a surrogate son, who obviously needs some attention. And I think in Dylan he sees perhaps a younger version of himself, this guy who's trying to do the right thing with the cards he's been dealt. So I think he's strangely drawn to all of them and it's maybe the family he wished he kinda had and he feels somehow akin to them.”
And what of Olivia Cooke's Emma?
“I think there's just something about Norman that Emma just can't resist and hasn't quite gotten over,” the “Ouija” star says. “So this season she's still at the motel and her and Norman get closer in a way that Emma is quite excited about, but is then kinda perturbed by his actions and maybe his lack of actions.”
And what of Caleb, whose ties to the Bates family are perhaps the twistiest on the show? Well, Kenny Johnson knows that most of the characters on the show don't exactly love Norma's black sheep brother, but he has his own version of the family history.
“The way I approached it from the beginning, for me, is I created my own mom and dad's background and what kind of violence and volatility happened and I think a lot of people remember things differently as children, growing up, and what happened and who did what and who blames who, so I just have my own thing going, which is a completely different painted picture,” Johnson says. “So I approach it in my truth, Caleb's truth. And he's coming back to find some connection to a family at this point in his life and obviously the rejection from Norma, but he gets this bombshell dropped on him, is gonna be, 'How do you handle that?' You can't. I feel like, as a human being, how can you actually walk away and forget that? So he comes back to find some answers out for himself.”
[Update from March 2015: It should be noted that Kerry Ehrin had lots of general teases for the season at this press conference with a group of reporters, while I had a long phone conversation with Ehrin last week and that will be running on Sunday (March 8) night.]
Before the press conference, we'd visited the remote exteriors of the Bates Motel and Bates Home. And after the press conference, we wandered around the interiors, including Norman's taxidermy-filled basement.
Check out some of my pictures from the set below, stay tuned for my Kerry Ehrin interview on Sunday and the “Bates Motel” Season 3 premiere on Monday, March 9 on A&E.
My “Bates Motel” set photos: