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article imageBlu-Ray/DVD Essentials: Freddie Highmore checks into Bates Motel Special

By Earl Dittman     Oct 2, 2014 in Entertainment
The one-time child star of ‘Charlie & The Chocolate Factory’ says portraying the pathologically troubled Norman Bates on ‘Bates Motel’ — a modern-day prequel series based on the film ‘Psycho’ — feels completely natural to him.
For executive producer Carlton Cuse, the secret to the ratings success of the second season of the A&E series Bates Motel — a contemporary prequel that depicts the life of Norman Bates and his mother Norma prior to the events portrayed in Hitchcock's 1960 film classic Psycho — is actually a very simple one.
“First off, I think what makes the series so wonderful is this incredible dynamic that exists between the two main characters, Norma and Norman,” explains Cuse, who is currently producing the third season of Bates Motel. “I mean, that's the very heart and center of Bates Motel. The nature of that relationship, however, will evolve over time and I think what's really interesting is that, in Season Two, we see Norman going from being sort of a boy to being a man — that's part of his journey over the course of the show. And, as he becomes more of a man, there’ll be cumulative consequences in terms of how he and his mother relate to each other. At the end the day, we are making a show that is extensively about a serial killer, but the goal from a writing standpoint was to make the audience really care deeply about Norman and about Norma to like them and to root for them.
“And, the audience wouldn’t care for them if it were not for the amazing talents of Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore,” Cuse (who is also co-producing The Strain with Guillermo del Toro) says of the two main stars of Bates Motel. “Vera is a force of nature. She brings such depth to Norma. And, I can’t see anyone else in the role of Norman but Freddie. I can't imagine the show working or existing or being half as good without him. It was our great fortune that we landed such brilliant actors as Vera and Freddie.”
Best known for his leading roles in such highly-acclaimed family fare as Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland and The Spiderwick Chronicles, the former child star, on paper, seems like an unlikely candidate to play the infamous, murderous Norman Bates. Initially, it appeared to be a strange, twisted bit of casting, but if you’ve seen any episode from the dramatic thriller’s first two seasons, it is certainly difficult to imagine any other actor in the role. The very grown-up Freddie Highmore gives one of the most deviously charming and creepiest performance imaginable on television today.
Freddie Highmore stars a young Norman Bates on the A&E series  Bates Motel
Freddie Highmore stars a young Norman Bates on the A&E series 'Bates Motel'
A&E
“I really enjoy playing a character as complex as Norman,” the 22-year-old, London-born actor confesses. “Norman Bates certainly is different than anything I've done before. Luckily, I never had to make the transition from a child actor to a young adult, it has sort of happened kind of naturally. As you get older you start to play all different kinds of characters, so by playing Norman I wouldn't say I'm kind of doing anything different now than I did when I was younger. Sure, it may a bit dark, but it just seems like a natural progression to me. So, it’s been quite a wonderful experience being able to play Norman for two seasons.”
In Season Two of Bates Motel (now available on Blu-ray and DVD), Norman's innocence is buried under blackouts, suspicious characters and his strange behavior in the aftermath of Miss Watson's murder. Meanwhile, Norma must face dark truths of her own when family secrets begin to unravel and looming threats from local villains jeopardize Norma's stab at happiness. It appears that matter where Norman or Norma turn, there's no escaping what bubbles beneath the surface at the Bates Motel in White Pine Bay, Oregon.
FREDDIE HIGHMORE ON BATES MOTEL:
By doing Bates Motel, how has your style of acting evolved from that of a child actor into one as a young man? "In terms of evolution, I guess you become more aware, as you get older, of how lucky you've been to be on fantastic sets like this one. You're also aware of the learning process that goes on — kind of subconsciously — by just being on the set from a young age and learning from other actors. Having never been to any sort of acting school myself, I guess you become more and more aware of the things that you learn, traits and the other actors that you see to sort of replicate the ways that they've approached certain scripts or material that you find inspiring. Recognition of being lucky and also kind of maintaining this certain distance from it has always been very rewarding for me.”
Freddie Highmore
Freddie Highmore
A&E
Were you a fan of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho before you began work on Bates Motel? "Yes, most definitely. I think I saw it for the first time when I was 14, and then saw it a couple more times before starting the first season of Bates Motel. I haven't sort have returned to it since, mainly because both (executive producers) Carlton (Cuse) and Kerry (Ehrin) make us all feel free in bring in our own ideas and to not feel tied at all to the original material, which I think is so key really to the show. I guess whilst there are certain aspects of Anthony Perkins’ classic performance that people think that you might need, in some instances, if you seeking to replicate it. But, for me, there has never been a sense of me trying to mimic him. It was more sort of seeing him in the original film as an inspiration.”
Along those same lines, have you used either Anthony Perkins' or Vince Vaughn’s (from the remake) portrayals as older Norman Bates as a reference point for how you should play him as a younger man? "No, because from my perspective, I’ve never really approached Norman as a character that has arisen from someone else’s performance. I imagine because this is my first TV show, you are always slightly uncertain as to where your character is going to go or what he should be like — but that’s the excitement of it. More than anything, from my perspective, playing this character has been all about this constant build towards ultimately Norman going psycho. Now, whether that's necessarily sort of, in the sense, part of the original movie — which I don't think it is — there's certainly that build towards a climatic moment."
How do you think Season Two of Bates Motel compares to the first? "I think the whole arc of the second season was fantastic for Norman. The second season was great because it was good to have that time to establish a character and see them as they are before they start off on this journey. We all saw Norman as a lovely guy, but I think towards the end of the second season — in the tenth episode — we start to see this small manipulative side to Norman that starts to question our allegiance to him. That has been great fun as an actor to play because you play against the sense of what people think Norman should be. But, then there also comes a point to where I think, ‘To what extent can you continue to support his actions?’ And, with Norman's kind of growing realization of who he is, who he might become and what he's capable of becoming, there's this sense of power for him. What I think is great about the last episode of the season is the question, ‘To what extent would that power Norman take as sort of a selfish decision?’ By the end of that tenth episode the viewer is thinking, 'Are we still with him or not?'"
Cody (Paloma Kwiatkowski) and Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) in a scene from  Bates Motel
Cody (Paloma Kwiatkowski) and Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) in a scene from 'Bates Motel'
A&E
I don't think anyone ever thought of Norman Bates as a ladies man. On Bates Motel, however, he has gotten it on with several women. Ultimately, if he could choose one female in the series he would want to end up with to be happy, who would it be? "Well, I guess his mother really isn't it, is she? I mean, that's the ultimate Oedipus complex — they would just be great together or awful, I don't know? (laughs) I think there's this still kind of unexplored relationship with Emma (Olivia Cooke). They've got tension that's constantly been there and has never quite gone as far as it could have at different moments.”
How would you describe Norman and Norma's relationship at the end of Season Two? "The relationship between Norma and Norman has been likened, in the past, to this sense of an elastic band and it's kind of stretched out but then ultimately it returns to its original shape. You kind of stretch it and you think it's going to break but it never quite does. And Norma and Norman always seem to get over whatever challenges they've had previously up until the end of last season. I think by the end it's inconclusive as to whether that bond has been broken and whether Norma and Norman can kind of continue along the path that they were going before or whether they can't ignore such key facts about each other any longer."
Can you talk about your relationship with Vera Farmiga, personally and professionally? Did you immediately know the chemistry was there when you first started working together? “Yes, yes I think so. I mean, obviously it evolves overtime, that's sort of the joys of being on TV show. The relationship I have with film costars are obviously completely sort of different relationships that I have right now with Vera. I’ve grown incredibly close to Vera, her husband and her children, and I’ve spent a great deal of time at their house. I guess they've been sort of my family away from home. Thankfully, I’ve been able to spent evenings over there and slept over in their spare bedroom. They've just been absolutely wonderful and they're certainly my very best friends. So, I'm just incredibly lucky on a personal level to have met them.
Norman (Freddie Highmore) and Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) in a scene from Season 2 of  Bates Motel
Norman (Freddie Highmore) and Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) in a scene from Season 2 of 'Bates Motel'
A&E
“As an actress I think there's just always something going on with Vera. Every single take she's alive and trying something new. I think — especially with a television show — because you spend so long with each other and you spend so much time shooting different scenes with each other that there could be a tendency to kind of think beforehand, ‘Oh, we know how the scene will go because it's another scene with Norma and Norman.’ But, it’s always surprisingly not like that at all. I think part of it is due to the quality of the writing — in keeping everything different — because there's never been any moment that we thought to be kind of repetitious in any way. Vera is constantly arriving with a fresh approach to keep you on your show as an actor. You could shoot an entire scene just on Vera because she carries the emotions, not only when she's speaking but when she's listening to the entire scene. It's just a joy to work with her.”
Being such great friends with Vera, how are you able to tap into that strange yet unique relationship between Norman and Norma? “I have to kind of completely disengage from the relationship that I have with Vera. That allows me to be comfortable with any sort of the more intimate or more sort of borderline moment or thoughts and never feel awkward about doing them. I guess you both have to sort of commit to whatever it is on the page. But, exploring that relationship has been wonderful and certainly one of the best things about the show. I’ve enjoyed working on their supple ties and building up the characters and this relationship with not only the big events but moments of shared connections between each character than then can return in different episodes and in different seasons. Having never done a TV show before I'm kind of really enjoying the chance to get into the character development.”
Are you much of a social media guy? Do you use Twitter or do you Facebook? Are you into all that kind of stuff or do you try and stay away from it? “No, no I've stayed away from it up until now. I get, you know, email and stuff but I'm not completely sort of cut off in terms of technology. So, I haven't been much of a social media guy, myself.”
What part of Norman's personality would you like to see portrayed in the new season that maybe hasn't been explored completely in the past two seasons? “I guess again something that's sort of hinted out in the finale of last season is the continuation of blowing down the boundaries — the kind of definitive boundaries — between this is Norman and this is Norma. In the early part of last season, we saw Norman at times kind of assuming — especially with Cody (Paloma Kwiatkowski) in the motel room — his own identity and there's this kind of continuation I guess of somewhat merging between them at times and an ability to distinguish that. In the third season, I guess I would like to see it kind of further pushed out in an incredibly dramatic. I'm excited to continue on exploring that if Carlton and Kerry decide to.”
Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore in  Bates Motel
Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore in 'Bates Motel'
A&E
As earlier mentioned, the Season Two finale left a lot of things unresolved between Norma and Norman. Do you think that mother and son will be back to their version of normal in the new season? “I'm not sure. I think one of the great things about the show is that it's never overly conclusive. You'll never sort of shove the conclusion down your throat saying, ‘Oh, this is how you must think about that or this is your take on Norma and Norman's relationship.‘ And, so I imagine and I hope that various people will have seen the end of teh second season differently and come out of it with a different opinion from the person sitting next to them. I think that's what makes the show great. It’s not overly conclusive, but it's suggested and sort of sparks debating in that way. Even amongst everyone on the show, there's this sense of constant dialog and constant discussion about if certain boundaries been crossed or what stage is a certain relationship at. It's nothing kind of definitive or easily distinguished, it's just more a sense of reality than fiction. So, I guess we’ll all have to wait for the new season to start.”
Untitled
Universal
Bates Motel: Season Two Bonus (Blu-ray + UltraViolet) Features: Deleted Scenes; “Origins of a Psycho: Inside Bates Motel” Featurette; “Bates Motel: After Hours” - Season Two Premiere and “Bates Motel: After Hours” - Season Two Finale. (Available October 7)
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Warner Bros
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The Number 4 motion picture on the American Film Institute's list of America's 100 Greatest Movies and an original selection to the Library of Congress National Film Registry (in 1989), Gone With The Wind is celebrating its 75th anniversary with this stunning, collectable blu-ray collection. In Gone With The Wind, Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) is a woman who can deal with a nation at war, Atlanta burning, the Union Army carrying off everything from her beloved Tara, the carpetbaggers who arrive after the war. Scarlett is beautiful. She has vitality. But Ashley (Leslie Howard), the man she has wanted for so long, is going to marry his placid cousin, Melanie (Olivia de Haviland). Mammy (Hattie McDaniels) warns Scarlett to behave herself at the party at Twelve Oaks. There is a new man there that day, the day the Civil War begins. Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Scarlett does not know he is in the room when she pleads with Ashley to choose her instead of Melanie. Bonus (Blu-ray + Digital HD) Features: Memorabilia including a replica of Rhett Butler’s handkerchief and a music box paperweight playing Tara’s theme with an image on top of the Rhett-Scarlett kiss; A 36-page companion booklet featuring a look at the immortal style of Gone With the Wind, written by New York fashion designer and Project Runway finalist Austin Scarlett, whose signature look reflects the romantic elegance of the Gone with the Wind era; Footage of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh attending the original movie premiere in Atlanta and "Old South/New South," a journey through today's South, revisiting the real-life locations depicted to see how the world of the Old South continues to inform life in the New South’s cosmopolitan world.
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Transformers: Age of Extinction
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Reign: The Complete First Season
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Acorn
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