Apr 30 2014

“Bates Motel” Conference Call with Freddie Highmore and Carlton Cuse

Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates.

Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates.

On April 28, I had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with Freddie Highmore, star of the A&E series, Bates Motel, as well as writer and executive producer Carlton Cuse. Both provided a few insights into the upcoming season finale airing May 5, 2014 at 10:00 pm ET/PT.

Full disclosure here, I have never seen Bates Motel and was filling in for another writer. I am, however, a big fan of Highmore’s movies, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Finding Neverland. Because of that, I focused my questions on Highmore’s transition from childhood actor to the young adult we see in Bates Motel.

Highmore surprised me during the conference call when he confessed that even though he’s been acting since the age of seven, it is more of a passion for him rather than a job. Right now, Highmore seems more focused on continuing his education studying Spanish and Arabic. When asked what he likes to do for fun, Highmore zeroed in on his upcoming exams before returning to shoot season three of Bates Motel.

Cuse, on the other hand, focused on the series, and spoke about the balance of paying homage to the films while making the show contemporary and able to stand on its own.

Below are my questions, followed by the remaining Q&A of the call.


Operator: Our first question is from the line of Greg Staffa with Your Entertainment Corner; please go ahead.


Greg Staffa: Hi Mr. Highmore thanks for taking our calls today or questions. You got your start at an early age, I believe around the age of 7 and by the age of 12 you were doing films such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and one of my favorites Finding Neverland.

Now as a young man you’re taking the  iconic role of Norman Bates and I was wondering how your style of acting has evolved as a child actor into a young man and was it hard to break free from that kind of cute kid mold to do something a little bit more darker like Bates Motel and how have you avoided the pitfalls others have fallen into?


Freddie Highmore: Hello, yes thank you for – all of you for taking the time to speak to us today.

I guess I terms of the last thing I’ve always remained I guess relatively distant from the sort of film while growing up whenever I wasn’t doing one myself. And so I carried on sort of going to normal school and right now I’m just a couple of weeks away from doing my final exams at the university. And so having always combined acting with my studies and always have a (digital) back here in England I think that’s given me a kind of nice sense of distance in terms of not falling into the pitfalls that you mentioned.

In terms of evolution I guess you become more aware as you get older of how lucky you’ve been to sort of been on these fantastic sets. And also aware of I guess the learning process that goes on kind of subconsciously just by being on the set from a young age and learning from actors. Having never been from – been to sort of acting school myself I guess you become more aware of the things that you learn and traits and other actors that you see to sort of replicate or ways that they’ve approached, you know, certain scripts or material that you find inspiring.

So I guess it’s not – yes recognition of being lucky and also kind of maintaining this certain distance from it which has always been rewarding.

And then finally I guess for the – yes Norman Bates certainly is different but I never sort of transitioned from a sort of child actor to a young adult, so I don’t (elect) it to be sort of particularly problematic in the sense that I just saw it as a natural thing.

You know, as you get older you start to play all the characters and so I wouldn’t say I’m kind of doing anything different now than I did before, it just seemed natural to me.


Greg Staffa: Thank you for your time.


Freddie Highmore: Thank you.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line Jamie.


Jamie: Hi guys it’s great to talk to both of you, thanks for doing the call.


Carlton Cuse: Thank you.


Freddie Highmore: Thank you.


Jamie: So can you talk about kind of when you started this — and this is for both of you though — were you both fans of the movie? And then for Carlton, has that kind of affected – how much has that affected how you sort have did the series compared to the movie and how has that changed from the beginning?


Carlton Cuse: Oh yes I would just – I was a huge fan of the movie. I think it’s, you know, it’s kind of in the pantheon of nearly perfect movies.

And so I was actually, you know, very afraid about making a show that would sort have fall in the – too heavily in the shadow of that. And so, you know, right from the get-go when Kerry Ehrin my partner on the show and I started working on it, you know, the very first – the sort of first and most important decision that we made was to do the show as a contemporary sequel which I think put the show in a different place than the movie.

I think if we had done it as a period show it would always be, you know, kind of in the oppressive shadow of this amazing master work that Hitchcock made. And, you know, for us what we really wanted to do is just take these characters, you know, take the idea of, you know, it’s like Tom Stoppard took, you know, Rosencrantz and Gildenstern and, you know, and brought them to life, you know, from, you know, these two minor characters from Shakespeare and gave them their own existence.

You know, we took these two major characters from this Hitchcock movie and we sort of just placed them into a different time and gave them their own existence. And I think one of the things that’s been really rewarding as the show has gone to a second season is I think people are, you know, really beginning to see that, you know, Bates Motel is, you know, is really its own thing.

It was inspired by the Hitchcock movie but it’s really an original show taking some elements from the original Hitchcock movie, but our goal is to tell a wholly new story.


Jamie: All right so Freddie were you a fan?


Freddie Highmore: Yes I mean…


Jamie: Well you were probably pretty young, you know.


Freddie Highmore: I think I saw it for the first time when I was 14 and then saw it one more time or a couple more times before finally doing Bates Motel and starting the first season.

I haven’t sort have returned to it since, I guess as Carlton said I mean as he said he was slightly sad in terms of taking it on I guess he did a great job – both Carlton and Kerry in making us all feel free to bring our own ideas. And so – and to not feel tied at all to this original material which I think is so key really to the show.

And I guess whilst there are certain aspects of kind of Anthony Perkins classic performance that people sort of see that or that you might have sort have in some instances sought to replicate. There was never a sense of mimicking him – it was more sort of seeing him in the original film as an inspiration and one of several forms of that.


Jamie: Okay well thank you so much, both of you.


Carlton Cuse: Thanks.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line of Joe.


Joe: Hi guys thanks for taking the call today.


Freddie Highmore: Not at all.


Joe: Freddie – yes Freddie I have a question for you. It was kind of slightly a bit in the last one but basically in the roles of Anthony Perkins in the original movie or even in Vince Barnes in the remake, have you felt or come across any challenges in regards to their portrayal of Norman Bates as an older person in making a younger Norman?

Or have you felt like not even the need to kind of portray their essence and kind have made it your own character and any challenges in regard to that?


Freddie Highmore: No I mean I guess in terms of the sort of narrative art it’s something that Carlton will know more than me.

But I’ve never see the sort of individual from my perspective being Norman arising exactly at sort of Anthony Perkins enrollment. And so Carlton maybe sort of certain thing taken from that, it wasn’t a sort of end goal of mine to kind of have (Michael) end up in the motel actually, he’s actually like Anthony Perkins. But at the same time I guess being on a TV show one of the sort of rare luxuries that I’ve got is knowing where Norman and (Doc) and so.

And so whilst sometimes you – I imagine because I guess this is my first TV show but you sort of are slightly uncertain as to where your character is going to go and the terms he (tends) to make and so there’s that excitement. But from my perspective it’s this constant build towards ultimately Norman going psycho. And whether that’s necessarily sort of in the since of the original movie I don’t think so but there’s certainly that build towards a climatic moment.


Joe: Okay and if I could just say real quick I just think you’re great and my wife she just wanted me to say that you give her chills every time she sees – her and I watch it she gets scared just watching your performance. I think you did a great job.


Freddie Highmore: Well Norman’s a nice guy, he’s very – he’s lovely.


Joe: Well there’s just something about like the way you portray him and some of the looks and I just say – I tell all my friends I think you’re the perfect role for Norman Bates. I just want to say that, you’re doing fantastic.


Freddie Highmore: Well thank you very much, well that’s great we’ve got a third season to look forward, so more to come.


Joe: Yes I’m very looking forward to it.


Freddie Highmore: Thank you very much.


Carlton Cuse: Thank you.


Operator: And now our next question is from the line of Tim.


Tim: Thank you, hi Carlton and Freddie and thank you for chatting this afternoon.


Carlton Cuse: Hi.


Tim: Carlton I wanted to ask you – and you both have touched on it a little bit, but you talked about the series being it’s own entity and I think it absolutely has emerged as that.

But given that we all do know the source material, how wedded to that are you in terms of we know where these characters – or at least Norman – Norman and (Doug). But I think we’ve also become so invested in them – in the series that we don’t want them to end up there – is that possible or do they need to end up there ultimately.


Carlton Cuse: You know, I think that I’m very happy to hear you say that because I think that’s the, you know, the key to a great tragedy and, you know, tragedy is a great storytelling form.

It, you know, it worked extremely well for Shakespeare, it worked extremely well for Jim Cameron, Titanic as a tragedy and, you know, in that movie you’re sort have – you kind of hope that, you know, Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet don’t meet their inevitable fate. I think that that tension between sort of your expectations as to what’s going to happen to these characters and what – and what’s actually occurring now on their journey is that dramatic tension I think is the essence of what, you know, we are trying to accomplish as writers.

And I think that Freddie and Vera are, you know, no one could do a better job than the two of them executing that. We do foresee that there are some, you know, bad things that loom ahead for Norma and Norman but I think, you know, it would be – I think it would actually rob the audience of the enjoyment of the journey to be too specific about how we’re going to play that out. I mean certainly we think that, you know, a literal necessitation of the events of the movie would not be fully satisfying.


Tim: Okay, thank you.


Carlton Cuse: Thanks.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line of Emery.


Emery: Hey guys, so I wanted to ask and I’m not sure I came in a couple minutes late, so I’m not sure if it’s asked already but the finale’s coming up of course and I just wanted to know, I mean again like not to say any spoilers, but how do you think that it compares to the first season finale.

Because, you know, it was a huge chopper at the end there, but how do you think it compares maybe thematically?


Carlton Cuse: Freddie do you want to jump in?


Freddie Highmore: Yes I mean I found – I think the whole Arc of the second season has been fantastic for Norman and there’s always a sort of time that you need in terms of establishing a character and seeing them as they are before they start off on this journey.

And I think towards the end of this season we certainly see Norman – I mean I guess I said a couple minutes earlier that Norman was a lovely guy but I think in the tenth episode especially and perhaps number eight that we’ve already see, we start to see this small manipulative side to Norman that starts to question whether or not, you know, question our allegiance to him and sort of support and backing of it, which has been great fun as an actor to play because you play against the sense of what people thing Norman should be like.

But then there comes a point where I think, you know, to what extent can you continue to support his actions. Ad with Norman’s kind of growing realization of who he is and who he might become and what he’s capable of comes this sense of power for him. And what I think is great about the tenth episode is, you know, to what extent would that power Norman take as sort of self (solicit) decision or a selfish decision. And by the end of the episode do we – are we still with him or not.


Emery: Okay cool and quickly Carlton they just announced that there’s a Friday the 13th series, is it going to make – and it’s going to kind of follow a similar format and it’s going to go back to the origins of Jason, do you think that that’s sort of – do you – what do you think of that new view?

Do you feel a kind of cause and is there going to be a trend where people are taking, you know, older characters and then do you think going back to the origins to try to refresh the story for television?


Carlton Cuse: I mean I think it’s, you know, I think it’s already, you know, it’s happening in some sense.

I mean obviously Hannibal is a sort of parallel example of another example where I think Brian Fowler has done a really great job of sort of reinventing, you know, that character in a different context. I mean honestly as writers Kerry and I really don’t think too much about what other people are doing, we’re just kind of worried about our own show.


Emery: Right.


Carlton Cuse: And, you know, I think for us I think what, you know, what distinguishes our show is, you know, we’ve tried to make the show very, you know, kind of heart felt and it has, you know, a lot of humor and emotion.

And I thin kit operates on kind of a level that you don’t expect from a show that’s extensively about a guy who’s a serial killer and I think that’s one of the things that’s sort of surprising about it. So, you know, we, you know, we just kind of focus on trying to make the best version of our show.

You know, and just to go back to your original question, I personally think that the season finale is better because I think it moves the overall narrative a big step forward and I don’t want to spoil that too much. But I think that it’s pretty evident as we’ve moved downstream here that there’s – there are these really significant looming questions. One is, you know, what is Norman’s ultimate culpability in the murder of Ms. Watson and secondly how aware is Norman of what it is that he’s done or is capable of doing.

And, you know, to us those are really important questions because, you know, the character’s self knowledge is a huge factor in how he moves forward. And, you know, we’re going to jump right into the heart of those questions in the finale. And, you know, it’s really satisfying as a writer to have a chance to take those kinds of questions on and, you know, and, you know, Kerry and I sort of loved writing that stuff.

And, you know, it was just made all the better by how well, you know, Freddie executed it. It’s I think, you know, I think the finale is my favorite episode of the season and, you know, a lot of that has to do with just how great the performances are, you know, by Freddie, Vera and also Max Thieriot.


Emery: Awesome, thank you very much guys.


Freddie Highmore: Thanks.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line of Terry.


Terry: Hi Freddie and Carlton, thanks so much for taking the time today and that we’ve talked a lot about, you know, the references to psycho on the show and I just have to say that I loved that shower scene recently with Norman and with Sheriff Romero, I thought that was a really fun (none) from the original movie.

My question to you guys is can we expect an answer by the end of this season about who killed Ms. Watson? And sort of going off that Freddie what was the greatest challenge for you of making the audience constantly question back and forth whether Norman was the one to kill her?


Freddie Highmore: I guess yes there will be an ultimate – or feeling (inherently) onto that question before the end of the season.

I think, yes it’s tricky in terms of not wanting to spoil too much but yes they’re toying with the audience has what’s been so (fine) and also just stretching in this – the relationship between Norma and Norman has 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 – the original shape. And 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 now. And I think that with the tenth of it especially it’s inconclusive as to whether that bond has been (set) 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.


Terry: Okay thank you.


Operator: Thank you and now our next question is from the line of Kelly.


Kelly: Hi guys, thanks so much for chatting with us and congrats on getting a third season renewal I’m so excited about that.


Carlton Cuse: Oh thank you, thanks for joining us today.


Kelly: So Norman and Norma are usually so close but the secret that she’s been keeping about his blackout and really driving a wedge between them, will their relationship kind of continue down the strained path or is there reconciliation in the near future?


Carlton Cuse: You know, just you know, Norma and Norman’s relationship is at the very heart of the show and so, you know, that I don’t think ever will change.

That’s what makes the show I think wonderful is this incredible, you know, dynamic that exists between, you know, these two characters as portrayed by these two actors. I mean that’s the very heart and center of the show. The nature of that relationship however will evolve over time and I think, you know, what’s really interesting is that, you know, Norman is going from being sort of a boy to being a man, that’s part of his journey over the course of the show.

And I think that as he – as he becomes more of a man, you know, that has (cumulative) consequences in terms of how he and his mother relate to each other. And, you know, so I think it would be, you know, Kerry and I certainly don’t see that relationship as being static but we definitely see it as always being, you know, very close and very intense.


Kelly: Absolutely and Freddie the last we saw Norman was just adopted in the house, how was it filming that scene? Were you generally scared like someone’s about to attack me?


Freddie Highmore: Well I mean I guess you – I guess normally you sort have – you’re sort of aware really, you know, that someone’s going to take you, so I guess it’s not the same shock as Norman’s real one.

But in time of course you sort of as I guess I try and put myself in – in Norman’s shoes or socks as he’s coming down the stairs And then yes and try to make that reaction and genuine as possible and by gosh ultimately yes you are hopefully as shocked as Norman was. And I think it just sets up for tonight really just fantastic season – this fantastic episode for Norman.

Where, you know, having been kidnapped he spends the entire episode in sort of solitary confinement, completely alone and that just further kind of increases the pressure and build towards the tenth episode.


Kelly: Awesome, well thank you so much, I look forward to a nice episode.


Freddie Highmore: Thank you.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line of Skylar.


Skylar: Hi, thank you both for taking the time to speak with us. This one’s for Freddie, over here at the Pop Fix we like to find out everyone’s current, you know, pop culture favorites like movies, music, TV – any of those. So Freddie what is your personal current pop fix and then what do you believe Norman’s would be?


Freddie Highmore: I’m always so used to these questions – maybe because I guess I don’t have a particular – it always seems like I’m lying and trying to sort of cover up some favorite of mine that I don’t want to say.

But I guess at the moment my circus is actually these sort of final exams at university which sounds pretty boring but they’re only a few weeks away now. And so I’ve been reading loads of Latin American literature which has been great but I’m not sure if that would count as a sort of pop quiz or a pop (unintelligible).


Carlton Cuse: I think that, you know, Freddie is the anti-pop – I mean he’s the literary. I mean drop a few literary, you know, bombs here Freddie because, you know, I mean you’re entitled – what have you been reading?


Freddie Highmore: No I can’t miss my chance to yes – no there have been some great books on (Funtese), I’ve got a fantastic professor at the college here and he does lots of (kinds of fun) novels.

And of course, you know, the great (unintelligible) he died recently and some of his stuff and (unintelligible) a year ago. Loads of various things which I’m not sure will fit in nicely into what, so I’m sorry.


Skylar: That’s okay and then…


Freddie Highmore: I think (unintelligible) that’s the Norman character I think that would be kind of similar to me, you know, what do you think about pop?


Carlton Cuse: I think actually it’s true, I think the thing that’s really interesting and, you know, you guys can I’m sure obviously tell stylistically, you know, the house and the wardrobe and stuff.

You know, Norma and Norman sort of intentionally in their own environment are sort of out of time. And I think that, you know, Norman, you know, Norman would be excited about seeing like a Preston Sturges movie. You know, maybe reading some (Joe De Pasion) or Hemingway. I mean he is not a guy who is, you know, really caught up in the present. He has an iPod but he’s probably most likely to be listening to Beethoven on it instead of Katie Perry.


Skylar: Really appreciate it, it’s definitely interesting – I can’t wait for the next two episodes, I appreciate it once again.


Carlton Cuse: Thanks.


Freddie Highmore: Thanks, sorry.


Operator: Thank you and now our next question is from the line of Jeff.


Jeff : Hi thank you very much. I’d like to ask a couple of questions about characters on the show – Carlton I love the relationship between Norma and Sheriff Romero where that has developed. Do you have any other lost actors that you would like to have an appearance on the show?


Carlton Cuse: Oh gosh I mean, you know, I – there are so many wonderful actors on Lost. You know, I don’t think there’s anyone on Lost I wouldn’t, you know, I would not want to work with again; I mean they’re all so great.

I just think, you know, the, you know, I – it just so happened that when we were creating Sheriff Romero’s character, you know, (Nestor) popped into my mind and it was just – he so vividly encapsulated everything that we wanted in the character. But I really actually, you know, kind of never think about that. You know, I don’t sort of think about intentionally taking someone from one show and using them in another.

You know, hopefully it will happen that a character that, you know, that we create, you know, might lend itself to being cast by someone else from Lost that would soon be opened up but I don’t have any plans immediately to add anyone else from Lost.


Jeff: All right, what’s happening with George, is he too good to be true or is there going to be a (stint) in his back story?


Carlton Cuse: Oh George?


Jeff: Yes.


Carlton Cuse: Yes you’ll have I think there’s the, you know, I think part of the story Arc this season has really been about, you know, seeing how kind of close to the sun Norma can fly.

I mean she’s always had this vision of, you know, kind of moving to this idyllic small town and being in with the right people and having the right relationships. And George sort of personifies kind of acceptance and admission into the society of this town. And, you know, in the finale we will, you know, sort of definitely see where that leads and where that leaves Norma at the end of the season and so it will pay off.


Jeff : Great thank you so much and Freddie just real quick, Norman Bates I don’t think anyone expects him to be such a ladies man. He has gotten it on with several women on the show and I’m just wondering…


Freddie Highmore: Well I know but…


Carlton Cuse: I don’t think that’s the premise.


Jeff : …if Norman were to suddenly be well which woman on the show do you think he would end up with and be happy?


Freddie Highmore: Well I guess his mother really isn’t it, I mean that’s the ultimate (unintelligible) is that they would just be great together or awful, I don’t know.

I mean I think there’s this still kind of unexplored relationship with Emma that is – they’ve got tension there that’s constantly been and has never quite gone as far as it could have at different moments. And that’s another pair off I think that comes in the last episode. We see Norman’s relationship with Emma take a twist and perhaps the one that we expected.


Jeff: Great, thank you all so much.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line of Steve.


Steve: Hi Freddie and Carlton, it’s a pleasure to speak with you both today.


Carlton Cuse: Thank you, you too.


Freddie Highmore: Thanks.


Steve: My first question is for Freddie, Freddie I really enjoyed the relationship this season with your character and the Cody Brennen character.

And I was wondering perhaps if you could talk maybe a little bit about what you enjoyed most perhaps about that relationship and also working with Paloma Kwiatkowski on the show as well if you don’t mind.


Freddie Highmore: Paloma’s fantastic and has such a different synergy I think that is brought to the show.

It not only kind of serves to – to kind of revitalize Norman in many ways and I think to come up to this whole other world. And but also in terms of the audience in keeping things kind of constantly changing in Norman’s world outside of the home. And she’s yes been great to work with and loads of energy and always comes incredibly well prepared. And I think that yes I mean I guess for now Cody has left the world of White Pine Bay but certainly not without going incredibly noticed and leaving her mark upon Norman.


Steve: And then Carlton a follow-up question for you, Season 2 has been absolutely amazing. Just when you think it couldn’t get any better it has and you guys have done a fantastic job.

And I wanted to find out what were perhaps some of the biggest writing as well as production challenges you guys faced would you say going into Season 2?


Carlton Cuse: You know, I think that the – from a writing challenge it was, you know, how do we, you know, I guess it was just kind of fun to figure out how we expand – just how we most effectively could expand our knowledge of the world in which these characters inhabited both sort of interpersonally and also externally with the community at large.

And so we spent, you know, a lot of time, you know, kind of – we really wanted to sort of show the characters in White Pine Bay to get to know more about that community too. And to really, you know, sort of deepen the audience’s connection with Norma, Norman and Dillon, you know, kind of throw out the season.

So in a weird – I guess to kind of summarize I think the – you’re making a show that is extensively about a serial killer but the goal on a writing standpoint was to make the audience really care deeply about Norman and about Norma. To like them, to root for them and so, you know, you have these sort of two things that are kind of in opposition.

One you sort of know this character is sort of in dissent towards, you know, the kind of sort of kind of a difficult and being this pathological, but at the same time we want the audience to really relate to him and connect to him. What we didn’t want was the audience sort of, you know, kind of looking in at him from the outside sort of pathologically we want the audience.

Kerry and I, our goal always in the writing is to have the audience be really deeply connected on an emotional level to Norma and Norman and be right there with them as they go on this, you know, fun but also perilous journey.

And I think that’s the challenge is to, you know, is to kind of, you know, be able to take a (jonre) like a serial killer, you know, a show that’s extensively about a serial killer, but to make it heartfelt and emotional and funny and humanistic. And I think that’s the, you know, that’s what we work really hard at as writers.


Steve: Well again thank you both for your time today and your hard work on the show, it’s greatly appreciated.


Freddie Highmore: Thank you very much.


Carlton Cuse: Thank you.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line of Sabienna.


Sabienna: Hi guys, thanks so much for talking with us today.


Freddie Highmore: Very cool, thank you for coming on.


Sabienna: My question is and I’m not sure if you’re actually going to be able to answer this or not, but Season 2 has covered so much ground and it’s been such a great season with (Art) for the entire family. And I was wondering do you have a sense yet of what the shape of Season 3 will be or what would you expect given how much has been covered already in Season 2?


Carlton Cuse: Well I’m happy that you like Season 2 and thank you for your kind words about it.

Look our goal is to, you know, to continue to, you know, write the show on a high level and make Season 3, you know, hopefully even better than Season 2. I mean, you know, our expectations are that high and, you know, I – we Kerry Ehrin and I have actually spent a fair amount of time talking about it and we do have a preliminary game plan that we’re, you know, very excited about. I mean it’s tough to say too much about it because a lot of it is driven by events that are in the finale that I don’t want to spoil on this phone conference.

But I feel very confident that we can make a really engaging Season 3. We do have a plan and in fact we’re already kind of now that we’ve been picked up we’re, you know, we’re hard at work in terms of just sort of kind of, you know, laying out the architecture of the new season. And I think it’s going to be great, I’m really excited about it.


Sabienna: I’m sorry and as a follow-up I know we always mention Psycho as an influence, but how much has Alfred Hitchcock’s larger body of work influenced the tone of the show or just in the way that you write things?


Carlton Cuse: Oh I mean I think, you know, Hitchcock is one of my favorite filmmakers and I think his ability to, you know, kind of find suspense in very human moments and kind of connect them to characters.

You know, there’s just so many ways in which I’ve been influenced by him in terms of what he does as a filmmaker. And, you know, I think there’s, you know, there’s, you know, I kind of – I’m just kind of thinking in my mind of, you know, working on the show and just thinking about, you know, Rope or Vertigo or North by Northwest.

And just, you know, he’s just such an amazingly talented filmmaker in terms of his ability to, you know, tell these sort of stories that were sort of deeply suspenseful but also deeply psychological at the same time. And, you know, he had this incredible ability to both, you know, really put characters in really tense and dynamic perilous situations.

but also really get you inside their psyche’s and really get you, you know, make you feel kind of – just kind of the way in which he connected his characters to the psychological and physical dilemmas of storytelling is something that was a huge influence on me.


Sabienna: Awesome, thank you both so much.


Freddie Highmore: Thank you very much.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line of Claresa.


Claresa: I just want to say that so far Season 2 is in my mind far surpassing Season 1, it just has me on the edge of my seat all the time. And in the last episode though there were like little quirks with the characters that amaze me.

Whenever Norman told Norma, you know, the (tax) I mean is great because it goes with everything, knowing where she is going to end up. And how Norma, you know, even though she hates what Dillon – not Dillon – yes Dillon what he does, you know, she’s still really proud of him as a mother even though he’s, you know, a drug dealer, you know, she – he has a big (office) and that’s great.

And I’m wondering what is it about the Bates family that they kind of came into White Pine Bay and yet they’ve cast a spell over the entire town. Is – did you write it so that they could do that? I mean what is it about the family? Because they came in and they were kind of outcast at first and now it’s almost as if they’re – they’re the family in town?


Carlton Cuse: Well I think that’s what this season, you know, Arc was about was sort of Norma came here with this dream and this idea that, you know, she was finally going to find a place where they would fit in where she would be socially accepted where she would be someone important.

Where, you know, she would be hanging out with the right people. And so we wanted to explore, you know, what – whether that was possible and whether it was poss- you know, and I think what’s really interesting about Norma as a character is that, you know, there’s this sort of – there’s this gap between her perception of what she should be and the reality of what she’s actually able to pull off.

And she is sort of, you know, she sort of dragged everyone in her slip string to White Pine Bay and, you know, we just – we really wanted to, you know, the thematic question I think of Season 2 is sort of who am I. And I think for Norma it really is – it’s all about that – can she be the person that she wants to be, is that possible.

You know, for Norman that question is really about, you know, if he – his growing awareness of the fact that, you know, he has these blackouts and that he’s capable of doing, you know, that he’s – what happens when he’s blacked out? I mean who am I is sort of, you know, kind of goes right to the fold of Norma’s character. And for Dillon the question is really about who am I? Am I really a drug dealer? I mean I started out, I just took a job, I needed to make some money.

I was guarding some pot fields and now I’m in the middle of a frickin drug war between these two families in this town. You know, so that was kind of a thematic drive for the second season of the show and, you know, our goal was to try to give them a version of a life that they wanted and see what the consequences of getting that was going to be for our characters.


Claresa: Well it’s worked very well.


Carlton Cuse: Thank you.


Claresa: You’re welcome.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line of Jasmine.


Jasmine: Hi Freddie and Carlton it’s really great to speak to you today, thanks so much for your time.

I was just wanting to know a little bit more about Norman and Dillon’s relationship. We kind have saw them come together – well when Dillon first showed up he was – he’s always been the third wheel. Then we saw them kind of come together and then once Dillon found out who his father was he kind of, you know, pulled off again. So as the season continues will we get to see that brotherly relationship between Norman and Dillon anymore or will it always be like Dillon’s the odd man out?


Freddie Highmore: No I certainly think the last – the last episode again I mean even just talking about it right now on the phone on this conference your realize how many different things that kind of brought together and how many new directions are suggested from the last episode.

And one of them certainly is that to what extent Dillon is needed by Norman in Episode 10 and when his brother needs him most. Will Dillon kind of flip to one side whatever issues he has with Norma or with the family in general and be there to save his brother. So certainly that is – that’s again another kind of linking in this finale.


Jasmine: All right thank you so much.


Freddie Highmore: Sure but yes it is (Jasmine), everything just converges – it’s wonderful. I remember when Carlton or I guess when I read it, I was (sort of) Carlton and Kerry were sort of pitching it to me and this final idea of how it was all going to end up, it just – it’s just fantastic. I just think I was really excited to do it.


Jasmine: I’m so excited to see it, I can’t wait.


Carlton Cuse: I know, I think its the best episode of the series so far, honestly.


Jasmine: Wow, awesome.


Freddie Highmore: So everything just kind of makes sense as in all (unintelligible) – it’s really great episode with little things that have occurred earlier on and everything just kind of (unintelligible), it’s one of the (unintelligible) so (it doesn’t sound) a fantastic job.


Jasmine: Great, well thank you both so much.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line of Jennifer.


Jennifer: Hi, this question is for Carlton. I wondered if the incestual undertones between both Dillon and Norma and Norman and Norma are intentional and if that – I mean because Dillon walked in on Norma dressing and they both have a tendency to linger, to look at her body.

And she has this kind of lack of awareness that maybe – or this inability to realize it’s inappropriate and just kind of how that plays…


Carlton Cuse: Well you say it’s inappropriate.


Jennifer: …in to this dynamic with – I’m sorry?


Carlton Cuse: Well you say it’s inappropriate.


Jennifer: Well right, but I just wondered how that factors into her relationships with her son?


Carlton Cuse: Obviously the – there, you know, there’s sort of tense – there’s a sexual tension that is a part of Norma and Norman’s dynamic.

I think with Dillon it’s really much more incidental, I don’t think that it’s, you know, or it’s not really intentional. You know, I think though that Norma and Norman have this very close relationship that, you know, borders on being inappropriate. But, you know, I hope that as writers, you know, Kerry and I have tried to, you know, make you kind of understand why it exists. And I guess it’s just up to, you know, I was joking before because I don’t think that they think that it’s inappropriate. And, you know, it’s just I think that’s just part of the tension of the show is my gosh, you know, like, you know, you’re sort of closest relationship, you know, is, you know, sort of between mother and son. I mean it makes sense at a certain age, I’m not sure it makes sense as, you know, your – as you as a young man move, you know, into adulthood. You know, so that just creates, you know, that’s just part of the tension that’s very much at the center of the show. So, you know, we’re intentionally playing into that but I think we’re at the same time, you know, there’s certain lines that we as writers don’t feel comfortable crossing.


Jennifer: Okay thank you.


Carlton Cuse: Thank you.


Operator: Our next question is from the line of Earl.


Earl: Thank you, good afternoon gentlemen. Carlton I guess first for you, now that we know it was a stroke of genus by casting Freddie as Norman Bates, I mean I can’t imagine anyone else playing that role…


Carlton Cuse: No.


Earl: …when you were starting the idea did you have him in mind? What was it about Freddie that you knew would make this incredible performance that continues to do.


Carlton Cuse: You know, I have to give, you know, great credit to April Webster our casting director who is, you know, really, you know, a genus at what she does.

And she put Kerry Ehrin and I on a Skype call with Freddie very early on and we were just immediately charmed and captivated. You know, we sort of along with the network and studio sort of did our due diligence and we, you know, we read a num- you know, a whole bunch of other actors and, you know, it was just – it was kind of one of those things where we were just spoiled right at the gate.

I mean we sort of once we had talked to Freddie and, you know, kind of reviewed his work it was just so clear that he was the guy and no one else even came close. So this is one of those things that I think is, you know, is always what’s so interesting about television. Whatever your intentions are, y however good a script you write there’s this (alcome) that has to occur. Like we had to, you know, get lucky enough to find Freddie, to get Freddie to do the show.

I can’t imagine the show working or existing or being half as good as any…


Earl: (Without – yes without him).


Carlton Cuse: …without him and, you know, so that’s just – it’s one of those things that just, you know, it just happened. It was to our great fortune and, you know, I’ll take it.


Earl: Okay great – well great and Freddie since we’re talking about you, the other…


Carlton Cuse: Yes we’re talking about him as though he’s not here.


Freddie Highmore: (So I’ll just) be in the background, yes.


Earl: Well Max and Kinney and Vera talked about what a great actor you are to work with I mean that you’ve helped their performance and informed their performance just by the stuff you do.

But I guess more – can you talk about your relationship with Vera as an actor – an actress and did you immediately know the chemistry was there when you first started working together.


Freddie Highmore: Yes, yes I think so – you – I mean obviously it evolves overtime, that’s sort of the joys of being on a – being on a TV show is that the relationship I have with the stars is obviously completely sort of different relationships that I have right now with Vera.

Having growing incredibly close to her and then and her husband and children and spent time at their house. I guess they’ve been sort of my family away from home and thankfully sort of spending evenings over there and sleeping over in their spare bedroom. And they’ve stayed – they’ve just been absolutely wonderful and they’re certainly, you know, my very best friends. So I’m just incredibly lucky on a personal level to have met them

And then as a actress I think there’s just always something going on. Every single take she’s alive and trying something new and I think especially with the TV 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.

And I think part of it is due to the quality of the writing in keeping everything different and there’s never been any moment that we thought to be kind of repetitious in any way. And also down to Vera in terms of constantly arriving with – in every single tape with a fresh approach in keeping on your show as an actor and never (slipping) off.


I think you could as I’m sure Carlton and Kerry have wanted to do many times, you could shoot an entire scene just on Vera because she carries the motions, not only when she’s speaking but when she’s listening of the entire scene. It’s just a joy to work with her (I think).


Earl: Yes, one last thought for you, are you much of a social media guy? I mean do you Twitter, do you Facebook – all that kind of stuff or do you try and stay away from that?


Freddie Highmore: No, no I’ve stayed away from it up until now. I get, you know, email and stuff but I’m not completely (answered) – sort of cut off in technology.


Earl: Well again thank you guys…


Freddie Highmore: (So I) haven’t been much of a social media guy myself.


Earl: Okay, well thanks guys again – thanks for a great season, thanks for a great performance and great writing – keep doing it, thanks.


Carlton Cuse: Well thank you.


Freddie Highmore: Thanks (for you) – cheers, thanks very much.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line of Angela.


Angela: Thank you, hi Freddie and Carlton – nice to talk to you today.


Freddie Highmore: You too.


Carlton Cuse: Nice talking to you.


Angela: Freddie congratulations, you said earlier that you’re going to be graduating for the university very soon and I just want to congratulate you on that.


Freddie Highmore: Hopefully yes if (unintelligible).


Angela: And secondly I wanted to know what your plans are for your hiatus and how much time do you have before you start the third season production.

And for Carlton I wanted to ask you, you talked about a blueprint for the third season but do you have an overall plan for however many season Bates Motel goes? Like in other words do you know how you want to end it, however many seasons it goes.


Carlton Cuse: Yes, I’ll start there and then we can kind of go back to Freddie. But I, you know, Kerry and I have a plan we’re, you know, we’re having discussions with A&E and Universal Studios about just how many episodes, you know, we’re going to do to finish the show.

I mean it’s definitely a show that has a beginning, middle and end and I think we’re kind of getting to the point where we need to sort of define that with the studio and the network and kind of figure out exactly, you know, how many more total episode we’re going to do and I hoping that we’ll be able to work that out. Because we do, you know, we do know where we’re going to end and, you know, in terms of just, you know, we’re planning to start some time this – later this fall, so Season 3 we’ve got also sort of in the air – up in the air.


Angela: Okay and Freddie you plan for your hiatus?


Freddie Highmore: I mean I guess the – at least sort of powerful and a large part of the hiatus is already – has already passed in the since that we finish shooting sort of before – just before sort of winter kicked in last year and since that I’ve just been back at Cambridge and carrying on with this last year of school.

As for the summer I guess it depends to some extent what time we actually end up sort of starting up again with the third season and so I guess we’ll season (out). But yes the next couple of months as well – month or (period our cast) are here and hopefully moving towards graduation, yes. So I guess you (get thread).


Angela: That’ great and you have a couple of movies that supposedly you have either have in the can or you’re working on for next year, can you talk about that?


Freddie Highmore: I mean there are I guess there are a couple things, nothing specifically (incentive) for the time being and so what often happens is people sort of arrive and (that seems to be) and say, oh I hear you’re doing this project and sometimes you’ve never actually heard of it. But no there are a few – a couple of great things that may end up going ahead but nothing different (unintelligible).


Angela: Well congratulations again.


Freddie Highmore: Thank you.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line of Theresa.


Theresa: Hi Freddie, hi Carlton, thank you so much for speaking with us today. I’m looking forward to the season finale and definitely looking forward to the next season.

First Carlton I was wondering is there – do you and your writing partner, do you and Kerry ever think that maybe too much is – that you’ve pushed it too far? I mean how much is too much when it comes to writing the relationship and the innuendos between the characters on the show or – has that not been anything that’s been a problem so far?


Carlton Cuse: Well I mean I think that we, you know, we certainly haven’t crossed the line and had Norman and Norma having sex. You know, that field cross the line so we haven’t done that.

You know, I think the show is this very intentional cocktail of very pulpy storytelling and very nuance of character work and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish week to week as writers. And I think that one of the great things, you know, in terms of the kind of the feedback from the audience is I think that, you know, for the second (and second viewing) of the audience you’re at least sort of getting our intentions.

You know, I think it’s hard when you start out and you’re making something that’s under the cycle monitor and everybody’s got their expectations and, you know, kind of thinking about the original moving and stuff. And I think now that we’re, you know, kind of a akin to the second season and we’re a long way from, you know, that origin I think people are beginning to understand sort of what we are trying to do as storytellers. And so, you know, we try to make the stories very, you know, kind of pulpy and larger than life. But we – if the characters journey to those story it’s very nuanced and measured.


Theresa: It’s amazing how you can keep the relationship going with such a difficult topic at times but still keep the audience engaged with these characters and feeling for these characters.

And Freddie you’ve done a wonderful job of portraying this very complicated character. What part of Norman had – would you like to see portrayed in the following season that maybe hasn’t been explored completely these past two seasons?


Freddie Highmore: I guess again something that’s sort of hinted out in this – in the finale of this year is I guess the continuation of (blowing) the boundaries, the kind of definitive boundaries between this is Norman and this is Norma.

We’ve already seen earlier in the season Norman at times assuming, especially with (Katie) in the motel room, kind of assuming (his own) identity and there’s this kind of continuation I guess of somewhat merging between them at time and an ability to distinguish that. And so I guess seeing is that is kind of further pushed out in an incredibly dramatic way in the last episode. I’m excited to kind of – to continue on exploring that if Carlton and Kerry decide to.


Theresa: Well thank you very much, we’re really looking forward to this and you’ve given us plenty of teasers for this season finale Freddie. I’m sure it will be wonderful.


Freddie Highmore: Okay, thanks a lot.


Theresa: Good luck on your finals and we’re really looking forward to the season finale in the next season, thank you both.


Freddie Highmore: Thank you, you too.


Operator: Thank you and our next question is from the line Punam.


Punam: Hey guys, thank you for doing this. My first question is for Freddie, (do things) kind of have their opinions of Norma and Norman’s relationship I was just wondering whether you (persuade) pick up their relationship and how do you sort of tap into that strange yet unique connection between the two?


Freddie Highmore: I guess it’s a – you kind of completely disengage from the relationship that you know you have with Vera. I mean certainly being – and (kind to be) comfortable with I mean any sort of more intimate or more sort of borderline moment thoughts and never feel awkward. It’s – I guess you both sort of commit to whatever it is on the page. So yes exploring that relationship has been wonderful and certainly one of the best things about the show. And building in I guess sort of taking various care in the sense of having so many supple ties and building up the characters and this relationship with not only events but moments or shared connections between each character than then can return in different episodes and in different seasons. Having never done a TV show before I guess I’m kind of really enjoying the chance to get into – into sort of great introduction into Norman but into the sort of character and the relationship in general than you do in sort of 1 1/2 hour or 2 hours on the show.


Punam: And then I’m not sure if you can reveal it but will Norman and Norma kind of reconnect before the end of this season or will we kind of have to see them get back together on that same level on the next season.


Carlton Cuse: Don’t spoil it.


Freddie Highmore: I’m not sure – no I’m not sure, but even myself I think one of the great things about the show is that there’s – 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 – this is your take on Norma and Norman’s relationship. And so I imagine and I hope that various people will see the end differently and come out of it with a different opinion from the person sitting next to them. And I think that’s what – that’s what makes the show great, you know. So they’re overly conclusive it’s suggested and sort of sparks debating in that way. Even amongst I think everyone on the show, there’s this since of constant dialog and constant discussion as to – has the bound- has certain boundaries been crossed or what stage is certain relationship. And it’s not – it’s nothing kind of definitive or easily distinguished, it’s just more a sense of reality than fiction I guess.


Carlton Cuse: Can we do like one more question, we’ve been on for like an hour and unfortunately I have to run to a meeting, so would that be okay.


Freddie Highmore: Yes absolutely.


Operator: Thank you and our last question is from the line of Preston.


Preston: Hey guy, Alfred Hitchcock once said that the best way he could rid his fears was to make films about them. So I’m curious if the two of you can make a movie about your greatest fears what would they be about.


Carlton Cuse: Freddie I’ll let you tackle that first while I think.


Freddie Highmore: If I could make a film about – I didn’t hear the last bit of that question, I’m sorry.


Preston: If you could make a movie about your greatest fear what would it be about?


Freddie Highmore: So no I’m going to come up with something corny aren’t I. And I like, you know, people that you love or, you know, the fear of death or something.

I can’t think of something intelligent – I mean certainly a big fear at the moment is whether or not my soccer team are going to make it into the – into sort of first place. But that – every year, I had the same fear last season, we managed to but unless we get fourth – unless (I’ll still) get forth we (don’t plan) champion be. So that’s – I think that pretty dramatic ending to the primary season and certainly one that would make sort of a great film.

And the movie that is – I mean it’s pretty big there isn’t it? I image it’s a lot there on the sort of world stage next season, what would we do?


Preston: All right.


Perry: All right well thank you so much Freddie and Carlton for taking the time to jump on the phone today. As everyone knows this finale will be on May 5 at 10:00 PM on A&E. If you need a transcript please let myself or Marsha Rickett know – thank you everyone.


Carlton Cuse: Thank you guys, we really appreciate it – bye.


Freddie Highmore: Thank you very much for taking the time (to chat).




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© 2014, Greg Staffa. All rights reserved.

Greg Staffa

I provide testosterone to the site. You won’t be reading about how nice a actress looks in a dress or how much of a hunk Matt Bomer is in my reviews. I describe colors using words like brown, not taupe. My twitter name is @staffaroadtrip because I love road trips and have done two different 48-state road trips since 2008. My favorite show is White Collar.

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