On Tuesday, February 18, 2014, I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a conference call with Vera Farmiga, star of A&E’s hit series Bates Motel, which, as most people know, is based upon the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho. Kerry Ehrin, executive producer of the show was also on hand for the Q&A session. It was a very fun and informative call, especially given the probing questions both ladies had to answer. You wouldn’t believe how much giggling was going on throughout the call! When you see “((CROSSTALK))” in the transcript below, that’s when most of the laughter was heard. It is obvious these two women get along well and respect each other. I was well-prepared with a list of questions but unfortunately, some of the questions on my list—like, “Where do you see Norma’s relationship with Dylan going?”, and “Where do you get the inspiration for your character?”—were asked by other participants on the call. Nevertheless, I was able to ask a fair amount of questions, which I will list first. Following that are the other questions and answers. I hope you enjoying reading the transcript of the call as much as I enjoyed participating in it. Now, I really can’t wait for the season premiere!
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Linda Seide from Your Entertainment Corner. Please proceed with your question.
Linda Seide (LS): I would like to thank the ladies first off for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with us. And my first question is for 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?
Vera Farmiga (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.
LS: 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.
And the yes, Kerry do you want to take over this because you…
Kerry Ehrin (KE): Sure, yes. 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.
LS: Is this a new character that 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.
LS: Okay. I had one question for you Kerry. I know that you and Nikki Toscano recently had a terrorist drama picked up by CBS. How are you going to the able to split your time between the two shows?
KE: Well that is – to be totally honest…
KE: Yes I can answer this right now. Nikki is a fantastic writer. She has an incredibly strong vision for this show. And she’s going to be front and center of it.
LS: Okay, well congratulations.
KE: Yes she’s great.
LS: Thank you very much ladies.
After listening to the other questions and answers, I was able to ask some more questions.
LS: Hi again. I was wondering Vera, what was your favorite part of Season 1?
VF: Season 1, Season 1, Season 1. Oh my God. I’m like just so (bring up) from Season 2. Season 1, what happened in Season 1? My favorite part of Season 1.
LS: Did you have a favorite scene or … ?
VF: Let me think. Oh my God. It’s a distant memory. It’s so crazy how my brain works.
VF: Call it up right now. Season 2 is so vivid in my brain. And I have such…
VF: I don’t know. It’s like choosing your babies. I mean you can’t – it’s like Sophie’s choice. You can – it’s really hard to pick a scene because like I really love the aftermath of the rape scene.
I – that was really challenging to play. And to find that this like dark comedy, this mixture of dark comedy and like the whole lugging the body down the staircase. Like certainly that was my least favorite scene because I mean if I could show you – I photographed of these bruises from that scene.
I mean it was like, it was really the most physically challenging thing I had ever done. It was so hard-core. And – but I like, to me I really loved the comedy that ensued, like the dark comedy. And to me that was real representative of what the show is.
When Nor- you know, and the whole scene when Norma and Norman are struggling with the body down. And like trying to put him in the shower. It just like that energy really encapsulated what it is.
All my scenes with Norman, I can’t. I can’t choose a favorite. I look forward to every single scene with him. But also…
VF: It’s not even – it’s like I don’t know. I can’t figure out what is my favorite scene. I also like cherish my scenes with Nestor Carbonell. Man I love that. I love that dyad. Those two characters are – that’s a really fun relationship that again, it gets – that gets explored.
KE: Oh sorry.
VF: Yes go ahead.
KE: I was just going to say there was a scene that I think I just have like a huge fondness for from the first season. Which was you and Norman in the car. It was at the top of Episode 6 where you have just found out about Shelby. And you’re trying to just get over Shelby’s house and like kick his ass. And Norman jumps in the car while you’re trying to drive it out.
VF: That was so much fun.
KE: I love that scene.
VF: That was so much fun. I could I forget that?
VF: Totally. They let me do all my stunt driving. The Stunting Association of Canada doesn’t do this. But they gave me what they call (tuke), like a cap that says Vancouver stunts.
And that’s only because I do do all – they allow me to do it. And Freddie is such a good sport. And he – literally we were doing – we were making donuts around the Bates Motel sign when half his body is hanging out the window.
And we’re struggling to gain control of the car. And it’s like pure shenanigans. I can’t believe they allowed us to the stunt. But they wouldn’t if they didn’t trust my driving, you know, and didn’t think.
And so yes. That’s good too. That’s – it’s true. We had lots of shits and giggles over that one, yes.
LS: Tell me, before Norman leaves for the dance, you tell – Norman tells him about her brother. What was her purpose for doing that? What did she hope to gain by telling him that?
VF: Kerry you start.
KE: I – we felt like there could be a number of different reasons. I mean the one thing with a character like Norma is you don’t always have to have a logical linear connection to the impulse.
So in her mind that was – it just wanted to come out of her right then when the..
VF: Totally, I agree with that. It’s like the impulse is like what this lady goes by. And that impulse was like a dam burst of veracity. It’s like it was just a moment.
And it’s also because there was this impending sense of doom because she’s – her life’s been threatened, her children’s lives have been threatened. And so that ache, it just – it’s true. I love what you said about impulse.
KE: I mean and I could be – so it’s like you get to look at her and go, well did she do that because she feels like she might die, and she doesn’t want to die with a secret from the person she’s closest to in the world?
Is it part of her that just it’s just that he is going to a dance? You know, it’s like who knows with her.
VF: It’s both. Yes.
KE: You know, it’s like it’s kind of coming from all these places. And it’s just like blowing up inside of her. And it has to come out of her mouth.
VF: Yes. I love that murkiness. I love it. I know, it’s true. It’s all this – yes. There’s nothing black and white. It’s all this murky gray matter that…
KE: That’s bubbling.
Here are the other questions and answers.
Moderator: Perry Seaman
February 18, 2014
2:30 pm CT
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Bates Motel conference call. During the presentation all participants will be in a listen only mode. At that time if you’d like to ask a question you may press 1 followed by the 4 on your telephone.
If at any time during the conference you need to reach an operator, you may press star 0. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded, Tuesday, February 18, 2014. I would now like to turn the conference over to Perry Seaman. Please go ahead sir.
Perry Seaman: Hi everyone. Thank you all for joining today’s Bates Motel conference call with star, Vera Farmiga and Executive Producer, Kerry Ehrin. The second season premieres Monday, March 3 at 9/8 Central.
And if you’d like a transcript following this call, please reach out to me or (Marcia Rickets). And we’ll send it to you as soon as it’s ready. Thank you once again everyone, and (Benjamin) let’s start with questions.
Operator: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen if you’d like to register for a question, you may press 1 followed by the 4 on your telephone. You will hear a three toned prompt to acknowledge a request.
If your question has already been answered and you’d like to withdraw your registration, please press 1 followed by the 3. If you are using a speakerphone, please list your handset before entering your request, one moment please for our first question.
Our first question customer line of Jamie. Please proceed with your question.
Jamie: Hi. Thanks so much for doing the call today.
VF: Sure, hi Jamie.
Jamie: Hi. So can you talk about obviously this is based on a movie. But how much do your like impressions that you originally got from that movie, does that still affect the way that you make the show now? Or is it kind of, you know, its own entity? Do you still go back to that?
KE: Well I – oh, do you want to go Vera?
VF: No, no I think it’s a question for you girl.
KE: Okay, okay. Yes, I mean I think that from the very beginning Carlton and I wanted to honor the movie, but not be beholden into it. So I think at this point the world of Bates Motel has definitely become its own organic world.
So while we’re still conscious of the film, and obviously there’s certain tent poles let’s say that the film suggests, we don’t – it kind of has become its own beast at this point. Yes.
Jamie: Okay great. Thanks. And Vera, do you know like a lot of the story line ahead of time? And it do you like that? Or do you prefer to be surprised when it comes out?
VF: 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.
Jamie: All right, great. Thank you, both of you.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Curt. Please proceed with your question.
Curt: All right, thanks ladies. I, for 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.
Curt: All right. That was great. Well I asked you this at Comicon. So I’m going to ask Kerry about the compassion you feel for Norma.
KE: 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 fucking can. And you got to – you have to love that. And that’s to me as being a mother.
Curt: Okay well thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Jerry. Please proceed with your question.
Jerry: Hi, my question is for Vera. I wanted to ask you what is attracting you to these like scarier parts. These roles line Martha in the Conjuring or the Bates Motel, (unintelligible) sisters and American Horror Story?
VF: Oh my God, you know, it’s like my own beautiful internal logic about why (unintelligible) I choose to participate. Or I think actually the projects choose us. But why like there’s this magnetism oftentimes with dark subject matters is like, I don’t know.
It’s like quantum physics really. I think like were called upon like some thermal – I’d like to think of this. Like called upon like some simple thermal sources that like.
And actually to be honest with you, I do – I find it dark stories uplifting. I think it’s like during the darkest moments of our lives that we see the light, right.
So I do – I think that – I don’t – there’s a lot of darkness in Bates Motel. But again, there’s a lot of joy. And, you know, the things like for me it’s the – I don’t know. I always look at things. And I choose to look at it through the lens of positivity.
And I think our story is, yes it’s a story about dysfunction. It’s dark. But it’s a story about commitment and love and family and resilience and loyalty. You know, and I don’t know.
I mean like I look at Taissa in American Horror Story and I just think, you know, I mean for her, I’m bias. I’m like, you know, I’m practically her mother. And she’s just like this bright supernova that shines even brighter in the dark.
You know, and I feel like I want to, I don’t know. I mean if you look at like the, I don’t know, now close to 50 films that I’ve done. It’s only like five of them that are actually like certified horror stories. Everything else is, you know, is I don’t know.
Like I just did Middleton which is where she and I play screwball mother and daughter in a romantic comedy. So I think may be the most successful projects in my career have been psychological thrillers and horrors and sort of twisted, dark and offbeat.
I don’t know. Maybe our – maybe it’s because our childhoods were so straight and narrow and full of light and love and goodness. I don’t know. Maybe that’s why we like, we veer toward them more.
Jerry: Yes, I got it.
VF: But the object is like you send it light into the darkness, you know, of our character charts. I mean that’s how I always look at it. So I am attracted to the sordid and the wacky, the unorthodox. But I love infusing it with lightness.
Jerry: Perfect, okay. Will come visit us in Chicago some time.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Natalie. Please proceed with your question.
Natalie: Hi Vera. Hi Kerry. Hello from London. We got the show here. And it works so well back in the modern day. I wondered Vera when you first took on the role, were you worried before Seasons 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.
Natalie: On a third series. Do we leave the door open for a third series 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.
Natalie: Well we’re very pleased to hear it. Thank you very much ladies.
KE: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question is a follow up question from Jamie. Please proceed with your question.
Jamie: Hi again. So Vera this is for you. Do you – 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.
Jamie: Great. And then as a follow-up, this is a question from Twitter. They want to know you’re screaming for your freak out scenes, do you rehearse them at all or does that just come natural to you?
VF: You know, there’s like there’s two kinds. Yes, any extreme emotion I don’t like rehearsing. Like laughter is like even harder to do than a scream for me. I’m a screamer by nature. It’s like my vocal cords – like my mom will tell you that I was a, yes that like a valid therapy. Like I probably did a lot of screaming therapy as a child.
I don’t practice it. But I never quite know how it’s going to come out. It never quite comes out the same way twice. And it’s something that is like it’s just, you know, like a jump off the springboard. You can’t – for me personally, I’d just like – it’s like taking a jump off the high dive in the pool. You just got a go for it and might drop your lower mandible and let it rip.
But I, I know. I recently saw – you put together, Kerry didn’t you put together like last season. Or maybe somebody else did. Maybe a fan put together some of my freak out moments.
KE: Yes. I don’t remember who did that.
VF: This collage of Norma freak outs. I didn’t even realize that I scream as much as is evident in this tribute of, yes.
KE: Well the freak outs are so deep too. It’s like there’s so much under them and in them.
KE: They’re so amazing.
VF: Yes it is. It’s beautiful. It’s what’s unspoken. Like sometimes you just don’t have the words.
VF: And I’ve learned to love these moments. Like we, sometimes we cannot verbalize the pain, the anxiety, the fear, the guilt that is within us. And you just let it rip.
VF: Yes. And I actually love those moments. Most of my favorite moments are these worthless moments, whether it’s, you know, a streak or whether it’s the quiet. You know, but for me what I cherish with this kind of writing is those when we don’t have the words, you know.
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.
Jamie: Thank you so much.
KE: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Sabienna. Please proceed with your question.
Sabienna: Hi Kerry, hi Vera. It’s so nice to speak with you today.
Sabienna: My question is 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.
Sabienna: Awesome. And I also wanted to ask will we see Vera grow any closer to Dillon or any change – or I’m sorry, Norma? Or any change in their relationship just because I find it such an interesting counterpart to Norma’s relationship with Norman.
KE: Do you want to do that one or do you want me?
VF: Oh God. I have such a hard time talking hot points because I always spilled the beans on stuff because I get to excited. And I’m biting my tongue right now. I love that relationship. And I’m glad and second season we really get to explore it even more intimately. It’s evolving. It’s, you know, I think I want (unintelligible).
KE: Yes, I mean it’s – it is the story of a lost son. And those kids that, you know, just like Norma has her longing for normalcy and everything. That he has does longing for a family that he’s never had and he never has been inside of.
And he very much is like dealing with that this year. And him and Norma have a fascinating relationship this year. So many different orientations to it. It’s really amazing.
Sabienna: Awesome. That sounds great. Thank you both so much.
KE: Thank you.
VF: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Jay. Please proceed with your question.
Jay: Nice talking to the two of you.
Jay: Now Norma is obviously such an iconic role. But as Vera said earlier, obviously in the original film you don’t really gets 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.
Jay: Now also the outdoor set on the hill obviously is such an iconic set in film history and everything. When you’re filming – I know it’s like sort of, it’s a thought. It’s not an actual set.
But when you’re filming on the outside and everything like that does that really sort of add to it knowing the big history of this?
VF: Oh yes, they have chosen, you know, we thought – some on (Alder Grove). It’s about an hour outside of Vancouver. And, you know, they followed – correct me if I’m wrong Kerry, but I think every detail of that architecture is taken from the plans of the original house.
Every single mullion on the windows, the trim package on the house, everything. And I mean that’s the authenticity. But it’s also the environment. You know what I mean? It’s such a, you know, this idealistic White Pine Bay, it’s so beautiful in Vancouver.
I mean the only sort of downside is they built it on an old burial ground in a transfer station. So it’s setted, you know, like in the sort of the warmer months that we shot and sort of the damp months it’s like it’s pretty, which also adds this kind of ambient strangeness in the air.
KE: I’m sorry. Go ahead.
VF: Yes, no go ahead.
KE: I was going to say Mark Freeborn did an amazing job of designing the interior of the house in a way that it fits with the original, but it is contemporary. And it pulls in this whole other aspect of Norma, which was not an easy job when you look at the movie, the interior of the house in the movie. And that was just such a – that was just genius on his part.
VF: It is. But, you know, you can even take that into what else like inspires me and like what’s the, you know, in Hitchcock film what was – like what played an integral part in these anxiety induced thriller was that like fashion actually.
Like each costume was so meticulously planned to enhance the plot and make the girl in question, whoever that was, like look achingly shaken. And the same thing with Monique Prudhomme the custom designer who designs these like, you know, it’s a really – it makes up for me as an actress for playing a character that goes from like failure to failure. At least she looks good.
She looks, I mean I don’t know another woman who gets to dress the way that I do on television and, you know, in this like incredibly chic, beautiful, feminine and playful way which is such a contradiction to the internal life of the character.
And so like it is like, it is just the sum of its parts. But Monique, I mean in addition to Mark, Monique’s costume design is event just, you know, standing out there on the porch wearing one of her fabulous like summer dresses, which you get to see this year because – is – it’s such a treat. And it just like immediately puts you in a time and place.
Jay: All right. And Vera you – a few years ago you directed the film Higher Ground. Would you like to do some more directing maybe on episodes of Bates Motel sometime?
VF: You know, I think even contractually I have that option. And Carlton asked me last year. And I’m still, for me I’m still so totally, man this – I feel like I’m still grasping the tone.
I feel like I’m more fortified second season then I felt the first season. I felt like I could, in hindsight I could after like watching the episodes cut together and see what the editing flare was on it.
You know, coming from a directorial perspective, you know, I’m still trying to – because it’s balancing – Kerry and Carlton so skillfully balance these like multiple tones to create this like strange tonality of like – of drama, melodrama, mystery, horror, psychological thriller, dark comedy, screwball comedy, oddball comedy altogether.
And it ships on a dime the wind. And, you know, and I’m still getting bonked by the, what do you get bonked by the wind shifts on a sailboat? That thing – when it tacks and you’re – yes, the (ballas), yes when it shifts and you’re not watching and it kind of, you know, it chucks you in the water.
It’s like that sometimes still. That’s how I feel. I mean I just finished watching the 10th episode of a second season. It you know, and it’s solidifying for me. And so I’m – this is like this is like the biggest – this is the tallest order I had as far as demands of the character emotionally, physically, spiritually.
It’s epic this role. And it just requires – I do, I rely a lot on my directors. I love being directed for this role. It you know, I love – I mean I cherish each one we have. And what’s wonderful is that, you know, we have Tucker Gates who is a consistent sort of – that we – but we also have a new coming director that has second season.
It’s just been, it’s been such a treat to be directed by John Coles and Ron – oh God I can’t (unintelligible), it’s short term memory (unintelligible). But I cherish direction. I rely on it. And I want to be maneuvered out of comfort zones.
I don’t know if I have – like I don’t have the time to prepare. I mean I don’t. That’s not to say that I – I don’t know. Not yet. I’m not ready yet. I’m not ready. Ask me in another season.
Jay: Okay I will.
VF: There’s the short answer. I’m like apologizing for not being ready yet.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Christina. Please proceed with your question.
Christina: Hi Vera. How are you doing?
VF: Good thanks.
Christina: So I wanted to ask you, and I don’t think anyone’s really touched on this. 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.
Christina: And then obviously after just one season you’re playing this character, attracted an Emmy nomination. Was that something that surprised you coming up so quickly?
VF: Yes it did. It was a – yes. It was a really wonderful surprise. You know, I – I don’t know what to say about that. Yes. And it’s like the biggest pats on the back. So it’s (unintelligible) it feels really, really good, you know, to have the support of your peers and to have that acknowledgment.
And, you know, and selfishly I don’t want – I mean I’m only – it’s like the writers have the hardest part. They start off with a blank paper. It you know, everybody can, you know, it’s nice having that acknowledgment. But for all the blood, sweat and tears that I shed, Kerry is also sitting there by her computer.
I mean she’s, you know, and these words are coming out. And she’s like screaming and crying too when she does this. It you know, she’s unloading as well.
KE: They’re exhausting these scripts. They are. They’re exhausting to write. They’re exhausting to perform.
VF: You know, I’m honestly – I mean it’s like that pat on the back is so – I was happy because I mean I just share that with them. It’s like I’m – without their writing, I’m nothing. I have nothing, you know. And so it was a victory for all of us.
Christina: All right. Thank you so much.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of…Please proceed with your question.
Woman: Hi Vera. I just think you are so awesome as Norma Bates. I just had to tell you that.
VF: Thanks. Thank you.
Woman: It’s amazing. And I was just wondering is there going to be like a certain quality or personality trait of Norma that will be brought more to the forefront in the upcoming episodes to highlight on?
VF: Have you guys seen, just so I’m clear, what has everybody see – has anybody seen any preview? I mean have you been privy to any of the new season? Or is it just – or not? I forgot to ask that question at the start.
Woman: Yes. You know, like down the road. Do you know is there any anticipation of something new coming up for the new character that may influence the way you react to that person down the road? Or maybe Kerry can answer that?
VF: Yes. Kerry short answer.
KE: I’m not sure I understand the question. I’m sorry.
VF: Yes, I mean there are – there’s a couple of new characters I think that ignite and awaken sort of a new – so new personality traits and new responses and different ways of reacting and Norma. So that’s what you’re – yes there’s a couple of people that show – the new characters that show up I think where you get to see like different sides of Norma, yes.
Distortions of Norma, yes. I mean does that answer your question?
Woman: Yes it does. And one more quick question is what do you do to relax when you’re done at the end of the day? Or do you even have any time?
VF: What do I do? I honestly like the biggest like form of – my children are that for me. There’s just so much joy there. And there’s so much, what’s the word, reprieve. Is that the word I’m looking for? Amnesty, you know, from the – that there’s so much pardon…
VF: Yes, there’s just so much pardon from work in the love of my husband and children. I’m a very lucky woman. My home life is storybook. My kids are so cool. And my husband is so hot and gorgeous and cool and loving. But honestly I just fall into their arms. And it’s all good.
But you know what I have been doing, I’m really serious about boxing these days. And a great way for me to kind of feel – get out of my head and get out of my heart and just like sweat it out honestly is boxing. And I’m very serious about it.
And I’m take – if I didn’t have like the insurance. If I didn’t have say like (hole), I would honestly start sparring and like start competing and boxing because I’m serious and love – it’s a huge passion of mine.
But it’s like I am in Vancouver, which is beautiful. So it’s – I’m just constantly running through Pacific Spirit Park and the ocean air, surrounded by this ocean air in Vancouver is so medicinal.
And I don’t know. I’m a nature girl at heart. So I am – we’re constantly, you know, we’re just making the most of the idyllic life that actually Vancouver is – holds and provides.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Curt. Please proceed with your question.
Curt: Hi again. 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 dick. 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: Candor you mean?
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 bullshit. 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.
Operator: We have no more questions at this time. I will now turn the call back over to Perry Seaman. Please proceed.
Perry: Hi everyone. Thank you once again for participating in this call. Vera and Kerry, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. If anyone would like a transcript, please let (Marcia) or myself know, and we’ll get that to you right away.
And once again, tune in March 3, 9/8 Central for the second season of Bates Motel. Thanks everyone.
Kerry Ehrin: Thank you.
Vera Farmiga: Thank you.
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen that does conclude the conference call for today. We thank you for your participation and ask that you please disconnect your lines.
Tune in to the season premiere of Bates Motel on Monday, March 3, 2014 at 9/8c, only on A&E.
© 2014 – 2017, Linda. All rights reserved.
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