Blood bath


The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -


Tonight, 8.30pm, FOX8 VERA Farmiga was look­ing for a part she could get her teeth into. And when she was of­fered the role of Norma Bates in the pre­quel se­ries to the Al­fred Hitch­cock film Psy­cho, she says it was ex­actly what she had in mind.

‘‘I was hun­gry for some­thing and some­times they (the writ­ers) throw you a bone,’’ she says.

‘‘It is a good fe­male char­ac­ter. The writ­ers have given me a rare gift. It’s a very per­sonal melody. It was so heart­felt and ex­pres­sive of the emo­tion I was in when I de­cided to take it on.’’

The Hol­ly­wood ac­tress, who is of Ukra­nian/ Amer­i­can de­scent, of­ten looks at parts she plays with a mu­si­cal frame of mind.

For her, the char­ac­ter was a lot more com­pli­cated than a ren­di­tion of Chop­sticks.

‘‘I’m a pi­anist and I look at char­ac­ters mu­si­cally. She makes me think of Chopin’s Sonata in B mi­nor.’’

Bates Mo­tel gives an in­sight into the woman be­hind the man – the mother of ‘‘Psy­cho’’ Nor­man Bates – the killer in the ac­claimed thriller.

Only seen as a corpse in Hitch­cock’s film, Norma is very much alive in the se­ries, and slowly shap­ing her son’s des­tiny with her neu­rotic, creepy char­ac­ter and smoth­er­ing at­ti­tude.

The se­ries is set in the present day with Nor­man (Fred­die High­more) a strug­gling teen com­ing to terms with be­ing the man of the house and grow­ing up.

Its re­cent launch in the US saw Farmiga’s per­for­mance met with crit­i­cal ac­claim, dis­play­ing the per­fect mix of fragility, cold­ness and love, tee­ter­ing on the edge of ob­ses­sion.

Al­though the orig­i­nal Bates’ home from the film still ex­ists in Cal­i­for­nia, a pur­pose-built replica has been built at an old dump in Alder­grove, out­side Van­cou­ver, where the se­ries is shot.

‘‘The build­ing is beau­ti­ful, it re­ally is. They fol­lowed the orig­i­nal ar­chi­tec­tural plans to build it,’’ Farmiga re­veals.

‘‘But it’s on an old trans­fer sta­tion – a dump. Who knows what’s buried un­der there. Some­times you would get a re­ally gnarly waft!’’

To add to the at­mos­phere, the film­ing was done dur­ing the mon­soon sea­son which, Farmiga says, ‘‘made it very rainy and wet dur­ing film­ing. I am sure the pro­duc­ers had the wet look in mind’’.

The show has been such a suc­cess in the US it has al­ready been com­mis­sioned for a sec­ond sea­son, some­thing which Farmiga is de­lighted about.

The ac­tor says she did not see tak­ing on the role of a woman who is known by most as the dead mother of a psy­chotic killer as a prob­lem.

‘‘I wasn’t feel­ing has­sled by play­ing an iconic char­ac­ter. What we know of Norma is pre­sented to us through the frac­tured psy­che of Nor­man Bates’ per­son­al­ity.

‘‘I love the chal­lenges and as­sump­tions we may have about her. Fred­die (who plays Nor­man) has to fill some big shoes. I have more slack. We don’t know who this woman is, al­though we can as­sume she played some part in the way he is.

‘‘Ul­ti­mately, we know she’s doomed and we’re root­ing for them to make dif­fer­ent choices even though we know the path they’re on.’’

The ac­tor speaks highly of her on-screen son High­more, brand­ing him a ‘‘match made in heaven’’ not only for her but also for the role.

‘‘He’s a sur­ro­gate son to me. He sleeps over. He plays with my kids. He teaches me how to use the iPad. I re­spect him so much as an artist. We adore each other. I think he is so spe­cial, so nu­anced, he is a great dance part­ner for me. He is amaz­ing.’’

Farmiga says she thinks play­ing the role is ‘‘a bit of a train­ing ground’’ for her own par­ent­ing skills. She has two chil­dren with hus­band Renn Hawkey – son Fynn, six, and daugh­ter Gytta, four.

De­spite Norma’s ob­vi­ous flaws, she sees good in her char­ac­ter and be­lieves there are as­pects to her which make her a good mother.

‘‘Even though you might not agree with how she be­haves from time to time, I hope you find some com­pas­sion for her,’’ Farmiga says.

‘‘I thought it was the most com­pre­hen­sive por­trait of love and ma­ter­nal angst.

‘‘The thing with her and Nor­man is the strug­gle to break that um­bil­i­cal cord.’’

As the story un­folds you see what dif­fer­en­ti­ates this mother and child from a typ­i­cal mother and son.

‘‘We all love our mothers but we in­tensely dis­like them some of the time. She doesn’t al­ways do things the right way but she is re­silient.’’

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