CHECK IN FOR THRILLS WITH THE PSYCHO-INSPIRED NEW SERIES BATES MOTEL
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.’’