A&E’s critically acclaimed Bates Motel will, unfortunately, be ending after season five. The final season will find Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) dead to everyone but Norman (Freddie Highmore) whose fragile mental state continues to erode as he carries on conversations with his deceased mother. During the 2016 San Diego Comic Con I had the opportunity to speak with Farmiga about her death scene in season four and what we can expect as the show heads into its final season. Farmiga hasn’t seen any season five scripts but says she’s game for anything series creators/writers Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin have in store for Norma.
Vera Farmiga Interview:
It was so sad to watch Norma die. How was it to play that scene?
Vera Farmiga: “I loved it. I have been emoting so much for years and I couldn’t wait for serenity. I really couldn’t. I worked very hard for it, but it’s been an emotionally frantic thing to execute for me. And I actually, to be really honest with you, was really psyched to relax and fall asleep. I rubbed it into the boys’ faces. They had this thing where they would call me ‘Easy Money’ because all of a sudden they had to take over and they had to deliver really, really huge emotional stuff. But for me it was a chance to just fall asleep, nod off, and hover on that sort of sleep and that was the key for me to play. There was one moment which was really dark and it was the first time – the moment where they actually dug me six feet under, put me in the coffin, and closed the coffin and started shoveling dirt – I literally felt the fear and paralysis and the awareness for me like I don’t know what. There was literally a moment where my spirit just kind of jolted out of my body. I don’t know, it was just a really strange moment. That was the hardest thing for me.”
Was it sad?
Vera Farmiga: “It was sadder than I thought it would be. I thought I could rest on the laurels of my Eastern European stoicism about it. I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever. She dies.’ Like, I have these super-charged storytelling experiences my whole career, but this one really hit me hard.”
How has it been being in a TV series for going on five years? It’s the first time, isn’t it?
Vera Farmiga: “It’s the first time. I’ve done a couple of them where they only went to 13 episodes. I loved this role. I loved my collaborators. I have such close friends now, and you can see that chemistry on scene. You can see how we absolutely adore each other and how close we are, and how affectionate we are. I think it just comes across. You know, that’s a cool thing for me to experience because usually when you work so long with people, there’s no lukewarm attitude. You’re either going to love each other or you’re going to come out the other way, and I adore them.”
What’s your role as an executive producer?
Vera Farmiga: “I think in the capacity that I do I’ve always been very vocal about my ideas and keeping making sure…I mean I’m on set every day making sure that tonally everybody is on the same page. I’ve directed before and the boys will tell you that even though I haven’t directed a single episode I’m always directing them. I’m always bossing people around and doing my thing, and they let me. In that respect I think is where you see ‘executive producer’. I’m always kind of doing backup. It just has been the case.
And this year what I really love is that after I directed Higher Ground, I think one of the most enriching experiences for me to be a part of where I thrived, and probably if I didn’t do what I do I would be an editor. I love that process, and this year they made me privy to all the footage and I was able to see directors’ cuts and give them my impressions and ideas. That was really fun for me to do as an executive producer on the series.”
Are you looking forward to this next season where it’s more intimate scenes between you and Freddie Highmore because that’s all it can be with Norma dead?
Vera Farmiga: “You know what? I have no idea what’s in store. I don’t even know how I’m going to approach Norma. Until they give me some words…and I haven’t seen a single page of season five. I only imagine that they have no rules anymore. They’re throwing all the rules out because she’s there. They choose to push her out that season four window and she’s fallen 12 stories high like a Hefty cinch sack filled with vegetable soup and now Norman’s got to pick up all these pieces, these fractured pieces of his psyche, so I think it’s going to be very interesting. I have no idea what’s in store but I’m game for it.”
Do you really enjoy doing horror projects?
Vera Farmiga: “Bates Motel, I don’t look at it as a horror. There’s horrifying events that happen to real people but there’s nothing supernatural. To me I always treat it like a delicate love story and that’s my approach. Even in, to be honest with you, The Conjuring it’s like we’ve taken that genre and turned it on its head. When have you ever seen song and dance numbers and love stories as a part of a horror film? And so I don’t approach them in…I don’t even know what that means. I look at my characters and I’ll be wowed by them in terms of who they are and what they’ve come through in life and where they’re going. That’s how I approach it. If it happens to be in a drama film, great. The fact is I’d done almost probably around 50 films and only four or five of them have been horror.”