There were two things weighing on the hearts and minds of “Bates Motel” fans this past weekend during San Diego Comic-Con 2016. One: The show is definitely going to end after Season 5. Everyone knew it was going to happen at some point as a prequel series (and they’ve been talking all along about a five-season arc), but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.
The second thing was the announcement of Rihanna being cast in the pivotal role of Marion Crane. The creative minds behind “Bates Motel” wanted to, “…thrust the iconic role into a contemporary spotlight and redefine it in a meaningful and exciting new way.”
These two crucial pieces of news were clearly on the minds of the “Bates Motel” crew as they went into the press roundtables as well. Max Thieriot (who plays Dylan Massett) spoke of Rihanna right as he sat down:
Max: Obviously the new news from twenty minutes ago (the announcement was made at the “Bates Motel” panel at SDCC) is that Rihanna is coming and playing Marion Crane. We’ve been sworn to secrecy for a while. It’s going to be super interesting and exciting to see what she brings to the character and to the show. She has such a big fan base, but it’s not about that; it’s really about the energy that she naturally has that she’s going to bring.
He went on to talk about the show coming to an end and how he felt about that:
Max: It’s really sad to say goodbye. It’s been such a fun journey. I turn to different parts of my life, like, “Oh I was filming that movie at that point.” This show has become such a big part of my life; so many things have happened during it. I think I was already engaged, but I got married, I had a kid, so many big things happened. And you make such good friends while you’re doing it because you’re with them so long. It’s so weird when you have to say goodbye to people, not forever. But you know, it’s kind of like graduating high school and leaving like, “Well, we’ll still talk.” But who knows what will happen down the road. I’m not going to see these guys next season. It’s kinda weird; it’s sad.
On a much lighter note, Max talked about his directorial debut in this final season:
Max: The exciting thing for me is that I get to direct Episode 5.04. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve wanted to be a director since I started acting. I’ve always been inquisitive and curious about how things work from a young age. Like why a director chose to do certain things, why they placed the cameras where they did. I’m super excited to be given the opportunity to do it. And it’s a great place for me to start because I’m so familiar with the characters and the writing and how the show looks. I already feel at home.
When someone questioned how he got the chance to direct, Max referenced the executive producers of the show:
Max: Kerry [Ehrin] and Carlton [Cuse] asked me, “Would you be interested in directing an episode?” and I said, “I’ve always wanted to direct. That would be amazing.” They said they would make it work; they’d find a spot for me. I’m dying to get the script; we’re starting in September some time. I’m ready to get to work now. I want to start breaking it down and figuring things out.
This final season of “Bates Motel” is allowing another of the actors to direct, this time Nestor Carbonell (Sheriff Alex Romero). He talked a little about his chance to direct for a third time:
Nestor: It’s been a gift. I never in a million years thought I would get this opportunity. It’s really thanks to Vera [Farmiga]. She’s really the one that encouraged me to pursue it. Before I directed the first time, I was asked, “If someone drops out, would you be willing to fill in?” I naively said, “Yeah, sure,” and sure enough somebody did drop out. So I had to learn very quickly. But I was thankful for that. I learned so much both times I directed. And I’ll learn as much as I can on this third experience.
When asked if he knew what episode he was going to direct, Nestor was very happy to share:
Nestor: It’s the fifth episode. I know what’s going to happen. This is sort of broad strokes, but it’s a good one. Well, they’re all good, but particularly this one.
Someone at the table chimes in with, “Because you’re the director?” to which Nestor laughs:
Nestor: Well, hey, you said that. Your words not mine.
When asked what his feelings were about “Bates Motel” coming to an end, Nestor’s response was bittersweet:
Nestor: I try not to go there. It’s hard enough that this is the last Comic-Con that we’re doing together. Everyone’s living in different places. So I’ve really enjoyed this chance to get together with them. It’s great to see the fans and to spend time with you guys [the press]. And then also catch up personally. It’s been sad, but it is great fun. We’re all good friends, and I know we’ll be lifelong friends.
We asked Nestor how he approached the role of Sheriff Romero since he was not in either of the Psycho films. His answer gave a distinct insight to how “Bates Motel” functioned different than many television shows:
Nestor: Carlton had called me about playing the part. He sent me the script for the first six episodes, and I was up all night reading them, riveted by them. And even though the character is a man of few words, the way Kerry and Carlton described him was very rich.
The scene directions typically in [television] scripts are very minimal. In film you rely on detailed descriptions because it’s very visual; with television you use more words and dialogue. But it was totally the opposite with “Bates”; the scene descriptions were very detailed and emotional, which is very cinematic. My character is a man of few words so I loved all the scene descriptions. I figured I could play that behavior, and I could play against the subtext here.
So one thing I did going into the role was loosely model the character on a good friend of mine and my wife’s. We affectionately call him “Chuckles” because he rarely smiles. I told Kerry I don’t want to smile much. I want to be guarded as long as I can be. If I do end up with Norma [Bates], I want her to be the one to make him smile. I want to reserve that for her. So I sort of approached the character loosely on that note.
Next at the table were the executive producers Cuse and Ehrin. Someone mentioned Rihanna being cast as Marion again, and Carlton had some choice words to share about their selection:
Carlton: We’re not doing a remake of Psycho. The danger of having Marion Crane in the show is that people think they know what the story is going to be. But I think the casting of Rihanna should signal loud and clear that we’re doing a different version of Marion Crane. We’re doing a 2017 version of Marion Crane. So there will be some points of connection with the original movie, but the way she traverses the narrative is going to be fresh and different.
When asked if they ever thought about making “Bates Motel” longer because of its success, Carlton said:
Carlton: No one out there is interested in mediocre television shows. So we really figured a five-year journey would be the best way to go. It would allow us to tell the story we wanted to tell.
The headliner of the show, Freddie Highmore (Norman Bates), finally sat at our table and began by talking about how he enjoyed “Bates Motel” doing its own thing rather than directly copying Psycho:
Freddie: This season, deciding to set the “Bates Motel” storyline with that of Psycho but not necessarily retelling it scene by scene, that left us to be free to come up with our own versions of the characters. It’s really a happy medium; it never felt like I had to mimic everything specifically.
We asked Freddie which of the Psycho films inspired his version of Norman Bates, and he responded very definitively:
Freddie: It’d be the first one. It’s the one I rewatch before every season. That Hitchcock classic is what has inspired me.
Last, but certainly not least at our table was Vera Farmiga (Norma Bates). She started by describing her role at the end of Season 4 during Norma’s death:
Vera: Honestly, it was actually really nice to just chillax and let the others take over. There was one moment though that was really dark. They actually dug and put me six feet feet under in the coffin, closed it, and started shoveling dirt. I literally felt the worst fear; at one point my body jolted. I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen. It was a really strange moment; that was the hardest thing for me on the show.
When asked how she felt about “Bates Motel” coming to a close, Vera spoke of love:
Vera: I love this role. I have such closer friends now. You can see that chemistry on screen. You can see how close and affectionate we are. It really comes across, and that’s a cool thing for me to experience. Usually when you work so long with people, you love each other, or you go the other way.
During Season 5 of “Bates Motel,” Vera will executive produce. She had a few thoughts on why that’s a good fit for her:
Vera: I have been producing next season, and I think in the capacity that I do, I’ve always been very vocal about my ideas. You know, I’m on set every day. I make sure that tonally everyone is on the same page. I’ve directed before so I’m used to bossing people around. When you see executive producer, it’s because I’m used to backup directing. If I didn’t do what I do, I’d be an editor, and I love that process. This year they made me privy to all the footage, so this year I got to see directors’ cuts, and they let me give my input.
We asked Vera if she’s attracted to horror roles in particular:
Vera: You know, I think maybe I don’t look at [“Bates Motel”] as horror. It’s things that happen to people, but not supernatural. I treat it as a delicate love story, and that’s it. Like in The Conjuring 2 I thought it was taking the genre and turning it on its head when you see song and dance in horror. So I don’t know what that means. I look at characters and am wowed by them in terms of who they are and what they come through in life. And that’s how I approach it. I’ve worked on 50 projects, and only 4-5 have been horror.
How are you feeling about the casting of Rihanna in “Bates Motel?” Are you looking forward to seeing how this contemporary Psycho ends? Let us know your thoughts!