Norman, is that you?
A&E offers up a prequel of sorts to Alfred Hitchock's landmark 1960 film Psycho, which re-imagines the relationship between deranged mama's-boy killer Norman Bates and his protective to a fault mother. Bates Motel, which stars Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) as Norma and Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Norman, premieres March 18, Mondays at 10 ET/PT.
The show marks the first project for executive producer Carlton Cuse since ABC's Lost went off the air, but he promises the show is a character-based Psycho-logical thriller without any elements of the supernatural. "No polar bears, no smoke monsters," he says. "We did not want to do an homage to Psycho," but instead "explore how does Norman Bates become the guy we see in that movie. The tension of knowing what his fate is and seeing how he got there is compelling storytelling."
The premiere episode shows the fractured family buying the rundown motel and Norman rescuing his overbearing mom from a traumatic attack. Farmiga says she went into the project "wanting to defend what she does. She's a beautiful portrait of valiant maternity," she says, though "at the same time she's an absolute train wreck."
Which to Highmore explains some of Norman's future behavior: "Is that necessarily because of his upbringing? Because we all go a little mad sometimes," he says, parroting a line from the film.
Though the original Psycho house still stands on the Universal lot in Los Angeles, it was recreated in Vancouver, where the series is shot. But the inspiration ends there, and Cuse says the series won't echo any of the Psycho remakes or movies that have come since Hitchcock's defining achievement. "At some point we're going to catch up to the characters in the movie," he says. But don't look for the doomed embezzler played by Janet Leigh: "We don't feel literally bound to have Marion Crane come rolling into the Bates Motel."