Bates Motel: Freddie Highmore and Kerry Ehrin Talk Norman and Norma’s Relationship in Season 3

by Clarissa / March 9, 2015

Norma and Norman Bates have one of the most fascinating — and complex and disturbing — relationship on television and when Bates Motel returns for its third season, we’ll be seeing Norma ever more desperate to make her very unusual son “normal”.

During a visit to the Bates Motel set in Vancouver, we spoke to star Freddie Highmore and EP Kerry Ehrin about how the mother-son relationship will progress this coming season.

A Battle for Norman’s Soul. “Season 3 is very much about the characters trying to figure out right and wrong,” Ehrin said. “You know, walking through that kind of murky terrain. Norman, definitely, is getting to a point where he is more torn between two parts of him. And in a lot of ways it’s kind of the battle for his soul, for who he is. Norma is going through a lot of enlightenment. In a weird way, Norma has become so much stronger since we first met her. And she’s starting to develop the ability to look at the truth a little bit, which she has never really been strong enough to do before. So that’s a really interesting development for her character.”

Norman’s Suicide Attempt in Season 2 Will Continue to Have an Impact. “Certainly it impacts a lot on Norman’s relationship with his mother in the third season,” Highmore acknowledged. “In some ways [it’s] a selfless step of ‘I’m going to remove myself from this world because I think that’s kind of for the greater good and in order to protect everyone and especially Norma’. [It’s] kind of the ultimate thing he’s trying to do in terms of loving her. And so with the knowledge that that’s taken place there’s this added pressure and added dynamic in their relationship in the third season that I think hinges around the fact that they’re so close. He loves her more than anything, more than himself.”

Reality vs. Fiction. Norman will continue to suffer from periods of not being able to distinguish what is reality and what is in his head. “It’s so interesting for Norman, of course, to not know exactly what goes on in certain moments and to start doubting himself even at times when, perhaps, he shouldn’t be,” Highmore said. “But there’s always going to be this side to him that’s slightly unsure about what has happened and waking up one more thinking ‘oh, is this actually what happened or was it not the reality?’” Ehrin added that “I feel like Norman…it’s more like he operates on feeling. He can’t perceive of what his body is doing so I think he feels that he’s a puzzle with missing pieces. And that he knows sometimes things happen that he doesn’t understand why they happen and I think that’s pretty scary to him. But I think over this season there’s a growing awareness of darker parts of himself.” In addition, Norman’s internalization of his mother will continue in season 3. “That’s an ongoing and super-fun progression,” Ehrin hinted.

Will They Ever Be Normal? Norma and Norma will “have a growing awareness of their need for each other, and that it may not perhaps be 100% mentally healthy,” Ehrin said. “But that’s in conflict with that great affection that they have for each other which is, in a certain respect, about family, and about not wanting to be alone and about feeling safe with someone in a world that’s scary. And I think that’s one of the things that we really love about the show, that it’s so much about the longing for family that everyone has, you know. I mean, Dylan just breaks my heart. I really think all Dylan wants in the world is a family. You know, just like a simple life with a family. We take that for granted.”

The Road that Threatens the Bates Motel. That new main road through town will continue to play a role in season 3. “Weirdly, that’s a hugely important thing to the story, that stupid road. If that road hadn’t have happened, would everything have come along the way it did? Probably not. So we wanted to pay the road its due. But the road is happening. The road is in construction. It’s now [more about] how to deal with that, the fact that they’ve been isolated, the fact that they’re cut off,” Ehrin hinted.

New Sets Mean More Creepy Mother-Son Scenes. “We’re so excited to have a bathroom,” Ehrin said when discussing new sets they’ve built for the third season. “The first season, we always wanted to do bathtub scenes with Norma in the bathtub and Norman walks in and they’re just chatting while she’s in the bathtub, and we never had a bathroom so we couldn’t do it. So we’re really excited. I think it has his and her sinks. So there’s a little husband and wife vibe to them getting ready in the morning. We’re excited about that.”

Knowing the End from the Beginning. Of course, every Bates Motel fan who has also watched “Psycho” knows how Norman Bates’ story ends. So what’s it like to know the ending for a show like this? Ehrin doesn’t actually think that’s a bad thing. In fact, they wanted to show that “what we chose to do with the story from the beginning was actually really examine the possibility that there were options [to help Norman]. That there were options along the way and that’s kind of why it becomes a tragedy. Ultimately, because there are things that could have been done differently if people had been more enlightened, had been more psychologically healthy and stronger. There’s a lot of different ways things could have played out. But because they are the people that they are, fate has to be in control and it has to push in a certain direction. But watching that unfold in a really nuanced way is really fascinating.”

Do the Writers Have the Story Laid Out? Pretty much, according to Ehrin: “We feel like you’re doing a story and you definitely have to deliver a whole story. You want it to land in a real place. We always thought of it as a tragedy. Like with any tragedy you want there to be a catharsis to the tragedy, so it’s not just horrible. That it all has a point. That it is all building somewhere and leading and telling a story. So we have a pretty specific plan in mind for probably over five seasons in total.”

Bates Motel returns for its third season on Monday, March 9th at 9:00 pm ET/PT on A&E.

Clarissa is Managing Editor at ScreenFad and former Managing Editor of TVOvermind. A lover of genre shows (like Supernatural and Arrow) and quality dramas (like The Good Wife and Homeland), Clarissa provides on set and event coverage as well as news, spoilers and reviews for all things TV and movies. Follow her at @clarissa373 or email her at clarissa @