Ready to check back into A&E's Bates Motel? With the season three premiere airing tonight, you don't have to wait long. After the tense ending to season two, writers/executive producers Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin have plenty of suspense (both psychological and palpable) in the pipeline for the 10-episode third season, and coming off another Saturn Award nomination for Best Actress in a Television Series, Vera Farmiga looks to bring Norma to life once again with a multifaceted flair. We recently had the chance to take part in an interview call with Farmiga, Cuse, and Ehrin, who discussed what's in store for Norma and Norman's strained relationship in season three, new cast members, learning Slipknot songs on guitar in between scenes, the number of seasons planned for Bates Motel, and more.

The picturesque Northwest United States settings of both Bates Motel and A&E's The Returned remake:

Carlton Cuse: "The physical environment is a big part of both shows. And while the second season of Bates was sort of warm and summery, Kerry and I felt very strongly that we should go back to a sort of bleaker, more monochromatic winter, late fall look for Season 3 of Bates and that it was narratively appropriate.

You know, for The Returned, the physical environment, the presence of nature; the kind of overwhelming influence of nature is a big part of the storytelling. There's this really weird phenomenon that's happening. And metaphorically using nature to represent that there are forces much larger than our characters was an important part of the storytelling."

The path Norma will take in season three:

Vera Farmiga: "Kerry's taken the lead on writing Norma and she writes like I'm some sort of a demigod. But I'm just a mere mortal and I'm mortally wounded from what she has me go through.

It's pretty nutty to see now what we explore with this character this season, like the height of righteousness that she possesses and the depths of manipulation and depravity that she is capable of. There are just so many antics and adventures for me to explore. I have never been challenged the way I am with this story in this particular character. I'm heavily medicated right now with tremors and spasms and a torn shoulder and neck muscles and the like. I am broken in smithereens. It's torturous to us all to hit the notes that are required emotionally and to do it earnestly. And Kerry really keeps us on point like that. But it just requires the tenacity of ten f'ing tornados and I only had about 9-1/2 in me.

You're going to see a more unraveled Norma this year. There's mammoth stress in dealing with Norman's mental state. It has a whopping physical and emotional toll on Norma the way it would on any parent of a 'special needs child.'

And following the events of last season, Norma is more aware, she's more circumspect, she's more attentive to Norman's fragility. You're going to see her playing her cards really close to her chest in the beginning of the season, but she's got to reach out. She's protective of him as ever and determined to help him as best as she can. But she doesn't always know how. And I think she's going to start reaching out to others. And that relationship evolves as they allow more people in their lives."

Working with Joshua Leonard (whom Vera directed and co-starred with in 2011's Higher Ground) again and how his character, James Finnigan, will factor into the storyline:

Vera Farmiga: "Norma's determined to make her business a success. And so she starts enrolling in business classes at the local community college. And so there she meets James Finnegan. And he kind of launches her into a whole new path of discovery. I rooted for Joshua to get this role. It's very interesting, though, in Higher Ground he played a husband in a relationship that I'm leaving. And this is more of a romantic role.

And yet we're very close friends. It was a very interesting and bazaar dynamic between the two of us. It's a character that Norma bonds intensely with. He's phenomenal. It was a quirky experience to embark on. We were so close and this is just a weird twist. And it was amazing but odd at the same time to work so closely in a different capacity."

Carlton Cuse: "The quirkiness of it is great. It's exactly the right word. Kerry and I strive to create characters who are quirky and odd but yet believable within our sort of larger-than-life, pulpy world of White Pine Bay.

Joshua did such an incredibly great job of fitting that mold exactly. He's odd but he's really compelling. And over the course of a few episodes, I think the audience will find themselves incredibly engaged in this relationship with these two characters as it starts to deepen and unfold."

On new cast member Ryan Hurst's (Sons of Anarchy) character, Chick Hogan:

Carlton Cuse: "We have this character of Chick Hogan, played by Ryan Hurst, who was a very dangerous character for us to create because he's right on the edge of being ridiculous or being terrifying. And that was something that I think we were very nervous about being able to pull off. And, you know, I think we got on the right side of the line."

On new cast member Kevin Rahm's (Mad Men) character:

Kerry Ehrin: "Kevin Rahm plays a White Pine Bay local, a prominent person, wealthy, affluent and somewhat of a antagonist. The really cool thing about his role is that he is someone who grew up with Alex Romero. And through the storyline this season we get to peel back some layers of Romero, which is so much fun as writers.

As a viewer, I think it's going to be so interesting to get inside this incredibly stoic, guarded person and see a little more of what makes him tick and what he needs and what he's hiding from himself. So that's just been a really fun storyline."

On the relationship between Dylan, Norma, and Norman moving forward:

Kerry Ehrin: "The relationship with Norma and Norman is so peculiarly close. And because it is so co-dependent and because they have this sense that they emotionally need each other to survive, the presence of someone else in that universe is threatening. And Norma is in a stronger place and a more desperate place at the same time.

So she is a little more open to Dylan. And she's kind of reaching out more to him. But Norman, who has basically stayed in the world for his mom at this point, feels incredibly threatened by it."

On new cast member Tracy Spiradakos' (Revolution) role in the third season:

Carlton Cuse: "Tracy plays this sort of mysterious, beautiful, enigmatic woman who checks into the Bates Motel and really becomes the catalyst for our entire crime story this season. It may seem at first blush that it's kind of an obvious storyline out of the movie Psycho, but it doesn't turn out to be that way at all.

We're sort of teasing Norman's confused sexual perspective. Her fate and whole back story is the big mystery that drives our plot and our narrative over the course of the season.

She did a wonderful job in a very short time of making us very intrigued about the character. She's not only beautiful but really a great actress and it was really fun to have her on the show."

On the number of planned seasons Cuse and Ehrin have for Bates Motel:

Carlton Cuse: "Five seasons. Kerry and I have a pretty clear roadmap. We're just finishing the third season right now and we feel pretty strongly that there are two more seasons in the show and we have a pretty clear plan of where we want to go and we want to bring this story to its inevitable conclusion.

I think Bates is not its best version if it's an open-ended series and I think the audience is sort of waiting for the conclusion and we're heading there. We have that mapped out."

The close friendship between Vera and Freddie Highmore:

Vera Farmiga: "The other day I just looked at his spare toothbrush lying in my children's drawer and I thought, 'Ah, should I throw this away or not?' I left it there for next year. He's got his contacts and everything...

We're just very close. And he's very close with my husband who is a kind of surrogate father for him. And he is a good buddy for my children. He's an incredible influence on them. And we rely heavily on each other to execute these roles. And I can't imagine it any other way."

On passing time in between scenes on the set of Bates Motel:

Vera Farmiga: "This year I've been learning the guitar in between the scenes with an emphasis on heavy metal. I find it to be a beautiful coping strategy. I play Slipknot and practice triplet notes on my guitar. We make up songs for each other. Kerry and I have to release those on Twitter eventually.

But it's all fun and shenanigans on set. And then when we get to work we get to work. Norma Bates is so unafraid, so I find as much joy as I can in the role and find as much joy and light heartedness off screen, so I play Slipknot and practice triplet notes on my guitar."


A&E checks back into White Pine Bay's family-run establishment for a 10-episode third season of Bates Motel, beginning Monday, March 9th, at 9:00pm EST.

In case you missed it, check out Alyse's early review of the Bates Motel Season 3 premiere:

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    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.