Freddie Highmore on Playing Young Norman Bates: “The role was just brilliant”

freddie-highmore-bates-motelIt’s always odd to see one-time child actors take on their first “adult” roles. In the case of Freddie Highmore, who starred in Finding Neverland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and August Rush, the twenty-one year-old actor is stepping into adulthood by taking on a role that launches him from cute kid to creepy teenager — Norman Bates.  Highmore stars as the teenage “Psycho” in the A&E television series Bates Motel and spoke to New York magazine about working on the anticipated series.

Being college-aged, Highmore is not only starring in a television series, but trying to balance that with his studies at Cambridge.  He explains how he handles it by pointing out, “I’ll be able to finish my courses at the same time. It works out together. The role was just brilliant, and A&E seemed to be very committed from the start, doing ten episodes and putting a lot behind it. It’s nice to go in having that kind of support. Also, we had so many scripts before we started, I think we had six of them, and that’s so great to know where it’s going before you start, as opposed to having just the one hour. It’s my first experience of television, so I don’t know.”

Curiously, the close relationship Norman has with his mother is somewhat paralleled by Highmore’s relationship with the actress who plays his mother, Vera Famiga.  Highmore says, “We’ve spent so much time together, she’s like my new best friend. And she’s so great at throwing away emotions and playing against things as opposed to just being one thing the whole time. It’s a pleasure to work with her.”

Luckily Highmore is enjoying the experience, which might be surprising considering the show is filmed next to a trash dump.  Highmore speculates why the producers decided to shoot a show in that area, saying, “I think there are a few reasons. It’s about an hour out of Vancouver, so it was specially selected within the radius of all the places they could have chosen. We’re actually on top of an old dump, and there’s also a new dump across the road. Honestly, I think part of the reason is it had the hill, like from the original Psycho house with the motel being down below, and then the big hill that [has] the house on the top. I think the house is actually sitting directly atop the old dump, and if the wind blows the wrong way, yeah, it smells quite bad.”

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