"The idea of doing a contemporary prequel made it clear that it was something that was inspired by Psycho; it was not an homage," Cuse addressed critics (LA TV Insider Examiner included) at today's TCA tour in Los Angeles, noting that he was just "not interested" in telling repetitive story but instead appropriating the psychological aspect for a new story.
"How does Norman Bates become the guy that's in that movie? We thought 'This is a tragedy', and that's fantastic dramatic form, but not one you get to do a lot on television. We want the audience to fall in love with these characters...We know their inevitable fates [but] knowing their fates and seeing the tension of how they get there was something that we as storytellers thought was very compelling."
Of course, an added challenge is that the audience will inevitably be the fact that the audience has a whole knows one very specific version of Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore). He turned into a sadistic killer because of his emotionally cruel, manipulative, and incest-y mother. Or did he? Bates Motel is out to challenge previous tellings and theories of both characters.
"Yeah, basically," Cuse said when asked if all of the previous Psycho stories should be considered thrown out and no longer canon.
"The mythology you think dictates [does not]. In some cases, what ends up happening may be the opposite of what you think...What drives Norman Bates to be the guy he becomes. For us, it was really a process of invention, not to stick to what has come [before]."
Cuse pointed to the opening scene of the pilot as to one that the series will come back to later to show off details of the essence of Norman and his mother Norma's (Vera Farmiga) relationship, which at its core, is oedipal. The show intends to "take apart" both characters and their relationship to explain who they are and therefore their actions. The freedom, then, to paint Norma in a much better-rounded picture certainly attracted Farmiga to the role.
"The character is riddled with contradiction. She's as strong and tall as an elk and as fragile as a butterfly. She's everything I admire in female characters, as far as resilience...and at the same time, she's an absolute trainwreck," Farmiga said.
"We only know through Norman's warped psyche who she is. I got into this wanting to defend who she is. To me, she was just such a beautiful portrait of ...on the page, she's just a real head-turn. It reads still to me, this story is just a beautiful love letter between a mother and her son."
Cuse pointed out that Norma has always been a presence in the saga of Norman Bates but only in Bates Motel will she be as physically present as her son.
"Norma is as much a part of our story as Norman, and that's something that I think is completely different...Her unpredictability and Norman's unpredictabilty [lends itself] to not knowing what they'll do next. You're never quite sure where they are in terms of sanity," Cuse said.
But will audiences be able to accept these new versions after growing up with the iconic originals that have been so ingrained in minds? Regardless of differences of characters, the personalities have to be as strong if not moreso than the originals in order to warrant interest in this alternate timeline of sorts.
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