‘Bates Motel’ EP Says Season 3 Is ‘the Battle for Norman’s Soul’

“It is very much about the characters figuring out right from wrong,” showrunner Kerry Ehrin tells TheWrap

Kerry Ehrin, Freddie Highmore, Bates Motel, A&E
A&E/Getty Images

When “Bates Motel” returns to A&E on Monday night, the dark drama’s disturbed protagonist Norman Bates finds himself at a moral crossroads. The character, portrayed by Freddie Highmore, will find himself battling for his very soul, according to the show’s co-creator.

“Season 3 is very much about the characters figuring out right from wrong and walking through that murky terrain,” showrunner Kerry Ehrin told TheWrap during an on-set press junket. “Norman has definitely got to the point where he finds himself torn between two [different versions of himself]. In a lot of ways, this season is about … the battle for his soul, for who he is.”

But Norman won’t be the only character with a tough road ahead. His mother Norma (played by Vera Farmiga) will face her own trials and tribulations, some of which will make her character stronger.

“Norma is going through a lot of enlightenment. In a weird way, Norma has become so much stronger since we first met her,” Ehrin continued. “She’s developing the ability to see the truth a little bit, which she wasn’t strong enough to do before.”

Ehrin was joined by several stars of “Bates Motel” during the Vancouver set visit, including Highmore, Olivia Cooke (who plays Emma) and Nestor Carbonell (who plays Sheriff Alex Romero). They discussed where Norman is headed, how the film “Psycho” impacts his character arc and his unique way with women. Ehrin also revealed how many seasons she and co-creator Carlton Cuse have outlined.

TheWrap: Considering this show is the prequel to a movie about Norman’s psychotic murder spree, can his character arc go anywhere but down, down, down?
Kerry Ehrin: I think part of what we chose to do with the story from the beginning was really examine the possibility … that there were options along the way and that’s why it becomes a tragedy, ultimately — because things could have been done differently if people had been more enlightened. Had [Norman] been more psychologically healthy and stronger, there are many different ways things could have played out … but watching it unfold in a really nuanced way is really fascinating.

Does Emma (Olivia Cooke) realize she should maybe be scared of Norman?
Olivia Cooke: I don’t think so. She’s always felt quite safe with Norman, especially at the lake, when he … protected her while the person she was seeing stood back and recoiled a bit. She’s always felt this safety with him and I think, no matter what, she feels like Norman could never really hurt her.

Ehrin: The funny thing about Norman with women is, because he’s so guarded and interior, women project onto him. Emma has such a beautiful heart and she just projects on to him her version of him. But Norman does have a beautiful heart—

Freddie Highmore: He is nice.

Nestor Carbonell: In the car on the way over here you and I were talking about how there are few actors who could uniquely do what Freddie and Vera do because you have a certain innocence and sophistication about you. But you do have an angelic nature about you that allows you to get away with things in this role.

Ehrin: Yeah, it’s amazing when you see them do scenes where they’re in bed together or hugging and it just …

Highmore: Seems normal, doesn’t it?

Ehrin: It just seems OK! … I don’t think a lot of [actors] could get away with that.

Is there an end in site for “Bates Motel?” How many seasons have been mapped out?
Ehrin: [Co-creator Carlton Cuse] and I have talked a lot about it … 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 and, like with any tragedy, you want there to be a catharsis so it’s not just horrible, so it all has a point … We have a pretty specific plan in mind for probably over five seasons in total.

Watch Highmore tease the new season in an exclusive video here.

“Bates Motel” returns to A&E at 9 p.m. on Monday.