The project: A&E’s Bates Motel
The panel: Actors Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Nestor Carbonell, Olivia Cooke, and Max Thieriot; executive producers Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin
Footage screened: In lieu of a sneak peek of season 2, the whole panel (including EW’s Dan Snierson as moderator) pretended something fishy and secretive had happened causing Freddie to not make it in today. It could only be explained in a gag reel video — in which we saw Freddie visit the writers’ room during hiatus, enthusiastic and ready to get back to work, only to brutally learn his character was essentially being written out of the show so that recent Best Actress in a Drama Emmy nominee Vera Farmiga could get even more screen time. Carlton Cuse then golf-carted Freddie over to the original Psycho house and left him there. Freddie became infuriated after seeing a Norman Bates impersonator carry a body bag out and dump it in the trash. “What in the bloody hell?!” Freddie wondered. He approached the Universal Studios employee: “I DON’T THINK YOU’RE A NICE MAN.” Creepy sound effect sequence! And cut to: A bloody-shirted Freddie lugging another, Norman Bates-sized body bag onto the heap. He’s officially driven himself psycho.
… And here Freddie is now, in Ballroom 6A at Comic-Con!
Snap judgment: Everyone in Room 6A was clearly a huge fan of season 1, and the line for audience questions snaked down the aisle by the end of the panel. Freddie Highmore claimed to “never know how to answer” questions about how he gets into the character of Norman Bates. Instead he spoke thoughtfully and reverently of his co-star and screen mom Farmiga. “She’s so good at arriving at a preconceived idea [of where a scene should ultimately go emotionally] that you don’t want to change,” he said, implying that during some of their most charged scenes together, he lets himself get swept into the scene by her lead and goes along for the intriguing ride. All the cast and producers showed a great affection for each other — particularly Cuse and Carbonell, who’d worked together on Lost. At one point Cuse joked that we’ll see a flashback in which it’s revealed that Carbonell’s character Romero originally landed in the bay on a slave ship.
The big revelations: In response to a question about how long the show will go — how far into Norman Bates’ young adulthood — Cuse said the staff’s conception of the show was similar to what happened with Lost, in that around season 3, it became much clearer where the writers wanted the story to go. “I don’t think we’re doing 14 years of Bates Motel,” he said.
What to expect in season 2: “We definitely deal with the bypass,” Cuse offered, then joked that entire episodes will revolve around town hall meetings. “It’s kind of a civics lesson.” (Don’t worry, it’s not.) Also: “We made a reference to Norma’s brother last season, and that character might show up this season,” teased Cuse. “And there’s a new romance with Norma and Norman … and not with each other.”
A story idea pitched by Farmiga herself will make its way into episode 2. “I don’t wanna spoil it,” she said. But how about a cryptic tease from Cuse: “Um … Sandman,” he said.
Cuse also teased a new storyline for Dylan: a love interest? “It’s not really love,” he said. “Not really romance. Comic-Con is not the place to tell you, exactly.”
Most incisive audience question: “When are we gonna see more shirtless scenes of Max and Nestor?” wondered an effusive fan who also professed his love for Farmiga (and expressed relief Farmiga and Jessica Lange had been placed in separate Emmy categories. This guy just loves everyone.) “I was hoping for a love interest — I just didn’t know it’d be Max…” said Carbonell. Cuse promised to take the fan’s lustful wishes under consideration. “The show could turn in surprising ways,” he joked. “We’ll take that back to the writers’ room. We are shooting in the summer.”