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The Low Key Star

Freddie Highmore stars in A& E’s breakout success, Bates Motel, breathing new life into Norman Bates, Hitchcock’s iconic 60s murderous momma’s boy.

Co-starring Vera Farmiga and Max Thieriot, and with a borderline inappropriate mother-son relationship in a town so out of order that you’re better off fending for yourself, Bates Motel is the perfect cocktail of dysfunctional family set in all-around eeriness. On paper it sounds like it might be a gripping TV drama; performed by an A-list cast, it certainly is, garnering a much sought after third season and award recognition.

Gaining worldwide acclaim at age 10 in Finding Neverland, Highmore, who turned 22 last Valentine’s Day, doesn’t talk about keeping his life normal or private, he simply does it. The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory child star is fresh out of the University of Cambridge in England, where he graduated with a double degree in Spanish and Arabic. Juggling the filming of his hit horror series alongside academia, Highmore completed the first two years at Cambridge without taking a break for acting. Come his junior year at Britain’s top academic institution, he studied abroad, which allowed him to “squeeze in” Bates Motel without missing much classroom time.

“I’ve always been fascinated by language,” he assures me in his quiet English accent. “Travelling a lot as an actor when I was young gave me the opportunity to explore different cultures and languages. Filming in France with an all-French crew is much more rewarding if you speak French.” He is just returned from the prestigious Deauville Film Festival in France, serving as the only non-French jury member.

Unlike his infamous American character, Freddie had the stable home life and upbringing Norman Bates was deprived of. “I’ve always lived in London in England, just attending regular schools.” Don’t hold your breath for any candid photos of Freddie falling over outside a late night Hollywood hotspot; this multiple award-winning actor finds other ways of filling what little spare time he has…like creating a new scripted show – his first venture into writing – with his Bates Motel showrunner and friend, Kerry Ehrin. “Working on Bates Motel gave me the ambition of wanting to be part of the whole creative process,” he explains. “Playing Norman, for example, it’s great to be able to bring ideas to the script, but as a writer you get to work on a blank canvas.” His writing debut, a much anticipated comedy, has already gained a script commission from NBC. “Kerry and I happened to be at the Critics’ Choice awards earlier this summer chatting away. I said, “wouldn’t it be interesting to have this thoroughly British character being shown trying to fit in to a very American environment?” Kerry’s such a creative person and once we’d found a world that we wanted to explore, she and I found that working together, the central characters and their lives just flowed.”

Bates Motel is shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Highmore clearly enjoys working on it as much as the increasingly hooked audiences enjoy watching it. He only has positive things to say about playing a future mass murderer. He loves mining the dark side to Norman, but insists that the character he plays is not all bad. “There’s a constant battle between the good and evil of Norman’s personality. It’s my first time doing an American television show, and it’s really given me the opportunity to develop a character without feeling rushed. In an hour-and-a-half movie, I don’t think it would be possible to depict the transition in the way in which we’ve attempted to in the series. It’s really exciting to see the extra layers of character that Vera Farmiga, Max Thieriot, Nestor [Carbonell], Olivia[Cooke], Nicola [Peltz], and all the actors have built into their performances.” Clearly enthused to discuss his fellow cast members, he adds, “The joy – and perhaps slight frustration – of playing Norman is that we all know where he’s gonna end up, but as an actor I’m not always sure which is the best route to get him to that known destination.”

2015 comes with the anticipation of another roller coaster thrill of a season. The sun never shines for long in White Pine Bay.  “I haven’t read all the episodes yet, but I’m sure it’s not going to be all happy days for Norman and Mother. However well-intentioned he starts out, Norman’s going to have to continue down the path that will ultimately destroy all those he loves and end up condemning himself to be the psycho he will be forever remembered as. We know we can’t save him. We know we can’t help him. But I know I must try!”

And there you have it, straight from the Psycho’s mouth.


photography Joseph Sinclair – www.josephsinclair.com



styling assistants LEZLEY ANNE and VERONICA

words by DIO ANTHONY

shot in location at THE MAYFAIR HOTEL, LONDON