Freddie Highmore Dissects Psycho ‘Bates Motel’ Jailhouse Encounter

Bates Motel
Courtesy Cate Cameron/A&E Networks LLC

Anatomy of a Scene: “Bates Motel,” Season 5, Episode 8: “The Body” (A&E)

Freddie Highmore pulled double duty with this episode of A&E’s “Psycho” prequel, directing and starring as young Norman Bates. The actor considers Norman’s violent jailhouse encounter with his “Mother” (Vera Farmiga) as essential to the series finale. It sets up “that ‘Mother’ has now taken over Norman in a way that seems perhaps permanent,” he says. “And so obviously the goal of the scene was to convey that basic switching of personas, from Norman being himself and then being taken over by his mother.”

Pete White
First Assistant Director
“On ‘Bates’ we’re like a true family, with people that you knew were always looking out for you, that you knew would point out something to you if something went wrong and you were acting and technically you weren’t able to watch what was going on on-screen,” Highmore says. He praises first AD White, “He was wonderful in terms of just looking out for me in a way that goes beyond most first AD’s capabilities, in terms of watching scenes when I was in them.”

John S. Bartley
Mark S. Freeborn
Production Designer
“Because there was much more action in the police station, there was a bit more collaboration in terms of building these new sets that we hadn’t used before, with Mark Freeborn collaborating with John Bartley in terms of coming up with a look that was good,” Highmore says. “The two-way mirror in the interrogation room was something that I had sort of wanted from the very beginning and proved useful in terms of not only switching between one character and another — me and Vera — and keeping it reasonably organic, but also it provided that sort of window into reality from outside the room.

Cedric Nairn-Smith
“I was nervous about post-production at the beginning, having never been in the editing room in a serious way before,” Highmore says. “But Cedric was absolutely wonderful and I think we just both shared the same instinct in this episode as to when to show Vera and when to show me in the scenes between Norman and ‘Mother.’ We would shoot everything twice in the scene, because the producers wanted a choice in editing between when to use me, or when to use Vera’s face, and when to kind of cut them in together. But there was a carefully designed plan that ultimately ended up kind of being exactly what they went for, and Cedric was very much instrumental in making that happen.”

Chris Bacon
“Chris Bacon has always done the music for ‘Bates.’ He’s wonderful,” Highmore says. “One of the surprising things about post is that the music and the score are put on after the director’s cut is finished and all the cuts are done. And so the director never really gets to be a part of that process, though Chris did invite me in to watch the live orchestra taping of a show in a previous season. But what you do do in the editing room is use samples of his previous work and use that to have an idea of the mood of the scene and the tone of the scene.

“So I had a whole library of Chris Bacon’s previous ‘Bates’ work to choose from. It always made sense to refer to his score, because it’s simply so brilliant and also seems familiar and always worked in those scenes. So we would use that as the temp score, and then he ultimately would weave his magic later on.”