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Remote Controlled: ‘Bates Motel’ Star Freddie Highmore, EP Kerry Ehrin Preview ‘Heartbreaking’ Final Season

Welcome to Remote Controlled, Variety’s podcast series featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

This week’s episode features Variety executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum and editor-at-large Michael Schneider in conversation with “Bates Motel” star Freddie Highmore and executive producer Kerry Ehrin talking about the series finale.

The two open up about what it feels like to have wrapped production on the A&E drama after five seasons, and what they took from the set before it was torn down (Ehrin grabbed a tray; Highmore snagged Norman’s manager badge).

Freddie Highmore photographed exclusively for the Variety Remote Controlled podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

Ehrin said this season ended up where she always intended. “It was very much about answering the end of last season. What does a world look like that you’re completely conjuring up out of your own body and energy and brain? Our goal is to tell a real story about someone who believes he’s living with his mother and when in fact the mother is dead, but make her real so that you care about the relationship. Just as he would.”

The other challenge for this season was marrying the storylines of “Bates Motel” with the classic Hitchcock movie that inspired it. “It’s fun to intersect and go past the ‘Psycho’ world this year,” said Highmore.

“We didn’t pull ‘Bates Motel’ into Psycho, we pulled ‘Psycho into ‘Bates Motel’,” said Ehrin. “We really wanted to have the stories run into each other, intermingle and then have a culmination that was profoundly meaningful for ‘Bates Motel’ but still telling some of the mythology of Psycho. That was our goal.”

Which of course brings us to Rihanna, who guest stars this season as the ill-fated Marion Crane. “She had a real enthusiasm to be there,” said Highmore.

“It was amazing,” said Ehrin. “It was quite an event. Our set is super-low key normally and it became … security badges. Everyone was very excited.”

Highmore talked about what he’s learned from Ehrin from time he spent in the writers’ room. “Do you think I write differently because I’m an actor?” asked Highmore. “No, I think it’s because you’re smart,” countered Ehrin. “Freddie, always from day one, if he has a question about a scene, it was always so intelligent. He understands scene structure for someone who has never written before. But he’s been doing it since he was 7.”

Ehrin and Highmore’s working relationship will continue as well — they’re teaming up on a project called “Baby Face” about Baby Face Nelson set in the Great Depression. “It’s a love story set in that era, and it’s tonally a lot of fun,” says Ehrin.

You can listen to this week’s podcast here:

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday.

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