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Return of the Norman dynasty; Freddie Highmore stars in the new Bates Motel

- March 13th, 2013

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The young actor who plays the new Norman Bates commented casually, “We all go a little mad sometimes.”

Uh, really?

There is something of a difference between, you know, having-a-bad-day mad and Norman Bates mad.

But the overriding question posed by the new series Bates Motel – which debuts Monday, March 18 on A&E – is, how and where did that terrifying Norman Bates-style madness begin?

It’s that sort of argument between nature versus nurture,” said 21-year-old British actor Freddie Highmore (pictured above left), who plays the 17-year-old Norman in Bates Motel.

Is he who he is, and will he always become the person that he will become? Or is it because they move to this dodgy town and there’s a sort of weird relationship – or certainly a close, intimate relationship – between Norman and Norma (Norman’s mom, played by Vera Farmiga, pictured above right)?

That challenges the audience to think, ‘Well, if I were in that situation, if I had the upbringing that Norman had, would I be slightly different?’ You know, we all go a little mad sometimes.”

Bates Motel, which is co-executive produced by Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights), is a contemporary prequel to the classic 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho. So that means Bates Motel exists in modern times, even though the story pre-dates the events that occur in the film.

I remember seeing Psycho for the first time, I guess, when I was 13 or 14,” Highmore said. “Was that too young? You seem surprised. Too young.

I haven’t seen the original house. I haven’t done the (studio) tour at all (in Los Angeles). But maybe now I will. It does make me laugh, though, when you see the house in Vancouver (where Bates Motel is shot), the exact replica of it. Not that it’s laughable.”

You may recognize Highmore’s now-grown-up face if you saw films such as Finding Neverland (2004), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), August Rush (2007) or The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008). Bates Motel is Highmore’s first regular role on series TV.

I’m very lucky – aren’t I? – yeah, playing Norman Bates, yeah,” Highmore said. “I guess, as you say, big shoes to fill.

But I feel more that if there is any pressure to kind of do as well as you can with a character, it comes more from the character himself, rather than by previous people who (played that character).

Of course, Anthony Perkins (who played Norman Bates in the original Psycho and is pictured below) has done an iconic take. But the character of Norman Bates is also iconic. So I guess I just want to do him justice and, yeah, make sure we get the best Norman we can.”

That being said, comparisons are inevitable, right?

Certainly, for me, the idea of people being able to identify with Norman from the start is interesting,” Highmore said. “He kind of indirectly challenges the audience, because we all know where he’s going to end up. It doesn’t give anything away to say that he’ll go on to be psycho.

But is that necessarily because of his upbringing?”

The answer lies in the creepy crevices of Bates Motel.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

anthony perkins in psycho

 

 

 

“Wild Things, I think I love you,” says Dominic Monaghan

- January 15th, 2013

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Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan isn’t only about insects. But Dominic Monaghan does want to put a bug in your ear.

“It irks me, to say the least, when people just dismiss them or kill them,”   Monaghan said. “A spider, ew, they kill it.

“It wasn’t doing anything to you. It doesn’t really know you exist. It wants to be in shadow, it has come out into the light, it’s trying to get back into shadow, and for some reason you think it’s coming to kill you. It’s not, it’s just trying to find a safe place where it can stay alive.

“I’m just keen on breaking the myths that a lot of people think about insects, which is that for some reason they’re out to get us, that they’re evil little animals who wake up in the morning and say, ‘Kill the humans!’ That’s not their path.”

Monaghan, an actor well-known for his roles in Lost and The Lord of the Rings, is passionate about all kinds of animals. Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan – which debuts Monday, Jan. 21 on OLN – is an extension of Monaghan’s regular life, and even his home movies.

Wild Things essentially is the way I’ve always vacationed as an adult,” Monaghan said. “I’ll usually look for an animal I’m interested in seeing, and then I’ll go to that particular place. That was the pitch (for Wild Things) that I gave out to companies.

“The show obviously has a deep correlation with the natural world, but it’s also a little bit of a travelogue, mixed with some food, it’s just about me and what I did.”

And it’s not just about the creepie-crawlies, even if Monaghan doesn’t find them creepy.

“We obviously used a lot of insects in the show as target animals because I’m a big fan of the underdog and the misunderstood,” Monaghan said. “They’re easy to find and they’re everywhere. But we also do a lot of stuff about snakes and lizards and certain types of mammals. If we find it, we usually film it.

“But as an order of animals, insects are the most important on the planet, by such a huge degree. The only thing that distinguishes us, humans, making us think that we’re in any way important is our ability to create art and technology. Apart from that, we’re the most destructive species on the planet. Worms and beetles, they create the planet, they continue to allow it to live and breathe.”

So if Wild Things speaks directly to Monaghan’s interests, has acting been something of a diversion?

“I always wanted to be an actor, but like a lot of people, I’m a lot of things,” Monaghan said. “I’m a huge (English) football fan. I’m a fan of food and travel and animals and movies. This is just one of the other things I’m passionate about, although you probably see more of me, because I’m not playing a character.

“If someone didn’t like me in Lost, I could say, ‘Well, they didn’t like Charlie.’ But if they don’t like this, then they probably don’t like me. That’s what I have to come to terms with.”

No worries, Dominic. You’re as likeable as a spider.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Harold Perrineau is Lost no more; now everyone knows his songs in Wedding Band

- October 31st, 2012

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Everybody always knows all the songs you’re playing. There’s never that awkward moment when you announce, “And now here’s something from our latest album,” and everyone groans.

That’s the up-side of being in a wedding band according to Harold Perrineau, one of the stars of the new comedy series Wedding Band.

“Everybody knows the words and nobody is going anywhere,” said Perrineau, who is pictured above in full rock ‘n’ roll pose. “They’re all screaming and they all want to have a good time.

“And yet if you’re observant, there is hilarity to be found all around.”

Wedding Band, which debuts Saturday, Nov. 10 on MuchMore in Canada and on TBS in the U.S., stars Perrineau, Brian Austin Green, Derek Miller and Peter Cambor as four dudes in a wedding band called Mother of the Bride.

The foursome is intent on moving up the chain of command in the wedding-band world. And yes, there is a chain of command.

“It’s a whole sub-genre in the music business,” said Perrineau, who is best known for his roles on Lost and Sons of Anarchy.

“You can be really popular as a wedding band, people request you. There’s a hierarchy, you can move up the ladder.”

There are rivalries, too. One of the funniest scenes in the first episode of Wedding Band is when Mother of the Bride gets into a physical fight with a Def Leppard cover band called Armageddon It.

Perrineau’s character, Stevie, is an “African-Canadian” – it’s a one-off joke early in the first episode – who is both the newest member of the band and its most seasoned member.

Stevie is an accomplished studio musician who has played bass with the biggest acts in the world, but his face never has been on an album cover because he hasn’t been an official member of any band – until now. He relishes playing live and being in the spotlight, even one as narrow as the spotlight into which Mother of the Bride crowds.

Stevie quickly is schooled by the veteran Mother of the Bride members on how to suss out the ceremony attendees.

“That whole Derek thing makes me laugh more than almost anything in the pilot,” said Perrineau, referring to the stereotypical guy at a wedding who just never is going to hook up with anyone. But the band still has to make sure every single person has a good time, because that leads to more bookings.

“At every wedding there’s a Derek, and as his tie gets a little lower and a little looser, that’s when he needs to be made an honorary band member,” Perrineau said. “And if you do that, he’ll also sneak you booze all night.

“Now, you can go with the tragedy that often happens at weddings. But if you focus on the funny stuff, that’s why I think this genre works, with films like The Wedding Singer or Wedding Crashers, any of those.”

Perrineau was a musical theatre major in college so he has some skills in this world. But training aside, Wedding Band showcases a very unique aspect of the music biz.

“You really get to be the rock star you’ve always wanted to be,” Perrineau said.

Rock star, mock star, same dif.

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv