A&E debuts the ambitious and intense origin story of ''Psycho''s Norman Bates and his mother, Norma, on March 18 at 10 p.m. Read our five-point primer before checking into this ''Motel.''

By Tim Stack
March 15, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT
  • TV Show

1 Bates Motel is a modern-day reimagining of and prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller.

How did Norman get so cray-cray? That’s the gist of this series from exec producers Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights). While the titular setting remains the same, Motel tackles the loving but twisted relationship between Norma (Vera Farmiga) and Norman (Freddie Highmore) as they move to the creepy Oregon town of White Pine Bay. Producers looked to a blockbuster movie franchise when plotting this prequel. Says Cuse: ”I was thinking a lot about [director] Christopher Nolan and the reboot of the Batman franchise and felt like that was a lesson in how you could take a franchise and liberate it.”

2 Norman is still weird…but his new town is even weirder.

”I think that Twin Peaks was definitely an influence for both of us,” Cuse says. ”The content of the show is probably one part Friday Night Lights, one part Lost, and one part Twin Peaks.” There’s no Log Lady or creepy dwarf — at least not in the first three episodes shown to EW — but there is a violent death in the premiere and a high school girl (British newcomer Olivia Cooke) who totes an oxygen tank. The mysterious Bates family also finds itself under the watchful eye of local sheriffs, played by Lost‘s Nestor Carbonell and Pan Am‘s Mike Vogel.

3 Farmiga and Highmore turn in Emmy-worthy performances.

The Up in the Air actress and the Finding Neverland actor were the producers’ first choices for the roles — and they’re both simply riveting. ”They did have chemistry immediately, and I have to say, it gets better and better,” Ehrin says. ”They’re, like, freakin’ on fire.”

4 Norman won’t be dressing in drag and killing blond ladies in the shower. At least not this season.

”There’s an arc that’s going to get him to that point eventually, but our hope is that you’ll fall in love with these characters [before that],” Cuse says. ”We want you to be in exquisite agony, and love Norma and Norman and hope that they’re not going to meet their inevitable fates.” Adds Ehrin: ”This is more of a slow burn. Like any mental illness…it’s going to act out in certain places, and then it can be dormant for a space of time.”

5 Producers have a plan to appeal to fans of A&E’s hit Duck Dynasty.

Two words: facial hair. Jokes Cuse: ”Nestor could grow one of those beards in, like, five days. If Duck Dynasty gets any bigger, we might have to do that.”

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