July 20, 2013 11:04am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Comic-Con: 'Bates Motel's' Freddie Highmore Makes a 'Killer' Entrance, Producers Tease Season 2
Bates Motel opened its Saturday morning Comic-Con panel with a bit of a scare for the assembled masses: Freddie Highmore was conspicuously absent.
Addressing his mysterious absence, producers unspooled a hilarious video going inside the writers' room with the actor -- just back from hiatus and studying at Cambridge -- making a surprise appearance. Visiting the Universal-based lot, Highmore gradually evolved from kind-hearted actor into his on-screen alter-ego of Norman Bates as he saw fake storyline cards giving newly minted Emmy nominee Vera Farmiga (Norma) all the dialogue and a prime spot in the second season key art.
Looking to escape the awkwardness, showrunner Carlton Cuse led the actor to visit the Universal Studios lot where the actual set from Psycho exists as part of the popular studio tour, which is where things go horribly wrong.
Following the amusing clip (below), Highmore made his debut on the panel to a screaming ballroom -- explaining he "got out" of his faux arrest with the help of a good agent.
As for season two of the Psycho prequel, producers offered a few sparse teasers of what to expect. Here are a few things to expect and highlights from the panel.
1. Miss Watson's murder at the end of last season will serve as a liftoff for season two. "It sets things up nicely for season two, doesn't it? We start to see more of a transition for Norman, his transition toward becoming Psycho," Highmore said.
2. Max Thieriot is very cautious about the burgeoning romance between Dylan and the object of Norman's affection: Bradley (Nicola Peltz): "As Norman's brother, I'm rooting for whatever keeps me alive at this point," he joked. "I think it's interesting; it's something I want to see explored, but I'm a little bit nervous about it." Added Highmore: "That's the good thing about being Norman Bates, he's going to be there until the end."
3. Olivia Cooke really doesn't need for Emma and Norman to explore their romantic relationship following their will-they-or-won't-they friendship. "I like where it is right now … I can't keep getting rejected! The 'what could be' and 'what if' is nicer than what could happen. It can't end well!"
4. There are a few things that producers wouldn't ever dream of changing from Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece. "No one ever told us that anything had to remain. I think there are certain things that have to remain: the progression of Norman Bates losing it and the other was the house," co-showrunner Kerry Ehrin said.
5. Don't expect to hear Bernard Herrmann's shocking Psycho "stabbing" score on the A&E prequel. "The idea of doing homages to the original throws you out of the story you're telling," Cuse said. "You're watching it and immediately dislodged from being in Bates Motel. … In smaller ways, we like the idea of referencing the movie." The series will, however, continue to include subtle references to the Hitchcock gem, including Norman's interest in taxidermy -- which will continue in season two. "The audience has some idea of where it's going to go … but we will do our own version of this story. It's not going to end well, but the path there is super fun for us."
6. Norma will have her hands full fighting to get her hotel's business off the ground going head-to-head with White Pine Bay's city council. "We definitely deal with the [freeway] bypass in season two," Cuse said. Season one briefly set up the fact that the bypass would take visitors to the creepy town away from the Bates Motel, which Norma looked to in an attempt to start over.
7. Norma's brother will make an appearance in season two. The character was first mentioned in the season finale and revealed to have had molested Norma for years. "We made reference to Norma's brother last season, and that character might show up this season, which would be pretty interesting," Cuse said.
8. New romance for (almost) everyone! Cuse said Norma and Norman will both get new love interests in season two. "Not with each other!" Cuse said with a laugh.
9. Producers are already talking about an endgame for the A&E drama. "Bates Motel is a story with a beginning, middle and end," Cuse said. "Hopefully by the end of the season, we'll have an idea of how long the story should last; we're talking about it now. People do want to get to the end of the journey; it's not an endless journey. I don't think we're doing 14 years of Bates Motel. Our idea is to tell the story as best we can in the right amount of time. Creatively you figure that out as you go along. The same was true in Lost -- around season three we figured how much time we needed. I hope soon we'll have an idea for how long the show is going to last."
10. "Sandman." That's the one-word tease that Cuse offered for a season-two storyline involving Norma -- one that Farmiga pitched directly to producers.
Check out the hilarious clip of Highmore's visit to the Universal Studios lot, below.