Kerry Ehrin is a television writer. She has worked on the NBC drama series Friday Night Lights. She was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for Best New Series at the February 2007 ceremony for her work on the first season of Friday Night Lights. She was nominated for the WGA Award for Best Dramatic Series the following year at the February 2008 ceremony for her work on the second season of Friday Night Lights. Ehrin was nominated for Best Dramatic Series a second time at the February 2009 ceremony for her work on the third season of Friday Night Lights. She was nominated for the WGA Award for Best Drama Series for the third consecutive year at the February 2010 ceremony for her work on the fourth season.
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Hey there, reddit and /r/IAMA fans! I'm Kerry Ehrin, the showrunner/writer of A&E's "Bates Motel," which returns for a third season TONIGHT on A&E at 9/8c. I write the show, along with my fellow showrunner, Carlton Cuse.
In case you need to catch up, full episodes of BATES MOTEL are available online and On Demand: http://www.aetv.com/bates-motel
I'm a native of Los Angeles, and have also been a writer/producer on such series as "Friday Night Lights," "Parenthood" and "Boston Legal." Whether writing the characters of Norma and Norman Bates, Tami and Coach Taylor, or the Braverman's, I find that a family drama is a family drama.
Thank you so much for all of your great questions! I seriously could talk about this all day. I hope you enjoy this season: we are incredibly proud of it and feel it is our best yet! Please follow me on Twitter @KE8. Thank you so much! Love and peace.
Victoria's helping me get started today. Please go ahead and ask me anything!
Can we expect the boundaries to be pushed further this season with Norma and Norman? Any more kissing?
You have to watch and see! The boundaries will always be pushed because that's what the world of the show is. It's very interesting to tiptoe around that line, but stay true to who the characters are. Yes, Norman is sexually confused and his wiring is screwed up. But he does deeply love his mother. And she fiercely loves him. That bond - which is pure - is what keeps the show balanced.
The promos for this season have kind of brought up the question of whether it's actually Norman that's crazy or Norma. We all know that Norman is but will we be questioning Norma's sanity this season?
Norma's storyline this season is so fascinating because it is the story of a mother starting to realize that there's something terribly wrong with her child. It requires a certain emotional strength to look at these things and sometimes having to muster that strength can cause you to collapse/spin out in other areas. She has an amazing arc and does, in fact, spin out at a certain point in the season. It's a really fantastic episode and I think incredibly rewarding to lovers of Norma Louise. She is certainly dysfunctional and damaged but I think the only thing that makes her "crazy" is the inability to protect her child. That would make anyone cross a line. I love her for always being so valiant.
Hi Kerry! So glad you're doing this AMA, welcome to Reddit if you haven't ventured here before :)
My question: what are the actors like on set between takes (especially Vera and Freddie)? Do they stay in character as Norma and Norman even when the cameras aren't rolling? What's that like for you when you're around them?
Also, how does being exec to Bates Motel compare to being exec on your previous projects?
Thanks ahead of time if you're able to answer all of these!
Hey there. :) The actors on set are seriously delightful. Given that we are telling a pretty dark tale, I have to say there is more fun and frivolity and good will on this set than, possibly, on any set I've ever been on. Everyone is incredibly professional and incredibly funny. Norma and Norman will, to some extent, stay in character if it is a very emotional scene. I love to be around them and on the set because I love being "in the middle of it" when it feels "real". It often gives me story ideas seeing the actors do their stuff. It's amazing. Such a gift to be around such inspiring talent. As far as comparisons re: exec producing - this is my first time Executive Producing. Carlton Cuse is also an Executive Producer and my partner and cocreator and he has taught me a lot about the whole process. He's fantastic.
Hello! I love Bates Motel, and I especially love Psycho. I was wondering, what other Hitchcock works do you reference in the show?
I also love PSYCHO and Hitchcock, in general. We don't really reference other Hitchcock films, but we def attempt to take a page from how he creates suspense. Often the scenes that excite me the most in his films are the ones where NOTHING HAPPENS but you think something is going to happen. It's all very slight-of-hand and very exciting to try and create scenarios like that.
is it hard writing for an iconic character like Norman?
Hi Frajer! This is a great question because I have been an avid reader since I was a child and I often find fictional worlds so real. I have always imagined characters as real people, fully dimensional. And often when i write, I will have a "model" for a character in my mind who is, in fact, a real person. So in a way, embellishing the fabulous character of Norman Bates was not that different. I love the character in the film and it was fascinating for myself and Carlton Cuse to imagine what made him the person that he becomes. That is where his mother comes into play. Creating her was such a fascinating experience. I actually wrote a first person piece in the LA TIMES yesterday talking about writing Norma, if you want to check that out. :)
Hi Kerry. Love the dark storytelling in 'Bates Motel'. Two questions:
1) What is the oddest storyline that gas been considered but ultimately rejected on 'Bates Motel'?
2) I'm a big FNL fan (unusual as I'm a Brit) so on a scale of 1 to awesome how great are Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton?
Thank you, Bob! We have a lot of fun in the writers' room thinking of all kind of stories - none more odd than a guy who wants to sleep with his mom though! That's one of the great things about this show is that it's so "open" in terms of where you can go and what you can talk about in the storytelling. One of the oddest stories we actually wound up doing was probably Norma and Norman trying out for the community theater musical. There was also a storyline I loves about Norman and Nick Ford bonding over their mutual mourning of Blaire Watson. It ultimately did not work out but I personally loved the concept that underneath that storyline was this truth that Norman was the one who killed her but he didn't know it yet.
I also am a big FNL fan!!! Thank you so much. The genius of Jason Katims who was a complete joy to work with and I miss him! Kyle Chandler and Connie are amazing and I think their marriage was def the cornerstone of that show and balanced out so much of the heartache we saw on a weekly basis. That relationship was so inspired/created by Jason Katims. It's a really beautiful .
Hey, Kerry! I'm a big fan. I was wondering what Emma and Norman's relationship is gonna look like this season?
Emma has a fantastic storyline this year and grows so much as a character and a young woman. She is facing a lot of personal challenges. We forget she has CF because she handles it so well. But it is a real illness and comes into play. Also she becomes much more intricately embroiled in the Bates family, but she always leads with her heart because that's who she is and she is so good herself she tends to see the best in others/ I don't want to give any spoilers but there are some big surprises for our Emma this season. We adore her and Olivia Cooke is nothing short of brilliant. Her movie ME. EARL AND THE DYING GIRL just took over Sundance this year. She is an incredibly gifted actress and such an intelligent, grounded, charming human being. We are so lucky to have her.
How much do you have to worry about renewal chances from season to season? I hope we have it for many more years!
Thank you for taking the time to do this AMA
I try to not worry about it at all. Carlton and I make the show that we love and that's all anyone can do who doesn't own a network haha. We feel confident that the show will be renewed.
Hi Kerry, can you tell us the story behind Vera's cast as Norma Bates? I think she was your first choice, and I'd like to know what made you think of her for the role. Thank you for everything, I'm a huge fan of your work. Love from France.
Thank you so much! Carlton Cuse was the one who first brought up Vera's name. We knew she was perfect and made a strong and immediate play to try and get her, not actually expecting that we would haha, because you almost never get your first choice. But we sent her the first three scripts and, fantastically, she responded that she loved them. It was incredibly rewarding to have someone like Vera love your material. And there is no one more perfect to be Norma Bates. Vera brings such a beauty and depth and love and reality to the character. She is inspiring to me on a daily basis.
Kerry, do you feel you are paid well as show runner?
I suppose that's relative. I think I do pretty well for a girl that worked at McDonald's when I was 16. I don't know if it's good compared to what other people make. I try not to think about that and I have always tried to take jobs because I felt passionately about writing them and not because of the money offered or because it was a "good career move". My agent, Robb Rothman, who has repped me for 26 years had always supported me in these decisions and that's why we are still together.
Hi Kerry! Robert Bloch is one of my absolute favourite writers. Was there anything in particular that inspired you to work with his characters? Are there other horror writers you look up to?
I have only read a little of Robert Bloch but do admire him and want to read more. I think the way he gets inside characters' heads and has compassion for them is amazing. I have two horror writers I very much look up to: Richard Matheson, who actually helped me get started when I was very young and was in many ways like a surrogate father to me. We lost him last year and it was very sad because in addition to being a genius he was the kindest man I have ever known. I am also a huge fan of RC Matheson, who has an amazing imagination and I'm always fascinated by what he does on the page. Really wonderful.
I'm happy that you're doing this Q&A with your fans! :)
How is working on a prequel of an existent film? Is there any rules to respect during the work or it's like create a completly different thing?
Well, of course, you are initially inspired by the world of the film. But as you create new aspects of it (i.e.: the character of Norma, what Norman was like as a teenager, etc...) it starts taking on a life of its own in your head. At the same time, however, you can't just go willy nilly and forget what the inspiration was. So it's kind of a combination of honoring the original film but also creating a true and separate reality that can go hand in hand with it.
Bates Motel is definitely my number 1 show, so how many seasons of Bates Motel will there be?
Carlton Cuse and I feel strongly that the story should be told in five seasons.
What made you decide to have only 10 episodes per season?
PS can't wait for tonight!
We originally were only supposed to be six episodes a season but the network loved the first six scripts so much that they ordered more. Doing the show now, for three seasons, we feel that ten is the right amount to sustain the storytelling at an intense pace and not start "filling it out" with other stuff. Also, this show in particular, because it can be so "operatic" and dark and emotional, is actually exhausting to both act and write. I think more episodes might actually kill us. :)
My friends, family, and I all love the show. My question is when did you first watch the original movie Pyscho? Was the movie something that intrigued you when you first saw it? How hard is it to write for characters that have a predetermined destination for their future?
Thanks for your work on the show. I think that the Bates family is one of the most interesting families on tv.
Thank you so much for loving the show. Seriously, that means so much to us because we love it as well. It's really a passion project for all of us. I first saw PSYCHO when I was an adult. I did love it. I'm a big Hitchcock fan but cut my teeth more on his earlier works. I wrote for MOONLIGHTING when I started my career and that show, which I adored, had an early Hitchcock vibe to it at times so I studied a lot of his films. It is not any harder to write for characters that have a predetermined future, in my opinion, in part, because to create you have to stay in the present with them. The emotional part of the writing comes from being in the present, wanting the best for them, living through their trials with them and hoping they survive and do well. The more analytical part of writing comes from a different part of your brain where you can step back and analyze the story structurally - decide how you want to determine the path of how they get to these predetermined destinies. Both parts are incredibly captivating to participate in. Thank you so much for saying that about the BATES family. Was always a dream to present a dysfunctional family and make it not just about the ugly parts of dysfunction. There is beauty in it also.
Hi Kerry, I have never seen the movie Psycho but based on some podcasts I heard where you were talking about Bates, I am really interested to see the show. Should I watch the movie first to be able to fully understand the show? Or can I just start watching the show without ever seeing the movie?
That's so great! Yes, please tune in! I think you could do it either way - the show def stands on it's own if you haven't seen the film. I think seeing the film first, however, is a really fun way to go. It's an amazing movie and you will find yourself wondering things about Norman Bates and asking questions about who he really is and how he got that way. Then you can dive into the show and get some answers! But really, either way works. I know a lot of young people who watch the show and have never seen PSYCHO. I keep trying to get them to watch it. It's a classic! They need to see it!
Hello Kerry! Thanks for doing this AMA! I'm a huge fan of Bates Motel.
I have a couple questions,
What was the funniest thing that has happened on set while filming?
What is your personal favorite episode?
I'm not always on the set, sadly, as it's in Vancouver and I'm in LA. But Freddie and Nestor and Max are all pretty hilarious and everyone up there is always in a good mood. Freddie taught Max how to do a cockney accent and Max has this whole character he does where he reviews the show in a cockney accent. He is really freaking funny. Someone should put that guy in a comedy. And Nestor too! And Vera! My God, these people are all natural comedians! It's so incredibly lucky to have that vibe in this show. Carlton Cuse and I always want some dark comedy present int he show. We love that aspect of it.
Hi Kerry! I was wondering, what's your craziest experience on set?
There have been a couple, haha. I adore our producing director, Tucker Gates, who I think is so brilliant. I love being on the set with him and we laugh a lot while we are working. But sometimes he and I get in fights about having different takes on scenes and we are both pretty strong-willed and emotional so it gets pretty funny and emotional some times. One time we got in a fight about a take on Annika and I started crying and couldn't stop. I was laughing while I was crying because I knew it was so stupid to be crying. But we both just care so much and that's a beautiful thing. The funny thing is we weren't even disagreeing. We were probably both just exhausted.
Also there was the time my directors chair fell over backwards with me in it because the ground was so soft from the rain. And, of course, dealing with the constantly changing weather/rain/storms/wind always makes for a certain amount of craziness and comedy (and stress).
Where do you get inspiration for the Bates Motel story and character ideas, especially for Norman and Norma? I know a lot comes from the original Psycho, but do you have other sources of inspiration as well? Also, who are some other TV writers you've looked up to/admired?
Thank you! :)
We get ideas from many sources. We have worked with wonderful writers on our staffs and Carlton Cuse and I always enjoy spitballing together because we have such a great story chemistry and always come up with great stuff together. Personally, I love writing about families because they are so interesting and generally dysfunctional haha. So some ideas come from my own colorful childhood.
Is Norma going to be killed in the last season of Bates Motel?
I can't tell you exact when that will happen but we don't envision the series ending at the point when Norman kills his mother. It's so interesting to take the structure of the mythology and bend it around and take left turns while still heading in a certain destination. It will be an exciting ride! Buckle your seatbelt!