Exclusive Interview: Damon Gupton Talks BATES MOTEL

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SHOCK’s Amy Seidman sits down with BATES MOTEL actor Damon Gupton.

Damon Gupton (BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD, THE LAST AIRBENDER, EMPIRE), a Julliard graduate in drama also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Michigan. He combined both performance skills with his role as Mr. Kramer in WHIPLASH, the only non-horror film thus far from BLUMHOUSE productions. He can currently be seen on BATES MOTEL, the A&E television series “prequel” to Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO. SHOCK spoke to Damon about the PSYCHO series, his love of iconic slasher films and his experience working on BATES MOTEL.

SHOCK: You are a professional conductor and a professional actor. How did you end up having two professions and how do you balance them?

GUPTON:  I think I lucked out to tell you the truth! In regards to balancing them, it’s getting harder and harder, but it’s been a great joy for me to have two different kinds of interactions because it challenges different parts of your brain and your heart. I’ve been very lucky to be able to go back and forth a little bit.

SHOCK: Were you a fan of the PSYCHO series before joining the cast of BATES MOTEL?

GUPTON: I loved the original PSYCHO but I hadn’t seen it in a while. Also PSYCHO 2 and 3 which I saw in the theatre when I was younger. I had actually just started watching BATES MOTEL and I was floored at how good it was and then the audition came up a couple days later and I thought “holy shit!”. It was incredible. I ended up watching all of it and was absolutely floored by how good the acting is and how good the writing is and how cleverly it references the original film. It’s just an extraordinary show. I was already a fan and it’s the first show I have ever been a part of that I was already a fan of so when I got the script, and I saw the staircase and I saw the house for the first time I was kinda geeking out!

SHOCK: It must be pretty surreal to be on that set with that iconic house and motel.  How do you like shooting in British Columbia, Canada?

GUPTON: A big part of my heart is in Vancouver. I’ve been going back and forth since January and I’ve fallen in love with the place. Except for the rain! I COULDN’T BELIEVE THE RAIN! But I love everything else. It’s unreal, with its mountains, oceans and seafood. I’ve made some new friends there and I really enjoy my time there. I love Toronto too! Another big part of my heart is in Toronto.

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SHOCK: You’ve been going back and forth since January to shoot BATES MOTEL and I’ve seen the show’s call sheets and the hours are grueling. It’s a pretty dark, macabre and somber show. What do you do to find levity when you are shooting?

GUPTON: I’m pretty lucky because I may come in for a full day or one or two scenes a day so it’s easy for me to separate because I am not there the whole time. But poor Vera and Freddie! They have so much to carry every day! I haven’t had any problems with levity. My time is normally involved with the wonderful Freddie and he is so fun anyway in general.

SHOCK: Vera Farmiga was an executive producer on last season and so far has stuck to starring in this one. How has it been working with Vera?

GUPTON: Oh Fantastic! She is one of the great actors we have right now and I was always a fan but since being on BATES MOTEL I’ve become that much more of a fan. She is a consummate professional, always prepared and yet always spontaneous . She just has this way of connecting you to everything you need in a scene. I was a pretty big fan of Freddie before as well. He’s an incredible performer. Nestor also, now, while I haven’t yet had any screen time with him I was directed by him in an episode of ­­­ BATES MOTEL this season.

SHOCK: Whenever I think of Nestor Carbonell, I have to be careful not to think of Anthony Perkins because they look so much alike.

GUPTON: Oh wow I never thought about that. I never saw it before but you are right!

SHOCK: Of Norman Bates, Anthony Perkins is quoted as saying “He does the best he can out of the diminished circumstances with which his personality stranded him, and Norman’s childhood was difficult and traumatic. Norman is, at heart, a benevolent soul, with a dark side, but Norman’s conscious mind is always on the positive things in life.” Would you agree with that assessment in regards to Norman we have watched grow up and mature on BATES MOTEL?”

GUPTON: Oh absolutely. I think that’s a great description. This is a young man who has had to endure some intensely traumatic things. That is why we like him so much because his heart IS in the right place. These are people who are trying to do the right thing and there is a lot of love in the room between them always.  Even though they spend a lot of time in a place that can be dark and unhappy, these are people who are trying to better their circumstance. You can’t help but root for them. We all know what Norman becomes but you just can’t help but root for them. I get to play a character who honestly gets the chance to try to help them and that is great.

SHOCK: Dr. Edwards is a fan favorite (I was actually asked by a BATES MOTEL fan group to tell you that). What is it about Dr. Edwards that you think resonates so well with audiences?

GUPTON: Oh that’s really great to hear! It’s because he might be one of the truly sane people on the show. With him you get what you see.  Everyone else has these things to cover up. Maybe they did something they shouldn’t have done, or a lie here or there but he is very upfront. I think that provides a nice balance and some of the other actors and writers mentioned that as well. So that makes me happy that that is coming through to the viewers. Now, who knows where he will go on the show but for the time being it’s nice to be a grounding force with so many crazy wacky things going on in the Bates world.

SHOCK: I agree that your character really resonates, and is unique in that he is the only one with nothing to hide or escape from, thus far, in as much as we don’t know what’s going to happen! I can’t think of anyone else in White Pine Bay without serious skeletons in their closet or shady past. Your character is that beacon of light on the show and it tells me that there is some good in White Pine Bay

GUPTON: I like that! The beacon of light in White Pine Bay, I like that a lot. I’ll have to tell them that. I love that you are such a fan of the show

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SHOCK: I’m a huge fan of the show. In fact, it’s my favorite show to date. I’m also a huge fan of TWIN PEAKS and it has a serious TWIN PEAKS vibe.

GUPTON: Yes it does! You’re right! That is very true.

SHOCK: Kerry Ehrin said in an interview that she was a huge TWIN PEAKS fan.

GUPTON: That makes so much sense!

SHOCK: How involved are Kerry Erhin and Carlton Cuse in the production of the show? How has it been working with them?

GUPTON: I haven’t had that much contact with Kerry. I think my deepest contact with her came during a phone call about Dr. Edwards which was the beginning of my journey on the show. But obviously they are present and have input. The season’s finale is written by Kerry. So they are there, they are around and you can always feel their presence.

SHOCK: Are you a fan of the horror genre?

GUPTON: That’s a good question. I lean towards the old school slasher genre. I’m a big HALLOWEEN type of guy. Especially the earlier ones. As they get later and older and remade….I tend to shy away from that stuff.  I had always wanted to be in one of those movies and then when CANDYMAN came out, it blew my world for me since I grew up in Detroit. It was so cool that there is this slasher and he’s a black dude! For me that was amazing. I also like vampires a lot, Gothic horror.

SHOCK: What’s next for you?

GUPTON: I’m doing a David E Kelley show with Maria Bello who I worked with on PRIME SUSPECT, Billy Bob Thornton and William Hurt. Very excited for that!