Performing Bug Followed Vera Farmiga from Jersey Childhood to Hollywood Stardom
May 21, 2015
Article taken from Jerseywood.
Performing is part of Vera Farmiga’s DNA. The star of USA Network’s sinisterly dark series Bates Motel, who grew up in Northern New Jersey, is the daughter of immigrants who instilled in her a deep appreciation for her Ukrainian heritage.
“My culture is very rich in the arts,” Farmiga explained in a newjerseynewsroom.com interview earlier this year. “Singing and dance were so much a part of my childhood. I was in a traveling professional dance troupe called Syzokrylk, and I was very serious about the piano. So I was always performing.”
One of six siblings, she spent her early years in Irvington and did not speak English until she began attending St. John Ukrainian Catholic Church School in Newark. There her days were dominated by “knee socks and rosaries,” according to a 2009 interview with Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger. The family eventually moved to Flemington where Farmiga began a lifelong love of animals. She now raises angora goats on her farm in the Catskills.
“Each child got to choose a pet, and mine was a sheep,” Farmiga told Whitty. “We got one from a local farm, and I bottle-fed it, and it ran around our backyard. I think maybe I was a shepherdess in a past life.”
Summers were spent at Ukrainian-American resort and cultural center in the Catskills called Soyuzivka, which is where her dance ensemble trained.
“That’s why I live in upstate New York,” Farmiga told New York Magazine. “That’s where I spent romantic summers dancing 10 hours a day and choreographing pieces.”
She attended Hunterdon Central Regional High School and despite her upbringing in the arts, Farmiga’s early career plans called for her to be an optometrist. But the performing bug kept biting and she appeared in several plays at Hunterdon Central. Upon graduation, she attended Syracuse University where she majored in drama. Five years after receiving her degree from Syracuse, she made her Broadway debut in 1996 as an understudy in the play Taking Sides.
Despite her lead roles in such vehicles as Bates Motel and the 2013 film The Conjuring, Farmiga’s parents declared scary movies to be off-limits to her and her siblings when they were children. She told the Orange County (CA) Register in a 2013 interview that she found a way around that prohibition thanks to a friend.
“I wasn’t allowed to watch them so I snuck over to Missy Berner’s house to watch them,” she recalled. “Missy introduced me to the whole “Freddy Krueger” series of A Nightmare on Elm Street movies. I do remember showing the movie to my cousin in Clifton, N.J., and we slept in a tent in the backyard after watching the movie. Clifton Crime Watch was on the alert because some murderer was on the loose in the neighborhood. It was supposed to be this fun sleepover, and all I could think about was Freddy.”
Farmiga’s acting career has been an interesting one. She has been nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of “Norma Bates” on Bates Motel, and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2010 for her portrayal of “Alex Goran” in Up in the Air. While Farmiga has made her mark in several mainstream films, most recently as Robert Downey, Jr.’s former high school flame in 2014’s The Judge, she has also been equally attracted to offbeat roles in indie projects.
“I’m not in this for achievement,” she explained to the Star-Ledger’s Whitty. “I’m in it for the illumination. That’s how I choose my roles, that’s how I attract roles — it’s a very spiritual process for me. And that’s the only way I could continue, and stay interested. The acting … it’s really a vocation.”