Date of Birth
August 6, 1973
Place of Birth
Clifton, New Jersey, USA
Vera Ann Farmiga
5′ 7″ (1.7 m)
Expressive, piercing blue eyes
Renn Hawkey (13 September 2008 – present)
Sebastian Roché (1997 – 2004) ( divorced)
Fynn Hawkey & Gytta Lubov Hawkey
Farmiga was born on August 6, 1973, in Clifton, New Jersey. Her parents are Ukrainians: Lubomyra “Luba” (née Spas), a schoolteacher, and Michael Farmiga, a systems analyst-turned-landscaper. She has one older brother, Victor, and five younger siblings: Stephan, Nadia, Alexander, Laryssa, and Taissa. Her maternal grandparents, Nadia (née Pletenciw; 1925–2014) and Theodor Spas (1921–1990), met at a displaced persons camp in Karlsfeld during World War II. As a child, Farmiga converted with her family from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to Pentecostalism.
Farmiga considers herself to be “100% Ukrainian American”. She was raised in an insular Ukrainian American community in Irvington, New Jersey, with Ukrainian as her native language. She did not learn English until she started kindergarten at age six. When she was 12, the family moved from Irvington to Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. She attended St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic School in Newark, New Jersey, and toured with a Ukrainian folk-dancing ensemble, Syzokryli, during her teen years. In addition to being a semi-professional folk dancer, she is also a classically trained pianist. Farmiga was a member of Plast.
In 1991, she graduated from Hunterdon Central Regional High School. During her junior year there, she found acting after being benched during a varsity soccer game; her friend convinced her to audition for the school production of The Vampire, and she won the lead role of Lady Margaret. Farmiga went on to study performing arts at Syracuse University, and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1995. In her final year at Syracuse, she portrayed Nina Zarechnaya in The Seagull at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, and the production won the top prize. Her drama professor, Gerardine Clark, stated: “We’d never have won had she not nailed the fourth act. A number of the judges told me that.”
– I can’t do Los Angeles. I’ve always been the anti-Barbie. I don’t want to be in a place where almost every woman walks around with puffy lips, little noses and breasts large enough to nourish a small country. As a kid I wanted attention, so I started praying for glasses because everyone had ace vision in my family. Then one day my eyes started going bad and never stopped.
– It’s terrifying to be the lead. There’s a moment of excitement, and then pure terror.
– I really don’t feel a need to be famous. But I do feel a need to make a difference, to shed light on human emotion through acting.
– There are some times when I think acting can be a noble profession.
– I’m not in this for the achievement. 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 it’s the only way I can continue, and stay interested. The acting…it’s really a vocation.
– As an actor, you’re sort of the court-appointed lawyer of the character. And that’s what used to draw me to scripts — something in a woman that I wanted to defend, something that I recognized or wanted to understand, something that turned my head. Now that I’m a mother, I think it’s more the message of a film, or the questions that they pose about life — that’s the magnifying glass through which I look at them now. But at first it was all about the character.
– I just can’t feel lukewarm about a character. I either despise her, admire her, or don’t understand her and want to understand her.
– What happened is that I ended up getting benched in soccer in high school so I tried out for the school play and I got the lead role. Then I just stuck with it.
– You’ve got fundamentalism, and you’ve got relativism. I – wanted to push both ways and try to come at it from a middle ground.
– My dad is someone who feels the breath of God on his face. He’s tapping into something that I have yet to tap into — and yearn to.
– Doubt is the middle position between knowledge and ignorance. It encompasses cynicism but also genuine questioning.
– It should have been a lot harder. I’d say, “It’s about a woman enmeshed in this very particular spiritual community who’s trying to conceptualize and define God for herself”. And you use the word “God” and people quake with fear. That’s when I started to realize what a touchy, bizarre, sensitive, combative subject matter it is.
– Jason Reitman sketches these characters and shines a real stark spotlight on them that illuminates all their foibles, all of their deficiencies, quirks, eccentricities and yet you still manage to root for them because they’re so human and complex. And I saw that in Alex.
– My culture is very rich in the art; singing and dance were so much a part of my childhood. I was in a traveling professional dance troupe called Syzokryli, and I was very serious about the piano. So I was always performing.
– [on directing] My big formative experience was Debra Granik. That was school for me. It was the first time anyone had given me the responsibility of a protagonist, and to work so closely with her ethics and her tenets about her filmmaking, and her honesty. I was persuaded through the Debra Granik school.
– I keep finding the most compelling characters in independent films. A lot of the roles in the other kinds of films were peripheral princesses or just boring, boring women — female characters that were utterly ordinary and devoid of any personality or spirituality. Is that a reflection of what we’ve become as women? That’s something that we sometimes don’t think about. You see all these stupid, materialist, horny, nympho characters that people put up there in movies, and you have to think: Is that what feminine dignity has come to?
– [on giving up music and dancing] I don’t regret it. I’m a jack-of-that-trade. There’s not enough time, genuinely, not enough time in the day. So you choose your weapons. And the piano…I will not have time for the next decade until my children are grown! It’s not about me anymore. It’s not about myself. It’s about them and the very little time I have left for me.
– I’m not an attention seeker; I wasn’t looking for fame and fortune. I wasn’t sure while I was at college. But I found I was really comfortable taking on a different personality. It saved me from myself, in a way.
– I’ve gravitated towards independent cinema because you have to work harder in studio scripts to flesh out characters, particularly female ones. They are not as sharply edged, they tend to be quite watery. They are not renderings of women as I know them.
– My parents are very sensible and grounded, they take it with a pinch of salt. You know, I’m one of seven and they want success for all their children. They’re proud but they’re even more proud now that I’ve given them grandchildren.
– I’m really serious about boxing these days. Boxing is a great way for me to get out of my head and get out of my heart and just like sweat it out, honestly. I’m very serious about it. If I didn’t have the insurance, I would honestly start sparring and start competing in boxing, because I’m that serious and love it. It’s a huge passion of mine.
– I went to Ukrainian Girl Scouts, which is called Plast, and Ukrainian Catholic school. I did Ukrainian folk dancing. My piano teacher was Ukrainian. I used to think and dream in Ukrainian.
– My exposure to the English language mostly came from preschool, Saturday morning cartoons and television.
– Sometimes I attract roles that are necessary either for personal growth or enlightenment.
– Normally, I rely heavily on my director to massage me out of my actor comfort zones.
– The more people know about you, the more face-time you get in the media, the harder your job becomes to create a character in whom people suspend disbelief.
– Whether you’re making a million dollar film or a $100 million film there is never enough money, there’s never enough time.
– I think the worst thing that can happen to a good actor is fame.
– [on her character Norma Bates] I had to like her. I had to have compassion with her. She wanted out of this maze of this cruel life she’d experienced. It’s a really terrifying notion, this idea of confronting darkness in your child. There was so much to me that was lovable about her. There was much sass and humor. There’s a whole lot of goofball that balanced the darkness.
– It is such an honor to be recognized by the academy and in the company of such brilliant women. – I’m grateful to Carlton, Kerry and Anthony for gifting me with the opportunity to play such a complex woman and for breathing new life into the iconic Norma Bates.
– This feels great. It’s a nice affirmation saying job well done. It’s nice to have the respect of your peers and industry and critics and everyone rooting for you. I’ve been going at this a long time. I feel like I’ve always had the critics encouraging me.
– A franchise, for me, is the chance to explore deeper characterization and, potentially, a slightly bigger paycheck, which is very alluring.
– I look at characters the way my 4-year-old son Fynn looks at Legos: He doesn’t want the Duplo Legos, for 2-year-olds — they’re janky. He wants that 2,503-piece collector’s item Imperial Shuttle that features the rotating double laser-wing cannons. And for me it’s the same thing: Norma Bates is the Imperial Shuttle.
– Grew up in a Ukrainian-speaking enclave in New Jersey.
– Graduated from Syracuse University, class of 1995.
– Did not learn English until she was six.
– Daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, and the second of seven children.
– Last name is pronounced far-MEE-guh.
– Attended Syracuse University with actor Taye Diggs and producer Terry Dinan.
– Graduated from Hunterdon Central Regional High School, class of 1991.
– Was member of the dramatic jury at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005.
– Counts boxing and knitting among her hobbies.
– Plays the guitar and piano.
– Practices the Japanese martial art of Jujitsu, in which she has earned an orange belt.
– Is a fan of the novels “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian” by Marina Lewycka, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard, “Identity” by Milan Kundera, and “Wildlife” by Richard Ford.
– Before acting professionally, she worked in customer service for an air conditioning company.
– Is an alumnus of the prestigious Barrow Group theatre company.
– Was a semi-professional Ukrainian folk dancer in the troupe Syzokryli, instructed by dancer and choreographer Roma Pryma-Bohachevsky.
– Owns three angora goats named Zoshya, Fruzia and Sofika, and a dog named Muppet.
– Though both her parents are Ukrainian-born, her mother grew up in the United States from infancy and her father was raised in Argentina.
– Found her love of acting after being benched during a high school soccer match. She auditioned for the drama department’s production of “The Vampire” and won the lead role.
– Owns homes in Hudson Valley, New York and Vancouver, British Columbia.
– Can speak some French and Spanish, in addition to being fluent in English and Ukrainian.
– Began studying Muay Thai boxing during the second season of Bates Motel. She previously studied the sport as a 20-year-old.
– Attended St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic School.
– Earlier in her career, Farmiga would send self-taped auditions to casting directors instead of auditioning in person.
– Was born in Passaic County and grew up in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.
– Is often cast in the role of a mother.
– Freddie Highmore is godfather to her son, Fynn.