The Bridge's Diane Kruger Hails FX Drama's 'Risky' Themes, 'Ballsy' Handling of Asperger's

The Bridge Preview Diane KrugerTonight at 10/9c, FX invites you to broach The Bridge, a new thriller that surveys tensions on the U.S.-Mexico border when a murdered American, anti-immigration judge (or a part of her) is found smack dab in the middle of the causeway that connects El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico.

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The series stars Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) as El Paso police detective Sonya Cross, while Demián Bichir (Oscar-nominated for A Better Life) plays her Chihuahua State Police counterpart, Marco Ruiz. While both highly capable, the two approach the case distinctly, their behaviors reflecting the worlds within which they each usually work. Accordingly, such as when the judge’s murder — but one in a string of “message-laden” slayings — points Cross at a case Ruiz’s department has worked to conceal, tensions can arise.

“As the show unfolds, we’re trying to show how two such different cultures, two such different countries, can put their differences aside for the greater good,” Kruger said during a conference call. And if, along the way, viewers gain insight into the immigration debate that is fueling this serial killer’s gnarly handiwork… so be it.

Just skimming the New York Times, Kruger posits, “You practically have to be blind and deaf to not hear about these issues and hear about immigration and so forth, so I’m intrigued by that aspect of the show, for sure. I want to understand more. And I find it fascinating — and quite risky, actually — on FX’s part to [tell this story].”

That said, The Bridge neither veers into preachy territory nor one-sided propaganda as Cross and Ruiz uncover kill after kill, while other characters — including a sketchy newspaperman (played by Scream‘s Matthew Lillard) and a wife (The X-Files‘ Annabeth Gish) unearthing her husband’s deep-buried secrets — also lay stark witness to the disparate cultures in conflict. “At the end of the day, [education] is not our job; the show has to be entertaining,” Kruger maintains. “But what we are trying to do is shine a light on a situation… and be not partial to either side.”

Watch a trailer for The Bridge, then read on for more:

Adapted by Homeland‘s Meredith Stiehm and Cold Case‘s Elwood Reid from the Scandinavian series Broen — which was set on the Denmark-Sweden border — The Bridge mimics the same themes and hits some identical beats. “But where we go away from the original show,” Kruger says, “is that the writers agreed to write a backstory [for Sonya], which we will come to explore as the show goes on. TB-102_1103 It will really show you a very emotional side of her.”

And “emotional” is saying something. For those unfamiliar with Broen, Detective Cross has Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism — a diagnosis that is quite evident on screen yet never named aloud “because we didn’t want her condition to be her defining character trait,” Kruger explains. That creative decision, she believes, “was pretty ballsy.”

The Asperger element “is really what drew me initially also to the project,” Kruger relates, “because, yes, she has this condition, and there are so many shortcomings in her personal life that appear because of it, yet she is so different in her job because she has this ability to focus and to really look at things from a different point of view.”

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To help inform Kruger’s portrayal, the organization Autism Speaks introduced the actress to a young man who lives with Asperger syndrome and is on the set with her every day as an advisor. Nonetheless, Kruger says, portraying a brilliant cop who doesn’t always pick up on social cues, such as when interviewing murder victims’ emotionally distraught kin, “is a really daunting undertaking and continues to be so, because it’s not something that you can just ‘put on.’ It’s a mind frame that I have to put myself into, every day.”

The end result, however, is undeniable, as Kruger inhabits the latest in a still-too-small — yet growing — group of complex female TV characters.

“There will continue to be movies that have great female roles, but I definitely think that on cable television, from Mad Men to Homeland or Robin Wright in House of Cards, the female parts are so well written and unafraid,” Kruger notes. “It seems to me that … the audience is looking for characters like that, and it’s very exciting for women.”

Want scoop on The Bridge, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

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35 Comments
  1. I hate spammers says:

    Just as long as the Aspergers is portrayed in a realistic manner, then it’ll be fine. However, if they do like Grey’s Anatomy did and show it in an almost caricature form, it’s going to be a big problem.

  2. kaci says:

    The idea that anyone would turn to Autism Speaks for advice on how to portray an ASD is completely laughable. No thanks.

    • TV Gord says:

      What’s wrong with Autism Speaks?

      • kaci says:

        TV Gord, I’m not sure if this site will allow me to provide links to some articles that discuss this more in-depth, but Googling, “what’s wrong with autism speaks” will get you a list of great articles to delve into it. The overview, however, if you’re not interested in doing that, is that 1) they’re run by mostly neutotypical people (autistics are neuroatypical, so: not by actual autistics), mostly parents who have autistic children; 2) they focus most heavily on how raising an autistic child/being related to an autistic person affects the neurotypical person, not the perspective of a person who actually is autistic; 3) they virtually ignore autistic adults. To hear them speak, you’d believe that at age 18, autistics either all die or were magically cured because they never mention autistic adults; 4) they push forth the idea that autism is a “disease” that needs a “cure” when in fact it’s not a disease, it’s a neurological difference and often these “cures” have horrific side effects on the autistic person they’re trying to “cure” up to and including death; 5) putting forth the idea that an autistic person needs to be “cured” consequently puts forth the idea that the very fundamental way their brain works — and who are we as individuals if not the way we think? — needs to be altered. (My biases up front: I am an adult autistic person and the idea of someone wanting to “cure” me of *the way my brain works* is terrifying. It would be completely changing, fundamentally, who I am. Imagine if someone wanted to “cure” you of whatever gender you are, or whatever race you are, or whatever political ideals you hold. “Curing” me of my autism would be just as much of a fundamental change of who I am as any of those things would be to you.)

        *cough* That is a VERY brief rundown of what’s wrong with AS (very, very brief…they have a lot of problems) and I really do recommend that anyone who’s interested in learning why most autistic teens and adults don’t like AS do that, but there’s a brief rundown for anyone who doesn’t want to bother.

        And if all that was tl;dr, then take away this: They call themselves “Autism Speaks” but they very rarely let actual autistics speak for themselves.

        • S. says:

          What the heck are you talking about? A cure fore autism or Asperger’s is a good thing. As a high functioning Asperger’s, I would give my right arm for a cure. It sucks to be different, to be the one person who is also one step out of sync with everyone around you. I have a terrible time connecting with anyone or adapting to new situations. I am constantly reminded how different I am from everyone around me. Being different doesn’t make you special, it just makes you different. It makes everything that much harder and, as life as taught me, the world will never adapt to the individual no matter how loud you shout. (There are too many of us for it to be possible.) You don’t want a cure, fine. That doesn’t mean others don’t want one, or don’t want a normal, happy, less fraught kind of life.

          • kaci says:

            If you, as an autistic adult, would like to be “cured” of something that isn’t actually a disease, then that is your right. My problem with AS’s approach is that they don’t ask the autistic people if they want to be cured. They are mostly made up of parents of autistic children and want to “cure” them without stopping to ask, “Hey, do you WANT to be ‘cured’?” The main criticism of AS from within the autistic community has always been and continues to be that they don’t listen to actually autistic people. I don’t think a “cure” is possible and I don’t want it even if there is one. However, if there was one, then by all means, consenting adults have every right to it. But forcing it upon a child (or adult for that matter) is wrong. Fundamentally changing the way a person’s brain works — and thus their entire identity — without their consent is wrong. If they consent…then. Well, whatever. Their life, they have every right to it. I’ll just be over here, being proud of my Asperger’s, loving the way my brain works because it’s a fundamental part of who I am and my entire identity, and anyone who tries to tell me that I need “curing” (key word there: need, not want) can go fly a kite.

          • fishwick says:

            im torn. im a high functioning aspie and im still left on the fringes of the so-called “normal” world….and i know its an arbitrary classification, but i still have more days than not that i would like to know what it is to be “normal” bc other people seem to be more capable of integrating in a way that seems seamless. maybe they are faking it; i can fake it to a degree, but then it all just falls apart. i cant sustain the pretense for very long esp when things become more intimate and the social cues/expectations/skills reach a different level. but it would be nice to just know what its like to not be in this place all the time even if there are things that (so i am told) are “special” about how my brain works….it doesnt feel special it feels like torment some days. i cant shut it off.

        • Sarah Bo-Tro says:

          Kaci, as a parent of a kid who was just recently confirmed as having Aspergers, I really appreciate your perspective. I had not thought about Autism Speaks that way. It does seem so true that tv/media is focussing on the parent/sibling etc of people with Autism. The first episode of The Bridge was kind of cool though for me because it also focussed on the strengths her Aspergers brought to her.

  3. Rob O says:

    (No spoilers)!: Just as long as they don’t change the ending of the original – one of the most brilliant, shocking and heartbreaking twists I’ve ever seen! My heart was in my mouth!

    • johnhelvete says:

      Huge fan of Bron/Broen and agree about the ending. Without giving away spoilers did you figure out who the killer was before it was revealed?

  4. wiylam says:

    Who had Asperger’s on Grey’s?

  5. sam says:

    I’m with the first commenter, as long as Asperger’s is portrayed in a realistic way, I’m good. This doesn’t mean much, because I’m aware that there is a full range of behaviors within the Asperger’s spectrum, but it should be treated with respect. I don’t mean I’m not expecting unusual or even funny situations, but how they are presented is important. Having a person with the condition working with them is a positive sign.

    They’re not being preachy, you say? Another plus for me!

  6. Eyeroll says:

    In the old days, weird people were said to be inhabited by this or that different demon, as revealed in books of magical lore. Today, they are said to have this or that different disorder, as revealed in the magical DSM books.

  7. Margie says:

    The biggest problem with this show is that Diane cannot act. I give it three weeks.

  8. JCK says:

    All I know [very little] about Asperger’s I learned from watching James Durbin on American Idol. But, I’ve liked Diane Kruger since National Treasure, so I’ll give it a shot.,

  9. Diane says:

    I thought once someone was nominated for an Oscar, he or she would always be referred to as Oscar nominee … In this case, for instance, it would be Oscar nominee Demian Bichir. His performance in “A Better Life” is why I’ll be watching tonight.

  10. RTW says:

    I’ve been waiting patiently for this show to premiere, so I’m very excited for tonight!

  11. Becky says:

    This isn’t gonna be pretty. Females show AS differently than men do.

  12. James says:

    Been looking forward to this show for a while. can’t wait to get into it.

  13. S. says:

    I had no idea things were all that tense on the Denmark-Swedish border. European politics are a lot more interesting than US news gives them credit for.

  14. Jeannette says:

    If you haven’t already seen the original on which this is based, view it now. I don’t have much hope, regardless of the actors, for American remakes of this particular TV movie. I’ve seen the original and it was fantastic. Just as the original “The Killing” (Forbredelysen) series (3) were far superior to the mess offered on A&E

  15. kelsey says:

    Very much looking forward to this!

  16. what! says:

    I’m so ready for this! Love the cast!

  17. dean says:

    Meh, its not that unique. The recent TV trend has been giving people medical flaws for character- Carrie with her disorder on Homeland, Ryan with his heart on the following and now the bridge.

  18. arial2 says:

    TNT’s King and Maxwell, and the Canadian series Regenesis both do/did a good job with characters with Aspergers, but those characters are/were supporting players, not the stars. Looks like an interesting, if dark, show.

  19. Tina Garcey says:

    If they researched El Paso/ Juarez to create a realistic setting, they would know how to pronounce Juarez! It’s not WorEZ!! Probably lost the audience here already!

  20. Jimmy says:

    I watched 15 or so minutes of this series and gave up. After I saw Kruger tell the man his wife was dead, I couldn’t watch anymore.
    The acting was laughable, and after seeing the original, there was no way I’d carry this through.

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