Tonight 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.
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. 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.”
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.”