Open Mic

More Than Meets the Eye in New FX Drama

Hillary Atkin Posted July 10, 2013 at 10:57 AM

Two cops. Two cultures. Two countries. Two movie stars. A rogue reporter. A mysterious killer -- and a string of unsolved murders. It's an equation that looks to equal a hit for FX.

“The Bridge,” starring Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir and premiering tonight, July 10, 2013, at 10 p.m., is sure to take its place amongst the quality new crop of hour-long dramas on television, including FX’s own “The Americans, ”Starz’s “Magic City” and Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” and “Homeland,” to which “The Bridge” is connected by way of executive producer Meredith Stiehm.

Stiehm, formerly an EP and writer on “Homeland,” adapted “The Bridge” for American television with writer/producer Elwood Reid. The present-day crime thriller is set on the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso/Juarez and is based on “Bron,” an international hit series that was set on the Sweden-Denmark border.

No spoilers here, but the first episode kicks off with a dramatic power outage at the border crossing known as the Bridge of the Americas and then the revelation of a gruesome crime involving an anti-immigration judge, and an apparent contamination of the crime scene. These elements lead Kruger’s character, El Paso police detective Sonya Cross, to cross swords and badges with her counterpart from the Chihuahua state police, Bichir’s Marco Ruiz.

“The Bridge” takes viewers on a journey that not only illuminates the cultural differences between law enforcement entities, but also reveals the challenges each faces investigating a multifaceted case on both sides of the border that pulls them into a milieu of illegal immigration, prostitution, drug trafficking and an avalanche of violence against young women, based on real events.

For Kruger, who has starred in films including "Troy" and "Inglourious Basterds,” the complexity of Cross’s character is what drew her to her first television series lead role. Cross has Asperger’s syndrome, which fuels her candid and sometimes off-putting personality as she strives for the truth while strictly obeying police protocol.

"I had never really had a desire to play a cop. I'm not really the gun-toting type of person,” says Kruger. "Sonya’s character is just so different and cool and a real challenge, because Asperger’s is much more subtle than a severe version or a case of autism. That's what drew me initially to the project, because yes, she has this condition, 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, and that was really interesting to me.”

Kruger says everything about Asperger’s was new to her and she did research that made her realize how daunting the challenge was. The network hired someone with the syndrome to work with her, which she says has been key to her performance.

"He's on the set every day when I work, and I've spent more time with him in the past four months than I have with my partner, because I have so many questions and I'm just observing him," says Kruger. "I'm also asking him some pretty uncomfortable questions. And his willingness to be my partner in this has made a big difference. I sleep easier at night knowing that he watches over everything I do."

Still, the producers decided early on that Sonya’s condition would not be labeled because they didn't want it to be her defining character trait.

"I think that was so brave because [in the first episode] she's so odd that you really don't know what it is that's off," Kruger says. “I think it will be great for the next 13 episodes to get to see her nuance and her layers and to understand a lot of her back story that has made her the person she is today.”

Bichir’s character, Ruiz, who must navigate the slippery slope of Mexican police politics and practices, is compelling in his own right. As the series opens, he has recently undergone a vasectomy and is in pain, to the point where he has trouble sitting down, much to Cross’s annoyance -- which she makes clear in no uncertain terms.

With subplots involving Ruiz’s family, including a son who is being wooed into the drug trade, a wealthy rancher’s widow pulled into intrigue about his past dealings and a cub reporter out to make a name for herself with an investigative report on anchor babies, not to mention the evilly charismatic killer, viewers will have no trouble sitting down for “The Bridge.”

Later this summer, the series will be dubbed in Spanish and aired on MundoFox.