“The Bridge”: FX explores border troubles in new crime drama

The Bridge premieres Wednesday, July 10, at 10pm ET on FX.

Two bodies. Two nations. One bridge.

That’s the irresistible — and undeniably gruesome — setup of FX’s tense, sure-to-be-controversial crime drama The Bridge, which explores the fallout of a murder investigation that stretches into both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. On one side is one of the safest cities in the world, while just to the south lies one of the deadliest.

In El Paso, Detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) is a no-nonsense-to-a-fault cop who has zero tolerance for anything that distracts her from solving the case. It’s not addressed in the pilot directly, but the show’s promotional materials say she has Asperger’s. This makes ancillary tasks such as comforting the loved ones of murder victims and dealing with interdepartmental red tape anathema to her very being.

For Kruger, the bigger concern was making sure she did right by her character, whose condition in another show might be the focus, or even the comic relief. But she was determined to show the complete person.

“It’s a state of being, it’s not like she puts it on,” Kruger said, noting that she has an on-set consultant with Asperger’s to help her performance. “No scene is ever just a simple scene, you don’t ever just say the lines. Her point of view is so different, so that at first was very, very daunting. She looks at the world with such different eyes.”

Mix this with Ciudad Juarez Detective Marco Ruiz (Demián Bichir), a relatively laid-back family man who seems to be one of the last few honest cops in his city. He deals with police corruption and the overwhelming violence perpetrated by drug cartels every day, so while he’s committed to solving the murders, he can’t quite assign it the same importance as his American counterpart.

Bichir says the conflicting personalities are more than just another take on the buddy-cop genre. They are, in fact, an ideal metaphor for the nations that produced them.

“They represent so perfectly well these two countries,” Bichir says. “They couldn’t be more different and they couldn’t be so much alike in many ways. … You don’t necessarily need to love each other in order to know that you have a common problem and solve it together. These two characters are so appealing, and I think they will be to the audience because they’re so different. They will have to recognize in each other their own differences — and their own similarities — in order to work together.”

Also in the cast is Ted Levine (Monk) as Sonya’s boss and Annabeth Gish as a recently widowed woman who is finding out many secrets about her husband.

Bichir, a Mexico City native, has explored border tensions in some of his other work, most notably in his Academy Award-nominated turn in 2011’s A Better Life. He’s committed to making the series feel as authentic as possible, giving his own perspective about Mexico to producers, and serving as an on-set consultant for the many scenes shot in Spanish, making sure the translations and accents are all accurate.

“Everyone’s goal is to make a solid drama that could be analyzed by anybody and say, ‘These guys were there, right on the line,’” he says. “As much as this talks about certain real issues, this is fiction. I wish violence and corruption and stupidity could only be portrayed in fiction. I wish we didn’t have to see those stories in real life every day, but since everyone’s familiar with what’s happening, our responsibility is to go into more detail and not give you the stereotypical, clichéd story.”

While it may seem like a uniquely specific U.S.-Mexican subject, The Bridge is in fact based on the Danish TV series Bron, which centered around a bridge that connects Denmark and Sweden. There is also a version being prepared involving England and France, which will move the action to the underground tunnel between those two countries.

Bichir, however, refrained from watching the source material, saying he didn’t want to feel pressured to live up to any certain performance. This seems a good strategy for viewers, as well, since the many twists and turns that The Bridge will take are best experienced unspoiled.

Demian Bichir Diane Kruger The Bridge FX
Photo: Credit: FX Network