The FX crime thriller The Bridge is back for Season 2, and when the body of a cartel member is found on U.S. soil, Detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) and her Mexican counterpart, Detective Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir), must work together again to solve the case. Brutal crimes and dangerous enemies will see them pulled into a complex web of drug running, money laundering and police corruption. This season also stars Ted Levine, Matthew Lillard, Emily Rios, Thomas M. Wright, Annabeth Gish, Franka Potente, Nathan Phillips, Abraham Benrubi and Lyle Lovett.
During this recent interview to promote the show’s return, actress Diane Kruger talked about tackling such an emotionally stoic role, what makes Sonya Cross such a complex character to play, making sure to portray all of the nuances of someone with Asperger’s, how Season 2 will be different from Season 1, her character’s greatest struggles this season, Sonya’s personal relationship dynamics, and the experience of being a part of a TV show. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: Sonya is such an unconventional character, but she’s also very restrictive in the range of emotions that you can play. How do you take such an emotionally stoic role and make it personally satisfying, as an actor?
DIANE KRUGER: It’s been a real challenge, not just for me, but for Elwood [Reid] and the writing team, to continue to evolve her character and to give her storylines where she can show emotion and nuance. Obviously, people who have Asperger’s have emotions. It is just that they are delayed and come out in the most unexpected moments. In Season 2, we will get to see a lot of Sonya’s personal life and her relationships with Ted Levine’s character and Demian Bichir’s character tested. It’s a very dark and quite emotional season for her, so it’s been very satisfying.
As the series progresses, what personal relationships or cultural dynamics are you most interested in exploring?
KRUGER: Well, Sonya is a very complex character to play. The real challenge is to give a really nuanced performance and really push myself, to make sure that we see a very complete picture of a woman living with Asperger’s. Of course, I’m always intrigued. I learn so much from the show about storylines that actually happen on the border. A lot of our stories are inspired by real-life events, and it’s a very volatile area. The stories that I read about and learn about are often discussed, not just on set, but when we get the pitches for the next upcoming episodes, so I’m always intrigued by that. It’s been a very satisfying experience, working on a show that is politically relevant and quite timely.
What sets this character apart from some of the other roles that you’ve played in the past?
KRUGER: Hopefully, every character that I take on, as I grow older, becomes more interesting. Obviously, as I grow older, I have more to bring to the table and more experiences that I’ve lived myself, so I’m hoping that I can color my characters, more and more. Sonya has certainly been very challenging and continues to be so, and it’s been a very satisfying season, so far. I feel like you’ll really get to learn a lot about her.
How do you go about getting the nuances of someone with Asperger’s without going over-the-top?
KRUGER: That continues to be really daunting for me. The research on it was really intense, before we started Season 1. Being able to be around someone who has Asperger’s and is very high functioning was very interesting. I am able to just observe his limitations. He has evolved enough that I could ask him, when he comes to certain limits, what’s going through his mind, why he’s behaving certain ways, and what makes him uncomfortable. Now, in Season 2, because I know the character better, and I know so much more and have met so many more people who have Asperger’s, I feel like I can make it my own, a little bit. I’m sure you know that not everybody is the same who has Asperger’s. It presents differently, in different people. I’m really comfortable pushing Sonya now because I think she wants to learn to be better socially. She’s not a child anymore. I think the writers have been really, really good about giving me the opportunity to branch out and to show how she evolves, this season, yet still obviously has Asperger’s.
How will this season differ in tone from the first?
KRUGER: I think it’s a very different show, in many ways. We don’t really have a classic serial killer storyline. We were following the original Scandinavian show in Season 1, but now, we’re completely on our own and have our own stories. Meredith Stiehm went back to Homeland, so it’s just Elwood Reid as the showrunner and his vision for the show is darker and more complex. There’s not just one storyline. Our personal lives get involved in what is happening on the border. There are many different storylines that happen, at the same time, that are seemingly not connected, and the American involvement in the cartels plays a big part. It’s a very grey show.
What will Sonya’s greatest personal struggles will be, this season?
KRUGER: Her relationships with Hank and with Marco are being tested. And you will be introduced to the character of Jack Dobbs, who is Jim Dobb’s brother. They have a relationship, which clearly is not very healthy. There’s a lot of personal hardship for her. There are some great joys, in the beginning of the season, and then, it’s pretty dark for Sonya. At the same time, it’s a season of personal maturity. She had this father-figure relationship with Ted Levine’s character, but as that relationship gets tested and tried, she comes out of it as a much stronger, independent woman. She’s also starting to realize that things are not quite black and white, and sometimes you have to make a concession, which has been completely unimaginable for Sonya.
What is the motivation for Sonya’s relationship with Jack Dobbs (Nathan Phillips) and how will that progress?
KRUGER: It’s very dark, when you think about it. This clearly is the brother of the man who killed her sister, in the most horrific way. You will also come to learn that Sonya has never really had any family. Her sister really was the one person in her life, and she has never been able to move on. She has been searching for answers from Jim Dobbs, for the past 15 years, which is why she continues to go to see him. In some really strange way, that relationship, with him painting pictures of the murder of her sister, has been the only connection that is left of her family. So, when he is about to die, meeting his brother has this strange fascination for her, of being with somebody who she shares history with. Clearly, that is not a very good way of going about things. Her idea of what sex means and being physical with somebody comes into that. They have this really strange relationship that makes her really happy, or she thinks she is really happy. You’ll see that relationship, over time. What happens with it is pretty sad.
What’s ahead for Sonya and Marco’s relationship, this season?
KRUGER: Without giving too much away, it is getting tested a bit. Sonya has reason to believe that Marco is compromised, and she distrusts him quite a bit. There’s a big fall-out over whether or not she believes that he’s taken too many steps into that darkness and into that grey zone, when she learns about his dealings with the bad guys.
What sort of dynamic will Sonya have with Eleanor Nacht (Franka Potente)?
KRUGER: Well, she’s not the only villain, even though she clearly is the one villain of the show. There are other characters that will be introduced and play big roles. It’s a very cool character. When our characters finally meet, I think Eleanor is so odd and so different that, on some level, Sonya is fascinated by that, but also feels like she is moving in on her and trying to get into her psyche. Those two women will do this little dance around each other.
What the darkest places that you’ve allowed yourself to go to do some of the more intense scenes?
KRUGER: The thing for my character is that she is so obsessed with dead people. I think she gets along better with dead people than she does living creatures. That part hasn’t been so difficult for me to shoot. Because she is such an emotionally-restrained character, whenever there is a scene where I show emotion, it is truly heartbreaking to see someone who is seemingly a bit aloof or nothing really shocks her or touches her, and then having some scene where you just see the loneliness of this person. Those are really hard scenes sometimes. It’s weird, even for the crew sometimes, when I have to do a scene like that. It catches them off guard because they are often moments that are not what a person without Asperger’s would be emotional about.
How has the experience been for you, doing a short-run cable TV series?
KRUGER: Well, I don’t know anything about television. I’d never done it before. Initially, it was quite daunting to take on so much challenge and so much time with it. I think it is a great outlet for an actress because you really have 13 hours to bring a character to life, which is so much more than with film, and you have the luxury of time to tell a story and to really color a character. I’m not sure that this kind of character would’ve been offered to me in a movie because people with Asperger’s are not necessarily the lead in a film. They’re often used as comic relief, or as the odd guy that shows up every once in awhile.
Television is also a great tool for women. As you know, the best female roles are often on television, so it’s a very exciting time. I’ve really embraced it. The pace is great, but also not so great sometimes. You feel like you have to make sure to pay attention, at all times, to not let anything slip through. The change of directors, for me, was very difficult to grasp, in Season 1. I’m getting better this season because we have a lot of directors returning from last year, so there’s not a getting to know period as much. I enjoy it. I have a great time. I love my co-stars. I feel like you lean on them, heavily, and you lean heavily on the crew much more than you would do on a film. It really does feel like you’re in this boat together, and you all have to keep the ship running.
The Bridge returns for Season 2 on FX on July 9th.