‘The Bridge’ EP Elwood Reid on Ditching the Scandinavian Original: ‘I’m Tired of Copying Them’

Reid talks with TheWrap about the FX drama’s shift from serial killing to political intrigue

FX’s “The Bridge” returns for its second season on July 9 with a drastic departure from its maiden run. This time out, the border drama — which stars Demian Bichir and Diane Kruger as detectives from Mexico and the U.S., respectively — shifts away from the serial killer story that dominated the first season, in favor of exploring corruption in politics.

TheWrap spoke to series co-creator Elwood Reid about what to expect from Season 2 — and Season 3, if there should be one.

Also read: ‘The Bridge’ Star Demian Bichir on His Character’s ‘Darker’ Season 2

TheWrap: The second season of “The Bridge” moves away from the first season’s serial killer story and into the world of political intrigue. What’s harder to draw drama from: serial killers or politics?

Elwood Reid: I think ultimately [politics are] harder, but you have more story if you do it correctly. The serial killer, it feels like cheap thrills, and we did a lot of that last year. There are so many shows that have serial killers, and it’s really hard to top the serial killer shows that are out there. But [with the political storylines], there’s a lot of table setting, and once you get those players in place, you can really start lighting some fuses. Whereas with a serial killer, you know they’re bad from the minute you see them, it’s just, will they or will they catch them? That’s the drama. It’s a lot more work, I’ll tell you that.

Presumably, the shift in focus also means a departure from the Danish/Swedish series that “The Bridge” was adapted from.
We knew we had the original “Bron” series; we followed that template pretty much directly [in the first season]. In the second season, we could’ve used their second season. But I said, “No, I don’t want to do that. I’m tired of copying them.” The challenge is really when you go out on your own and you break the template. The second season of “Bron” was a bigger hit than the first season, and I was like, “I don’t want to keep copying that series.” So that was the big risk. It’s also a challenge in that, we could have easily done — and there was talk of this — another serial killer, another person killing women. But [the feeling was], “We did all that last year. What am I going to do that’s different?” And Season 3, it will be even scarier.

Also read: ‘The Bridge’ EP Meredith Stiehm Returning to ‘Homeland’

Do you have an outline of how Season 3 is going to play out?
The third season is going to track more of what happens when there’s a power vacuum in the Mexican cartel system, and then how does the U.S. business interest influence that power vacuum. That sounds kind of boring, but the characters that you saw (in the Season 2 premiere), they’re all players in that world … so that will be the drama if we get a third season.

Will the topic of immigration reform be a topic of the upcoming season at all?
I think at the end of next year, if we get another season, that will be one of the things that we track: What will people do to get across the border to jobs? Why do they come across?

See video: ‘Dom Hemingway’ Star Demian Bichir Talks Working With Jude Law, Where to Find Good Mexican Food

One of the sticking points for viewers last year was Diane Kruger‘s character, Sonya, having Asperger syndrome. How difficult is it to make a character with that condition relatable? A lot of people took her as aloof.
It’s really hard. A lot of people thought, “Oh, she’s just a cold, hard detective. We’ve seen that before.” But [Kruger] stuck with it. She was able to say, “I don’t care if people like me initially, I’m going to make them like me.” I know that on a lot of shows, they want to make everybody likable right away. And it was scary; I was like, “I might have fucked up. We might have made such a character that people can’t relate to.” I think what was helpful for the show is that Demian kind of counterbalances her. Marco’s very warm and calculated and grey, and she’s very black and white. But [Diane’s] the one who put her balls on the line for this. She’s not afraid to be unlikable.

Any discussions about that with FX?
There was a big discussion, I know, [of], “Should we mention whether or not she has Asperger’s?” And I said no. In this room, I would not point to a guy over there and say, “Oh, he has Asperger’s.” You just don’t do it. You just say, “That person’s a little bit different from that person.” No one says that in real life, so why should we do that in real life, because people are nervous about what makes a character tick. To me, that’s what makes a character interesting … you want to know what’s up with her.

How carefully do you have to tread in your portrayal of Asperger’s?
We have an autism consultant. We did a lot of reading, and then we consulted with the Asperger’s consultant. He’s really helpful in her [Kruger’s] creating the character. He sat with her, she studied him. He shows up on set. He gives me notes on almost every script — he’ll say, “Well, if you had Asperger’s you’d act this way, you wouldn’t act that way.” So he’s really a benefit to the show. I can only guess what it’s like to have Asperger’s.