The Bridge is in the midst of an intense second season, as the show deftly takes on the war on drugs, and the long-lasting repercussions it has on those on both sides of the border. At the heart of the series is Marco Ruiz, a Chihuahua state police detective whose life was destroyed last season, and is now dealing with a corrupt police department, supposed allies who want him dead, and a violently ruthless Cartel leader. Paste caught up with Demian Bichir, who stars as Detective Ruiz on the series. The Academy Award nominee (for the 2012 film A Better Life) opened up about playing Marco this season, getting the chance to work with his brother, and what viewers can expect as The Bridge heads towards its second season finale.
Paste Magazine: One thing that really strikes me while watching The Bridge this season is how sad Marco is. His son has died. His wife has left him. What has it been like playing the character at this low point?
Demian Bichir: You can imagine how exhausting it is. It’s a difficult state to go through all the time—24/7. Especially when you think about it—we shoot for about four months or so. One episode takes at least seven days to shoot. That tells you the type of concentration that you need to stay there. It was one of the most challenging parts of this season.
Paste: Was it hard to leave Marco behind, at the end of the day?
Bichir: It’s difficult to explain. We actors are trained to continue our lives after you shoot, but at the same time it stays there all the time, you don’t really put it away. Of course, that doesn’t really mean that I’m sad all the time. But it’s a very difficult process to explain. You try to stay there as much as you can.
Paste: You have a bit of a break between seasons. Was it challenging to find Marco again after Season One?
Bichir: It’s difficult to get something back after a year. It takes time. Just when you get to know the character, you have to go home. And just when you are forgetting everything about him, you’re coming back. So it’s part of the process where you have to reconnect with the character as fast as you can, so you can step into the new season properly. It’s not an easy task. Sometimes I have to look in every drawer in my house.
Paste: One of the most tense and surprising moments this season came when Marco decided not to kill David Tate, the man who had murdered his son. I was surprised and relieved. Were you surprised that this was the decision Marco made?
Bichir: It was very interesting—it didn’t only surprise the audience, it surprised me too. I think it was a very distinct choice, because when I was there—after going through all that ordeal of getting into the cell and to David Tate’s bed—it wasn’t until I was right there in front of him that I realized that killing him would be an easy way out. It also would turn me into someone like him. Marco’s ways are very particular. He always finds a way to do his job and get things done, but he’s not an assassin. He’s a different type of human being. I think it was a good choice.
Paste: This season is especially scary because Marco’s acting like a man who has nothing to lose. Marco has to survive the season.
Bichir: You’re exactly right. Marco has lost everything he had. Everything he cared for is gone. So he doesn’t really have anything else to lose. That makes him more dangerous than the bad guys. He’s truly, absolutely fearless now. He will not stop until he get those guys down. But, please don’t worry. Marco Ruiz is a tough guy.
Paste: I’ve read that you have worked with production to make sure The Bridge portrays Mexico as accurately as possible.
Bichir: The production of The Bridge is always very open, and very cool about exchanging points of view, and Mexico is something I know. Mexico is a subject that I’m an expert on. They take my opinion seriously—not only mine, but Diane [Kruger’s], and everyone else’s. A lot of people love the show and one of the things they love about it is how real the whole thing looks. We don’t have Mexican characters speaking English for example. We speak Spanish and, not only that, we speak Spanish with a northern accent from the north of Mexico, which is different.
We always try to make it accurate in terms of how people talk. It’s a brave risk that FX has taken to have full scenes in Spanish with English subtitles. We thought people might feel that they could get disconnected, but that’s one of the things people love about the show. The American audience is ready for anything. I think it’s a misconception to say Americans don’t like to read subtitles.
Paste: Your brother, Bruno Bichir, has guest starred as Sebastian Cerisola this season. What’s it been like to work with him?
Bichir I always have a lot of joy working with great actors. One of the finest actors happens to be my brother, my brothers plural. My older brother [Odiseo] is an amazing actor as well. It’s a joy. It’s a blessing to be able to share the stage with him.
Bruno and I worked together in the past in films and theater production. But we have never done TV together, let alone American TV, so it’s been great. I only hope that if we’re lucky to have a third season, hopefully there will be a bigger, juicier story with the Cerisola family and Marco.
Paste: What about your older brother? Could we see him on the show?
Bichir That would be a Bichir extravaganza. That’s my secret plan, I’m taking over The Bridge, one family member at time.
Paste: You come from a theater family. Your dad, Alejandro Bichir, was a famous theater director and your mom, Maricruz Najera, a well-known actress. When did you start acting?
Bichir: I was three the first time I stepped onto a professional stage. I barely remember. I know I was there because there are pictures. I guess it was since I was about eleven, that I’ve been doing it non-stop.
Paste: Did coming from a theater family influence your choice in career?
Bichir:You talk about it all the time. You speak the same language at home. It makes the whole thing easier, at least doable. But I wanted to play soccer when I was a kid. My father was such a sports guy, and he played amateur baseball so he understood my passion for soccer. But he always used to say, ‘I know you love soccer. But don’t ever forget that theater loves you more.’ And he was right.
Paste: You recently wrapped production on Refugio, a film you wrote and directed.
Bichir For a long long time I had a dream that just saw the light last year. It was a script that I wrote and I directed. It’s the first time I’m doing it. I know I will continue to do direct as much as I can. It’s the story of a kid who grows up in the circus, and how he becomes a man through the search for love. Fate plays a key role in his life without him knowing it. The story begins in Mexico, and travels all the way to the U.S. We’re going to post-production right now.
Paste: Where did the idea for the script come from?
Bichir: The circus life is my own life with my parents in the theater. There’s a correlation in many different ways. Growing up, doing what we do, it’s very unique and special. Changing your life, going somewhere else, finding love and finding your own personality has always been a constant thing in my life.
Paste: There are only four more episodes until the season finale of The Bridge on October 1. What can viewers expect as the show heads toward the end of its second season?
Bichir: There’s a very powerful romance that’s happening towards the end with Marco Ruiz and Capitan Robles.
Paste: [laughs] Oh, is that an exclusive scoop?
BichirYou’ve got the big exclusive right there. I’m kidding! You know it’s going to make you want to watch more. A lot of things change. The journey of the characters grows deeper and darker in many ways, and I think that’s pretty much all I can say. It’s very hard to not leak some kind of crucial information that might spoil the whole thing.
The Bridge airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.
Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.