Big-screen actress Diane Kruger was looking for her first regular TV role in this golden age of cable dramas, and she's particularly happy that, on FX's new series "The Bridge," she found one that allows her to give a realistic, positive portrayal of a character with Asperger's syndrome.
"My main concern when I took this part was I want to make sure that the Asperger's aspect is not an affectation or a comic relief in the show," says Kruger, who plays Sonya Cross, an El Paso cop investigating a serial killer who's leaving victims on both sides of the border. "[I want] people to understand what Asperger's actually is, and the challenges that people who have that condition face. I think it's important to show a little bit what they go through every day and where they do great, and then where they don't do great and how they cope."
A major part of Kruger's preparation for that aspect of her character is Alex Plank, a consultant who has Asperger's himself and who has been with Kruger on set — and in the writer's room — throughout production of the show's first season.
"The defining moment came for me when FX approached Autism Speaks, and they introduced me to [Alex]," Kruger tells Yahoo! TV. "He became my consultant, and I spent the better part of the past six months with him, picking his brain, trying to understand what it is that dictates how [someone with Asperger's] shows empathy. Why is it delayed? What is it that is the most telling signs of someone with that condition? And so I'm fairly confident that I do an OK job with that, because he's on the set every day, and he's been truly my saving grace. He makes sure that condition is protected every day on set."
The series doesn't specifically label the reason Sonya is awkward around everyone, from her co-workers to people she's investigating, but Kruger says Cross's backstory will dribble out throughout the season's 13 episodes.
"We will see her … we will obviously see both Sonya and [her Mexican police counterpart Marco, played by Oscar nominee Demián Bichir] try to find the serial killer. There's a lot of other stuff going on," says Kruger, whose only other previous American TV experience was as a guest star on boyfriend Joshua Jackson's "Fringe." "There's a lot of darkness. We'll see a real honorable side to Sonya as well because of her backstory, which I don't want to reveal too much of, but ... let's just say her jacket. There's a big backstory to her jacket."
As for the season-long serial killer investigation, fans can feel free to delve into "The Bridge" with the guarantee that the case will be solved by the end of season, unlike some recent cable dramas that left viewers hanging.
"It gets resolved," says Kruger, who's currently working on the series' 10th episode. She also hints that we'll see another side to the easygoing Marco, who bonds with Sonya while maneuvering the corrupt political climate in his country.
"It's very difficult for Sonya to trust people that she doesn't know, so to see that relationship develop is actually very emotional," she says. "Sonya and Marco learn to work together; and on a human level, we see them evolve together. That's a really great, beautifully written episode when that happens.
"But there's also a dark side to Marco that we haven't seen yet. But you will."
Watch a preview of "The Bridge":
"The Bridge" premieres Wednesday, 7/10 at 10 PM on FX.