Season 2 of the FX crime thriller The Bridge has Detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) and her Mexican counterpart, Detective Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir) teamed up again to when the body of a cartel member is found on U.S. soil. 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 exclusive interview with Collider, actress Franka Potente (who plays shunned Mennonite and ruthless cartel enforcer Eleanor Nacht) talked about how she came to be a part of The Bridge this season, that challenge of playing a character that you have to learn about as you go, why audiences are intrigued by characters who do bad things, how she tries to see all of her actions through her character’s eyes, and how much the wardrobe and tattoos informed her performance. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
FRANKA POTENTE: Three or four months before, I had met Elwood Reid. These things always happen super last minute. This wasn’t necessarily going to be the entire season. It was basically like, “Hey, next week, this thing will start.” I was excited when I heard about it because I knew about The Bridge, but I had just had a baby and was like, “Really?!” I wanted to work, but it was just a new situation and I had to figure it out. Elwood was just awesome ‘cause he really believed in me. He was like, “You can totally do this. Just don’t be afraid.” And I was like, “I’m not afraid!” He gave me two scripts and I speed-read them. And then, I just sent him an email and said, “I want that fucking part. Are you kidding me?!” It’s the total anti-thesis to my life at home, and that’s awesome. It’s like a strange vacation. That’s why I think, as an actor or an artist, you’re so blessed. It doesn’t feel like hard work. It is, but it’s not like I’m schlepping stones for 16 hours.
Was it challenging to take on a character like Eleanor Nacht, who is so mysterious?
POTENTE: You don’t know. That’s what’s awesome and scary and sometimes also annoying about working on a series. I knew a little bit. I was told that she’s a shunned Mennonite and that I could research that, but how much does that really mean for my work? I had two scripts, in which she killed someone and I was not really sure why. As you get more confident, you get more information, as it unfolds, but you really don’t necessarily know what you signed on to do. But if people still don’t know who she is after Episode 13, then I’ve failed to do my job. This character does unfold to be someone with a really sad history that motivates a lot of the things that she does. She’s similar to Sonya, in the way that they’re both a hostage of their own feelings and disabilities, when it comes to emotions, but in a very different way. That’s why the two women connect, in a strange way.
POTENTE: As the audience, I always love to get to a point where, surprisingly, I find myself in a secret friendship allegiance with the characters that are unexpected. Only in movies or books or TV do we have a chance to actually like aspects of a killer. It’s that way with all of the characters. You could look at Marco and say, “He’s a cheater and a traitor,” or you could say, “He’s incredibly strong to deal with all of that pain.” You could look at Sonya and say, “She’s just a weirdo,” or you could say, “She’s surprisingly vulnerable and brave.” And I want people to say that about Eleanor. I want someone to have a moment with here where, as scary as the stuff is that she does, they can say that she’s fierce. That’s when the magic works.
How do you view this character?
POTENTE: You try to see things individually through their eyes. Eleanor has a world that’s made up of very clear structure. That’s something that I can relate to. Not like that, but I’m a very structural person. She’s taking it to a different level, but in her universe, things have to be a certain way. Her goal is to get revenge, basically. She doesn’t care about money, or a lot of other things, which makes her very strong and superior to people who do. That’s a weakness, in a sense. That’s just how she operates. It’s very simple. And I just try to see everything that I’m supposed to do through her eyes. It makes sense because it’s actually very simple. Not in a dumb way, but just how she justifies things. When I look at her, I feel very distant from her. She’s unlike anyone I’ve seen, or anyone that I want to befriend. She’s very different from myself. And the greater the distance, the more apprehension we have. Difference is always the biggest challenge for humans. That’s why we do enjoy reading or watching movies or watching TV. It’s a personal challenge to get close to people that we never get close to. You can experience their inner thoughts and motivations. If you met someone like Eleanor, you would never get so close to her. That could never be arranged. But you can, watching the show. That’s the intriguing thing. It’s a commitment to watch every week for four months. Okay, there’s DVR, but it’s a commitment to watch a show.
POTENTE: I feel like I actually listen to recommendations more. There are two shows that I keep hearing are really different and really great, and that’s Fargo and Penny Dreadful. When I hear it often enough, I want to check it out.
The wardrobe for this character is very specific, and she’s covered in tattoos. How much did that help you?
POTENTE: Thank god, the tattoos didn’t come on for every episode ‘cause it takes six hours to put them on and make them look right. It’s funny, but you forget about clothes and make-up and hair. I know what I’m wearing today, but if I don’t look down, I don’t think about it, as long as it’s not in my way. And Eleanor’s clothing definitely is not in my way, but it’s hot. We shoot in Santa Clarita and it’s 100 degrees, and I’m in a button-up shirt and two layers of a skirt. The great thing is that the costume that I wear is nothing to be dealt with. I don’t have to deal with it, like she doesn’t deal with it. I’m just hot as hell. There are things that are very strong, visually, like these tattoos, blood, guns, knives, nudity. Whenever that is in the picture, you don’t need to do anything. You do nothing ‘cause it fills up the scene and the moment and it makes my job very easy. You just need to be. If you ever get really dressed up for a party, you get a feeling from the reactions of people that you don’t need to be that loud. It’s the same when you act. You have to always consider what’s around you and the texture of things and try to meld in with what’s going on. When I watch period pieces, I feel like people are trying to act the period. Their voice changes and I think, “People wouldn’t talk like that,” and it throws me out of the whole context. The Bridge is very well written, so there are not that many traps to walk into, as far as these misunderstandings.
The Bridge airs on Wednesday nights on FX.