"I didn't want to be just an actor doing tics," said Diane Kruger during our recent video chat (watch below) to discuss her role as a Texas detective with Asperger syndrome in FX's "The Bridge." She didn't have much experience with autism before she took the role, so she relied on a special consultant to help make her performance authentic: "Autism Speaks came on board and they introduced me to this young man called Alex Plank, and he has Asperger's, and he allowed me to ask him all the more intense and difficult questions."
Plank is an autism advocate and filmmaker, and he also appeared on-screen in "The Bridge" as an intern at a newspaper. "Most importantly," said Kruger, "being able to observe him, and see him struggle sometimes, and see him lose control, that was really helpful. Because he's so advanced I was able to ask him, 'What is going on right now in your head? Why are you finding this situation difficult?' … To hear him explain it just opened up everything for me."
It was also a challenge for Kruger, primarily a film actress, to adapt to series television for the first time. "It's a really exciting time for television," she said. "We just don't make those kinds of dramas really anymore in film." But the fast pace of a TV set and working with multiple directors proved challenging: "I went to drama school in France, and to us a director is God, and it's strange for me to have to adapt to a different director every week."
But there's an upside to working that way. She explained, "I'm much more engaged because I'm the lead of the show, so whatever notes I have usually get addressed. You're just more a part of the creative process than you are on a film."
Given the significant creative adjustments required to play an autistic character on a fast-paced television series, it's ironic that the most difficult part of the role for her may be playing a cop. "I don't like guns, and I've never really had a desire to be a cop," she said. "I'm not good with authority."
The first season of "The Bridge" aired last summer, and the second season premieres on July 9. Will Kruger's first TV venture be her breakthrough at the Emmys? Watch our complete interview below, then make your predictions for Best Drama Actress using our easy drag-and-drop menu.