Diane Kruger is bridging the way for autism

Diane Kruger

Diane Kruger is the emblem of an internationally accredited fashion icon and Hollywood movie star. The 37-year-old actress and former Parisian model breathes glamour when she enchants journalists and her audiences across the globe while she jet sets from one film festival to the next movie premiere.

Therefore, it was especially interesting to speak to the German-born actress about her role in the American TV network FX’s new drama series The Bridge, which deals with subjects that couldn’t be further from designer brands, luxury jewelry or sumptuous hairstyles.

Trying to capture a politically motivated serial killer operating on the U.S.- Mexico border, Kruger plays the complicated role of the Texas-native U.S. detective Sonya Cross, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. At the side of her intuitive and warm-hearted series counterpart, Mexican actor and Academy Award nominee Demian Bichir, she appears cold and abrasive, failing to show emotions and empathy. Kruger manages to authentically portray a leading female character, who is ‘on the spectrum’ on American prime time television programming, ultimately establishing a higher awareness of autism.

However, embodying Sonya’s character didn’t come with ease to the versatile actress. While preparing for the show that debuted on July 10, Kruger faced fundamental challenges of becoming acquainted with her lead role. Even after rigorous efforts of preparation, she still felt disconnected from her character.

“How could I possibly one hundred percent know what it must be like,” she told UKScreen at The Four Seasons Hotel. “I read all the books and spent months and months researching on the internet, and I still feel I couldn’t quite understand it. I felt like I would betray Sonya, because she’s not a tick, or she’s just not a weird person.”

But Kruger was able to get in touch with the advocacy organisation Autism Speaks, where she met a young autistic man named Alex Plank. Plank gave Kruger personal advice and emerged to become an important role in Sonya’s character development.

“He let me ask so many questions that I am sure were intimidating for him. He is on set every day that I work. Every script I get, I sit down with him and ask him how he would feel about it. It’s really thanks to Alex that I understand Sonya. He was the key and continues to be the key for this character.”

While working with Plank, Kruger explored the many facets of autism, and developed a deep connection and understanding for impacted individuals. Moreover, she wants to ensure that her character doesn’t appear as comic relief, and instead focuses on raising an awareness of the often misinterpreted developmental disorder.

“The thing with Asperger’s is, those people are, contrary to popular belief, that they have no emotions, that they are closed off to the world, that’s just simply not true. They have in fact, sometimes the opposite problem. It makes me love Sonya so much and I want to protect her, and I want the audience to see all colours of her, because I am sure a lot of people are not familiar with it. Asperger’s is such a mild form of autism. Sometimes you think she’s just a bitch or she’s just cold. But there’s so much more to these people.”

As a matter of fact, Kruger felt such a deep connection to her character, she said she wanted to give back to the autistic community by creating a bridge between different social groups.

“I feel I totally shifted my point of view of the world. I want to be the spokesperson, whether or not the show succeeds. I want to make sure, we get this right.”

And in fact, the show must have gotten something right.

Reflecting on the first aired episodes, The Bridge has not only captured an average of more than 1.5 millions U.S. viewers with each episode, but also received positive reviews from a plethora of powerful critics.

On the review aggregator website Metacritc, the series has scored 77 out of 100, and the Hollywood Reporter called the series ‘mandatory viewing for drama lovers’. Already in June, the Critics Choice Television Awards honored The Bridge with five nominations.

Although it remains uncertain, when The Bridge will air overseas, it is worth the wait.