FX's Border Shift Builds 'Bridge' to Viewers

Drama uses setting on U.S.-Mexico line to evolve serial killer drama 7/08/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Scandinavian TV series have been
ripe fodder for U.S. adaptations in recent
years, with entries such as AMC’s
The Killing, PBS’ Wallander and A&E’s upcoming
Those Who Kill. In the latest example,
FX on July 10 will premiere new drama The
, based on a Swedish/Danish series, although
in a key creative and business decision,
producers opted for a loose adaptation
to move the focus further south.

While creators Meredith Stiehm (Homeland,
Cold Case) and Elwood Reid originally pitched
the series about two detectives tracking a serial
killer be set on the U.S.-Canadian border to
more closely parallel the friendly relationship
between Denmark and Sweden, they switched
it to El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico, over
concern that there were not five seasons’ worth
of storytelling in the former setting.

“The minute we heard they were setting it on
the Mexican border, we were supremely interested
in the show,” says Nick Grad, president
of original programming at FX Networks and
FX Productions. While Grad says network
executives were fans of the original series,
“there’s a real threshold to really stand out and
have something that is conceptually noisy.”

That has become even more important in
a TV landscape suddenly littered with serial
killer shows such as Fox’s The Following and
NBC’s Hannibal. Besides the setting, The Bridge
differentiates itself by using the genre to focus
more on the connection between the two main
characters—played by Demián Bichir and
Diane Kruger—than on the killer.

“You’re not telling a [story] about border patrol
agents. It’s about two people trying to connect
who are very different from each other,
and it really becomes a metaphor for the relationship
between the U.S. and Mexico,” says
Carolyn G. Bernstein, executive VP of scripted
programming at Shine America, which is producing
The Bridge as its first scripted series.

Courting a ‘Nuevo’ Audience

The story line and casting of Mexican actor
Bichir gave FX a unique opportunity to aggressively
market The Bridge to the Hispanic community
in an unprecedented way. The net hired
outside agency Conill to help build a campaign
that included a screening for Hispanic media in
mid-May, an on-set producer creating Spanishlanguage
behind-the-scenes content, a mural
contest in five Latino markets, Spanish-language
TV and radio spots and a microsite that toggles
from English to Spanish—a first for the network.

The pilot will also air on Spanish-language
sister network MundoFox in the week following
the premiere, with the entire first season to
re-air after its conclusion on FX. All the outreach
for The Bridge has allowed FX to connect
with Latino community and political leaders it
can now tap for marketing future series such
as its upcoming comedy Saint George (starring
George Lopez) and horror series The Strain—a
genre that indexes highly among Hispanics.

“It’s really about building those relationships
now, and down the line obviously we’re going to
leverage those relationships for [other] shows,”
says Sally Daws, senior VP of consumer marketing
at FX Networks. “We’ve learned a lot, so
hopefully that will help us as we go forward.”

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on Twitter: @andreamorabito


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