FX's 'The Bridge' Finds Authenticity In Spanish-Language Scenes "We're giving those 33 million Hispanics in the U.S. ... a point where they can actually identify themselves," says Demian Bichir, a star of the cross-border crime drama.
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FX's 'The Bridge' Finds Authenticity In Spanish-Language Scenes

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FX's 'The Bridge' Finds Authenticity In Spanish-Language Scenes

FX's 'The Bridge' Finds Authenticity In Spanish-Language Scenes

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hey, the season finale is tonight for FX's "The Bridge." This show revolves around two police detectives, one in El Paso and one in Juarez, Mexico, pursuing a Mexican drug cartel. Few people are watching this show. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says that means many people are missing out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: And cut.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: No detail is too small for attention on the set of FX's "The Bridge." Standing on a soundstage in Santa Clarita, California, star Demian Bichir is trying to figure out what to do with his shirt during an important scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Just lose it, and leave it with her.

DEGGANS: Bichir says this kind of attention creates an authentic feel that's always been an important part of the show.

DEMIAN BICHIR: We went through a lot of details regarding Mexico and how Mexico works and how we could really get away from certain stereotypes. And that was pretty much what hooked me.

DEGGANS: All the dialogue for this scene is in Spanish. Later it'll be subtitled in English. And while script supervisor Liliana Molina makes sure everything that's filmed matches the script, she also explains the specific accents to the show's producers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LILIANA MOLINA: (Speaking Spanish). It's like, (speaking Spanish). Like, the third letter...

UNIDENTIFIED PRODUCER: You drop...

MOLINA: Yeah, you drop because we speak different - kind of like singing.

UNIDENTIFIED PRODUCER: Yeah.

MOLINA: And then Mexicans, they drop one word.

MAURICIO KATZ: TV shows are about creating worlds, right?

DEGGANS: That's Mauricio Katz, a consulting producer who oversees the Spanish dialogue on "The Bridge."

KATZ: You can't have a series that's completely subtitled, I understand. But when you have people that are, like, speaking in an accent in English, pretending to be speaking another language, I think it throws you off.

DEGGANS: So the Mexican characters on "The Bridge" often speak in Spanish, including this moment, when Bichir interrogates a man until he makes him cry.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BICHIR: (As Marco Ruiz, speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, crying).

DEGGANS: Bichir says the Spanish-language scenes reveal new dimensions to his character. And he believes they have an impact on Latino viewers too.

BICHIR: We're giving those 33 million Hispanics in the U.S. un punto de encuentro - a point where they can actually identify themselves.

DEGGANS: To achieve that, Bichir insists on accuracy. He's got family and friends in Juarez. So the star knows how Spanish is spoken there and pushes his fellow actors to adopt the right accent. No one learned that quicker than Ramon Franco, who plays cartel boss Fausto Galvan. As a Puerto Rican from New York City, Franco had no idea how Spanish was spoken in Juarez until his first scene with Bichir.

RAMON FRANCO: And he went, no, no, no. He says, it's northern Mexico; it's different. And I went, but why didn't somebody tell me three months ago? I could've had time to prepare it.

DEGGANS: Franco's relaxing between scenes in his air-conditioned trailer. He eventually learned the accent. But he found another inspiration for Galvan based on the anger he felt watching news reports about undocumented immigrants captured in police raids. When he tackled scenes showing the crime boss's fury and ruthlessness...

FRANCO: Guess what I did? All of that - all of that anger, all of that power, right to him - right to him.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNTIL I'M ONE WITH YOU")

RYAN BINGHAM: (Singing) Until I'm one with you.

DEGGANS: "The Bridge" won a Peabody award for its first season, but it may not get a third act. The show still struggles for an audience, and FX hasn't said yet if it will bring the show back. Still, Franco says "The Bridge" already has accomplished a lot.

FRANCO: We are blessed to be able to show characters from Mexico that have never been portrayed on American TV. How nice is that?

DEGGANS: Given how little the rest of American TV depicts Latino characters, that's very nice indeed. I'm Eric Deggans.

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