Demián Bichir talks new show “The Bridge” and staying sane with crossover fame

Video by Alessandra Hickson

Equally at home on a movie or television studio or performing on a theater stage, actor Demián Bichir never fails to captivate audiences. The son of prominent Mexican actors and entertainment icons, one might say Bichir’s talent can be considered a near-birthright, but the 49-year-old Oscar-nominee says that he’s an actor simply because he loves good stories – thus his role in the upcoming crime drama “The Bridge.”

“It’s a story about the people involved and it’s about the character,” says Bichir, of his decision to star as detective Marco Ruiz opposite Diane Kruger in the mystery series, which debuts July 10 on cable network FX. “He [Bichir’s character] translates constantly from one country to another, from one language to another, one culture against another – that’s a constant switch you’ll see.”

In “The Bridge,” Bichir plays a police detective in Mexico who works with Kruger’s character – a fellow detective – in a joint effort to investigate a serial killer who operates on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. The role of a Mexico-based detective who operates with an American counterpart is a reflection of Bichir’s reality as a transnational actor who constantly switches between languages and cultures as he works in projects that appeal alternately to Mexican and American audiences.

“It’s interesting because I’ve always been on one side of the line,” Bichir tells NBC Latino’s Nina Terrero when questioned about how his character differs from those he’s played in the past. “This is about two different countries, recognizing each other in their own differences and having the responsibility of solving something together. And that’s why my character and the character Diane plays are so great together. They are like Mexico and the United States. Completely different but still, they need to get to know each other in order to work as a team to solve the problems they have in common.”

Demián Bichir as Marco Ruiz and Diane Kruger as Sonya Cross on "The Bridge."

Demián Bichir as Marco Ruiz and Diane Kruger as Sonya Cross on “The Bridge.” (Photo/Courtesy FX Networks)

While mention of a possible Emmy nomination for Bichir’s performance on “The Bridge” – which critics have called “effortlessly amazing” – are met with near disdain by the actor (the 49-year-old actor insists that he’s in the industry for the love of acting, not for possible accolades), there’s no doubt that Bichir’s rise as a major crossover star has arrived.

In addition to “The Bridge,” Bichir’s first leading role on television, 2013 is a major year for him in film. His cop comedy, “The Heat,” co-starring funny girls Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, is currently in theaters, and in October, he’ll star in “Machete Kills,” a star-studded action film under the direction of Robert Rodriguez.

There’s also his role in the upcoming film “Dom Hemingway,” co-starring Jude Law, and a handful of other projects Bichir has yet to officially reveal. And these projects are just the latest in a long string of successes since his American debut in the 2001 film “In the Time of the Butterflies” with Salma Hayek. There’s his twisted performance as a Tijuana mayor and cartel kingpin Esteban Reyes in cult favorite series ‘Weeds,” a compelling turn as Fidel Castro in “Che” and of course, his role as Carlos Galindo in “A Better Life,” for which he earned an Academy Award nomination for “Best Actor.”

Even so, the actor and father – Bichir has a two-year-old daughter – is humble when asked whether “The Bridge” will cement his fame as a crossover star.

“To me, if this is it, I’ll be happy and I’ll go home happy,” says Bichir. “I’m telling you from the heart. This show will go pretty much around the world, everywhere in Latin America. If people like it as we hope they will, that will be the success – that will be the reward.”

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