Exclusive Interview: The Bridge’s Eric Lange On Keeping Secrets, The Big Reveal and more

Eric Lange - Corey Nickols 01

The first time I interviewed Eric Lange, it was for this little show called Lost.

Since then Lange has appeared in quite an extensive list of other shows, in fact I can bet that you have seen him in at least one show you watch which brings us to FX’s series The Bridge, which is currently getting to the end of its first season, and a second interview with Lange, whose character Kenneth Hastings aka David Tate was just revealed to be (SPOILER ALERT) the big bad man our protagonists have been chasing all along.

When I talked to Lange, he shared his excitement about being part of the show, talked about having to keep the secret of his character’s real identity, his approach to the character, which series he’d like to guest star on and much more. Don’t forget to watch The Bridge on Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.

Last time we talked was for ‘Lost.’ It been a crazy ride for you since then!

Eric Lange: Oh my gosh, yes. Luckily, I’ve continued to work and make money in this crazy business.

‘The Bridge’ has been huge. Had you seen the original series before getting the show?

Eric Lange: Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of it. I watched a chunk of it. I auditioned for the pilot of ‘The Bridge’ actually, for Daniel Frye’s part. Matthew Lillard is killing it so hard I’m glad I didn’t get it. But when I auditioned back in October, before that, I had looked online to do some research to try and learn as much as I can about it because it seemed like an intriguing project. So I started to watch it just to get a feel for what they did with the show, and it was so good I just sort of kept watching it. It was hard to get away from. The good thing is that the guy I ended up playing, in the original I didn’t really see any similarities between he and I. It’s usually problematic if you watch something and it’s already been done, if it’s going to ruin your take on it. But he was so different than I was, and the way the character was structured is a little different. So it didn’t bother me too much, but I’m glad I got to see it. The original is very good too.

Did you already know what the character was going to be at the start?

Eric Lange: No. Once the show got picked up, I had gone in to audition for Paul, actually, who’s the guy that she sleeps with in that bar, in like episode two. That was going to be fine with me, and I got out of there and I thought that I did a pretty good job. Then they called and said, ‘Eh, it’s not you, but we think we have something we might want you to do next week,’ and I just thought that was kind of a load of hooey. I hear that a lot, and then sure enough, the following week they called and said, ‘We’ve got this thing we want him to do,’ and they wouldn’t tell my managers or my agents what it was. We had to wait about a week and a half. Elwood [Reid] and Meredith [Stiehm] had me in for a little private meeting, and Elwood spilled the beans on what I was doing. It was a tenuous week, just wondering, like, ‘What the hell is this that no one will tell me about?’ Then once I got the job, of course, they were like, ‘Now you can’t tell anybody. We don’t want you telling the cast, the crew, nobody.’ So it was a little pressure on me there for a while because you just want to run out and tell the world that you got this great job, and I couldn’t tell anybody.

Did anyone figure out that it was you, and since the original show is out there, had anyone from the cast or crew seen that one and knew who you were?

Eric Lange: Nobody really talked about the original. It’s actually pretty hard to find. It took some good internet sleuthing on my part to find it, and so it’s not like it’s just out there. You can’t really get the DVD. It’s not on Netflix. It is kind of hard to find. So not a lot of people found it. There were some people who were suspicious when we were shooting scenes that Kenneth Hastings wasn’t in, but I was still on set. I think they were a little curious as to why I was there. I think the only person that came up to me and nailed it, like the day they met me, was Matt Lillard. We were in makeup, and he just turned to me and goes, ‘So, you’re the dude or what? You’re the dude, right? You’re the killer.’ I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not saying.’ He’s like, ‘Look, man.’ I think it’s one of those things where I had done enough in this business that to have me just doing three lines an episode didn’t kind of make sense to him for a minute, and then he was smart enough to guess. Eventually people started to come out of the woodwork though.

What was the reaction like from fans with the character’s reveal?

Eric Lange: Most people were very surprised, and that’s what we wanted. There was enough going on with him and Alma that people were starting to get suspicious of my purpose on the show. It’s hard to hide someone, and yet keep them around enough that it makes sense when it comes out that they were there all along, but without making it something that calls attention to itself. So I’m really proud of what we did in that regard. I think most people were pretty shocked, and then as the thing unfurled, there’s been a mix of disappointment and other emotions about the fact that it’s not this larger political motive and political statement necessarily, but something more personal. My take on him is just that he was someone that originally worked in Juarez for the FBI and saw the atrocities and stuff that goes down there and was powerless to do anything about it. So these early political acts to me remind me of those days, that anger of not being able to do anything about it, and then using this very personal vendetta and bigger statement later on.

How different is it to prepare for a role where the character is so disturbed and has had a terrible thing happen to him versus other roles you’ve done in the past?

Eric Lange: Well, you always just start with the truth, as much as you can get to it and the truth of what it would be for you. I think that it’s hard to understand or empathize with. I don’t have a son. I’m just getting married in November for the first time, and so to lose my wife and son is pretty hard to imagine for me. But I just go back to the idea that under the right circumstances we’re capable of a lot of horrible things. It just takes the right recipe of disasters to come together for some people to just snap. I think that’s what happened to David, and so you just try and load the front in there, the tragedy as much as possible so that the comeuppance that needs to happen so you feel balanced in your life has to be so great. It’s quite the revenge plot. It’s biblical, I think is what Elwood Reid said to me and it is. Some of that is really hard to wrap your head around. I think when you love things and you lose them, people will do pretty crazy things to get a sense of right about things again. Unfortunately for him that meant taking things quite far.

What can you tease about what’s coming up for him since now he’s captured Gus?

Eric Lange: Yeah. It seems like there’s a bit of an eye for an eye going on, and I don’t see that train slowing down any time soon.

Can you tease anything else, or are you sworn to secrecy about everything?

Eric Lange: They have made me sign so many documents, it’s insane. But obviously I have Gus. Daniel Frye is somewhere under my control, and Marco is in the car with me. So all the chess pieces are sort of being put into place for these final few moves. A lot of it will be answered Wednesday.

In terms of your career, what criteria do you use to select a project to participate in or take on?

Eric Lange: Well, lately, if the scripts are well written, that’s really important to me because it’s exhausting to try and make bad writing work, but it’s so much easier when the writing is good to begin with. The people behind things, I have a thing for smart people. I love to work with smart folks. There’s definitely a trend that’s going on now in cable television that’s sort of astounding everyone, the caliber of product you get on television. So I’ve wanted to be somewhere in the cable world for quite a while. After guest starring on the network shows for so long, you tend to get offered or audition for many similar things. So this was nice because it was a long form gig, a long run. It was almost the entire season, and so there can be this beautiful arc that you can make there. It’s different in that normally, while I’ve killed people on television before, but normally you see just the basic outlines of what he was before that and there’s not much of an arc to play with. You’re sort of at a dinner and then you go home. So I’ve been wanting to get into things that were a little meatier, a little more recurring things, and we’ve done a few pilots that haven’t got picked up. So just more to chew on, basically. The guest starring thing has been great and I’m tremendously thankful to work ever, at all, but when I look now at things to do, it’s usually about how good is the writing, what’s the part like and then how much am I going to actually get to eat at this dinner. Those are the three big criteria at the moment.

You’ve starred on a lot of different shows, but if you could guest star on any show, which one would it be?

Eric Lange: Oh, God. Right now it would be ‘Breaking Bad’ by a million miles. It’s just a no brainer at this point. It’s the show of the moment. I’m sure there’s the ‘Sopranos’ and a hundred other shows I would’ve loved to have been a part of, but I watched the show last night and I couldn’t fall asleep until one o’clock in the morning. I think that’s just a testament to the kind of thing I was talking about, where the landscape of cable, it’s just people have raised the bar so high. It’s an amazing time to be able to be an actor in television. I’m happy to have my little corner of the world of it, but if I could pick anything at the moment, it would be ‘Breaking Bad,’ absolutely.

Eric Lange - Corey Nickols

(Photo credit: Corey Nickols)