Warning: The Bridge spoilers below, so read on at your own risk.
It's not often you get to play a normal guy and a serial killer on a show with as much production value and story chops as The Bridge. So, when Wetpaint Entertainment had the chance to catch up with Eric Lange, who plays a truly complex character on the FX adaptation of a Scandinavian thriller series, a character named Kenneth Hasting... Who just happens to be a serial killer.
Wetpaint Entertainment: Is this the end of David Tate?
Eric Lange: Well, who knows? I mean, we'll just have to see. You know, they've made me sign a lot of paperwork, so I'll tread carefully and say you just never know.
When you landed this part, did you know the entire trajectory of this character, or no?
Well, I had auditioned for a couple different things on the show and didn't get them. And only after auditioning for this last thing, which was actually in episode two, I think it was Paul, the guy she sleeps with from the bar, just a random dude. They called after that and they were like, “You're not going to play Paul, but we think we have this other thing we want you to do.” They called the next week and they were like, “So, here's this thing,” but they wouldn't tell my agents or my manager or anybody, or even me, over the phone. They wanted to meet in person.
So it was this long week and a half of me sort of waiting, going like, “What the hell am I doing on this show?” And they wanted me to say yes before they could tell me what it was. We knew it was a sizable part, and we knew it was cable. And frankly, those two things are plenty for me. But then they finally told me what I would be doing and they did, they told me basically the entire arcs. And, you know, script to script things change and you actually see it all fleshed out, but again I knew.
And the toughest part for me was not being able to tell anyone, because they didn't even want me telling the crew or the cast. I would do scenes and I'd have grips say, “Are you the dude or are you just standing in for the dude?”, and I was always like, “Well, I'm just here.” So, it was a bit of a burden on me to keep that from everyone because, selfishly, I wanted to tell the world I have this amazing job on this amazing show, and I couldn't for a long time.
And also, we were told that basically any time the killer had a line, there would be a stand-in, and it wouldn't be you in the table reads.
Yeah, that's actually the great story that I haven't told anybody, but they would always have me read, even when I was there, I would not read the killer's stuff at the table reads. On the call sheets for work, there were always two different characters. There was me, Eric Lange playing Kenneth Hastings, and then there was another number, and it would always just say “TBD” in place of the actor.
And then the character name would change too, it was like “Killer,” then it was “K,” then it was “Bob” or something for a while. They just kept trying to keep it so private. So days that I was just the killer, on my dressing room door it would just like say “K” or something. It was all very confusing and convoluted and kind of fun to try and keep the wool over one's eyes for as long as we could.
Right, but it's also interesting to us, that you’re making a TV show and technically you are with people who should be able to keep a secret, you know?
Exactly, and I'm not a stranger to this, I mean Lost was much the same way, there was a lot of secretive stuff going on, but at least within our family we could tell each other. And they were just, they were very vigilant about the idea that they didn't want anyone knowing who didn't have to know until they had to know it. So, it was a little cat and mouse game for a while there.
So what was it like to finally reveal it to your co-stars, your crew?Oh, it was such a relief. I remember the day we did the table read for episode eight, and there was some line in there. They read some stage direction that said, “Oh, and lo and behold Kenneth Hastings is David Tate who's our killer that we've been tracking.” And I wanted to stand up at the table read and be like, “See? It's out! It's out! Leave me alone now. Let me be.” So it was a great release for me because I just sort of felt like it's this present you just want people to open and go, “Isn't this cool? You thought I was this lowly little teacher dude and now I'm this evil mastermind.” But I was glad to have the cat out of the bag, for sure.
It's also quite the vote of confidence, if you were auditioning for a peripheral character and then you end up with this massive part. That must have felt pretty great.It was great. You know, credit to Elwood [Reid] and Meredith [Stiehm] for walking their walk and talking their talk. You know, I hear a lot like, “Well, we want to get you in on something else, or an episode down the road,” and I'm always like, “Yeah, okay. Thank you very much, I appreciate that.” And they literally lived up to it the very next week.
And not only that, but I was auditioning for this guy who was basically just a normal, charming dude and had nothing of what David Tate would eventually be. But what Meredith and Elwood saw, they told me later, was, “Shouldn't our killer be someone you'd never assume?” and they both saw it somehow in that audition that there was a level of kindness and sort of trustworthiness, or something, about me. And so weirdly enough I got the thing I wanted by doing the opposite of what I would have done to get the part I wanted. You know what I mean?
They saw the sociopath in you. That's nice.Maybe I'd be a good one, I don't know. If this acting thing doesn't work out, you know, look out.
Did you see the original, Bron? Why do you think it made such a good American crossover and why did it strike a chord with the audience?I did see the original and it's totally different than ours. Theirs is a very gray, very cold, very Nordic sort of take on it. And the tone of the show is just beautiful. It's just so creepy and beautiful. The original is very good, I mean, not to betray anything about ours. But I think ours works on a level that's very different in that the border between Sweden and Denmark, I always joke, must be like, “Well, they have five guns and we have one.” It's like, how different could it be? I'm sure to them it's more pronounced.
But just to take the hotbed of activity and violence and culture that exists in Juarez and smack it up right against El Paso, which, per capita is like the lowest crime rate in America, is I think just a beautiful dynamic and rife with possibility not just for this season but for future seasons. You really couldn't, I think, find two more disparate places. I mean, maybe if it lined up with Kansas it would be worse. So I think they made a really smart move in transplanting it the way they did.
Do you feel like there's story left untold for David Tate?You know, I mean as selfish as I want to be about it and go, “I want to be on that show for eight seasons,” they've given me and my storyline more attention than most actors ever get as series regulars on a show, and so I'm really happy with where it's at. And if there's some way that it can be told that doesn't denigrate the integrity of the show or the story that they want to tell, then I'm happy to be there. But otherwise I'm always content to say enough is enough when enough is enough and go on to my next thing. But you know, we'll see. They're smarter people than I am so I will let them lead the way.