[SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains major spoilers from season one of The Bridge. Don't read this unless you are caught up on the season.]
FX scored this summer with The Bridge, another successful adaptation of a Danish/Swedish crime drama, which draws to its suspenseful conclusion tonight. One of the key recurring cast members is Eric Lange, a TV veteran who has appeared on shows like Lost, Castle and Victorious. On Monday, Eric sat down with us to discuss his role on The Bridge as Kenneth Hastings, friend and confidante to the wife of lead detective Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir).
Viewers now know that Kenneth Hastings isn't his real name - and that he's the serial killer Ruiz and his American partner Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) have been pursuing. Playing the central villain is a juicy role for an actor to sink his teeth into, but as Eric told us, it also comes with a lot of other concerns to manage.
"It's exciting on one hand because you're such the focal point of the show. That's always exciting, to get to play a large arc in the role of the show," he reflected. "But it was always kind of intimidating to me. There was always the fear in the back of my mind that when this reveal happened, the audience would be like, 'Him?' So I tried to basically just do my job, and hope at the end of the day the people who put the show together assembled it in such a way that's satisfying for everybody."
He was always aware that he was playing the guilty party. "They told me right away," he explained. "I auditioned for another part at the beginning, and [the producers] said, it's not that but we do have this other thing we want you to do. They were very vague about it. I had to have this little private meeting with them very early on. And I was told not to tell the cast or the crew or anybody. Here I had one of the best jobs I'd ever gotten and I can't tell anybody about it. [It was] kind of a bit of a job on my end - because I kept worrying something was going to slip."
Now Eric can stop worrying about keeping the big secret, but things are also somewhat bittersweet. The Bridge has been renewed for a second season by FX, but by virtue of the function he serves on the show, Eric knows he might not be part of it. (He's not able to mention whether or not he'll make it back for season two.)
But he told us he's okay with whatever happens. "Most criminals only get an episode," he pointed out. "To have as long as a run as I've had on the show, I'm proud and honored about. It's been such a great run - and on a cable show and with great actors and good people."
The gig also reminded him of a piece of his past: back in 2006, he appeared in an episode of Cold Case, which was created by The Bridge executive producer Meredith Stiehm. While that didn't factor into his getting this role, "I always wanted to tell Meredith," Eric commented. "It was one of my early, really good gets and I'd always wanted to see if she remembered - and I completely forgot every time I saw her!"
Eric has appeared in all sorts of small-screen roles over his career, and enjoys them even if that wasn't necessarily the plan. "It's kind of just how it's worked out. In the beginning, you sort of take whatever you're given, and for whatever reason that's the way it's unfolded," he reflected. "I like television. I like the immediacy of it, the speed of it, and you get 3 months off at the end of the year to do whatever you want. And now with cable, TV has now become the new mini-movie. You have these A-list actors going to television."
However, his next roles will find him in a pair of films that come out in 2014. "One is a movie called Imagine with Al Pacino, Annette Bening and Christopher Plummer," he said. "And then I'm working this month on a movie with Jake Gyllenhaal, called Nightcrawler."
No matter what medium he's working in, Eric expressed to us how much he enjoys the craft of acting, and what it's offered him over the years. "I've been really lucky. There's been a lot," he said, when we asked him to name a great career moment. "But the most memorable, immediate thing is who you get to meet and who you get to work with. It's been at times sort of mindblowing. I was doing Secretariat with Diane Lane and John Malkovich. I was having lunch with them. And I remember getting on a plane and flying to New York to step onto the set of You Don't Know Jack, which I was doing with Al Pacino and Barry Levinson.
"Working with someone like Al, I always thought if there was ever like an actor town that was conceived, he would probably be one of the statues that would greet you. He's a legend," he continued. "I've now done two movies with him, which is just crazy. And when I saw him last he remembered me. It's the little things."
And while Kenneth Hastings on The Bridge definitely won't have a happy ending, things are playing out pretty well for the guy who's brought him to life so memorably. "I just feel really grateful to be working," Eric enthused. "I'm happy that some people are becoming familiar with my work that might not have before." We won't be forgetting him anytime soon.
The season finale of The Bridge airs tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on FX. You can also keep up with Eric by following him on Twitter (@MrEricLange).