How the Border Crisis Became Inspiration for a Television Show

How producers of "The Bridge" make entertainment out of grim news.
Mon August 18, 2014 10:45 am
A casting memo called for a stoic “Lyle Lovett type” to play a drug cartel lawyer, which led to the hiring of Lovett.
Byron J. Cohen/FX

Last year, the FX show The Bridge won a Peabody Award for “raising awareness of border issues” and indeed, many of the plotlines were based on the realities of life in El Paso and its violence-stricken Mexican sister city a bridge away, Ciudad Juárez. The show touches on drug cartel violence, labor issues, and the hundreds of women who have been murdered or gone missing in and around Juárez since the mid-nineties. The second season started last month amid headlines of the child and family migrant crisis, in which thousands of unaccompanied Central American minors crossed into the United States.

Yet producing a torn-from-the-headlines program was not what Elwood Reid, the lead writer and executive producer, intended. The first season opened on a border bridge where two bodies are discovered, each cut in half at the waist. One was a missing girl from Mexico, the other

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