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Edward Burns Period Piece ‘Bridge and Tunnel’ Hits Epix

Caitlin Stasey as Jill Shore and Sam Vartholomeos as Jimmy Farrell in Epix series Bridge and Tunnel.
Caitlin Stasey as Jill Shore and Sam Vartholomeos as Jimmy Farrell in Epix series ‘Bridge and Tunnel.’ (Image credit: Epix)

Epix premiered the Edward Burns dramedy Bridge and Tunnel Jan. 24. Set in 1980, Bridge and Tunnel revolves around a group of recent college grads on Long Island, getting set to chase their dreams down the road in Manhattan. There are six half-hour episodes. 

Burns said the idea came to be in a conversation with Michael Wright, Epix president. The pair spoke about “the terrible state of the world,” Burns said. “We both thought it would be great to create a show that put a smile on your face.”

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Setting the series in 1980 came to be because “it’s a time period we both romanticize,” Burns said. The New York City music scene — punk, rap, new wave — was booming, and people did not peck away at their mobile phones. Burns said his young cast members asked what people would do with their friends in those days, and Burns replied that they’d sit in the backyard or on the hood of a car at a park and simply chat. “We’d be bullshitting for hours,” he said. 

The cast includes Sam Vartholomeos, Caitlin Stasey, Gigi Zumbado, JanLuis Castellanos, Brian Muller and Isabella Farrell. Burns sought out actors with authentic New York accents, though the Australian Stasey pulled off a convincing Lawn Guyland patois. “I’ve always been a stickler for New York accents,” said Burns, who noted how Stasey stayed in character throughout the shoot. 

Vartholomeos mentioned to Burns how he lamented not being able to shake his Queens accent while in acting school, only to be told by a professor to keep his eyes open for an Ed Burns project down the road. 

Bridge and Tunnel cast members (l. to r.): Brian Muller, Gigi Zumbado, Isabella Farrell and JanLuis Castellanos

Bridge and Tunnel cast members (l. to r.): Brian Muller, Gigi Zumbado, Isabella Farrell and JanLuis Castellanos. (Image credit: Epix)

Burns has appeared in Saving Private Ryan, A Sound of Thunder and The Groomsmen, among other features, and directed films such as The Brothers McMullen, She’s the One and Purple Violets. He created, produced and starred in drama Public Morals, which aired on TNT in 2015. 

Burns initially envisioned Bridge and Tunnel as half set on Long Island and half in Manhattan, until COVID hit. With a chunk of his budget dedicated to pandemic defense and New York City not giving out many film permits, he retinkered his scripts and set it all in the suburbs. An eight-episode season was trimmed to six. 

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Asked about influences on Bridge and Tunnel, Burns mentioned how deftly The Big Chill used popular music from its era to spice up scenes. Burns sprinkled “forgotten classics from the ’70s” into Bridge and Tunnel, he said. Michael Wright pushed Burns to rewatch Diner, and study the rapport of the friends hanging out in the diner. 

Burns also mentioned 1967 classic The Graduate, “if Benjamin had five friends to hang out with, instead of Mrs. Robinson.” 

Bridge and Tunnel is set in “a more simple time” than the present, Burns said, when
face time was an actual thing, not an app. “We weren’t tethered to our phones,” he added, “and maybe we talked to each other a little more.” λ

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.