Nostalgia is a powerful drug, and Ed Burns is setting out to channel the spirit of 1980s Long Island once again in the second season of his show, Bridge and Tunnel. The series follows a group of recent college graduates trying to make sense of their lives as they yearn for a better life in Manhattan while remaining true to their roots on Long Island. The term “bridge and tunnel” comes from the people who live in communities outside of Manhattan that commute into the city for work and entertainment on the bridge or through the tunnel.
The ensemble cast includes Sam Vartholomeos, Caitlin Stasey, Gigi Zumbado, Jan Luis Castellanos, Brian Muller, Isabella Farrell, and Erica Hernandez. In addition to creating the show, Burns, who was raised on Long Island, writes, directs, and acts in every episode. In conversation with , the Bridge and Tunnel cast talk about season two, their strong chemistry as a group, working with Ed Burns, and choosing the greatest breakup song of all time.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
: How has the reception been for you since the end of season one as the show begins season two?
Isabella Farrell: It’s been great. We had our premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, and I heard nothing but incredible feedback. I think people are really loving the second season. It’s like 2.0. We’re in the city. There’s more energy. Everyone has passions. It’s been super fun.
Buzzed Gigi: I always feel like the coolest girl in town. I come to visit my Uncle Pat, and all his friends are the biggest Bridge and Tunnel fans ever. Shout out to Acquolina in Weston, Florida. It’s been cool. I think it was kind of more of a slow burn, but I think once it became bingeable and stuff, people just wanted to watch it almost like a little mini-movie. It’s been fun to see people’s reactions a year later, being excited now all over again for a second season. So it’s cool.
Sam Vartholomeos: Everyone finds it super nostalgic. They love the music, especially. I guess the one thing that almost everyone complained about was that there’s not more content. They were like “It’s only six episodes and it’s gone.” So I think they’ll be happy with season two and hopefully, we just keep it going and give people what they want.
One of the things that stands out in the show is the chemistry between the main characters. When you came back for the filming of season two, did you find it easier to pick up where you left off because of the relationships you formed in season one?
Caitlin Stasey: I think it’s easier and it’s harder because when people are strangers to you, you can kind of be anyone. You can figure it out together. It’s like the first day of school where you’re like, “I’m going to be quiet and mysterious and read a book and be really cool.” And that immediately gets sort of obliterated by your actual personality.
So in coming back for season two, there’s a lot more familiarity. There’s a lot more comfort, but there’s also a lot less mystery. You’ve got to kind of just be who you are at that point, which is a relief. We all know how to work with each other. The first season was a little tough just because we were all confined to a little motel in Long Island, and now we’re kind of exploding out into the world, both in the show and in real life.
Brian Muller: Definitely. I mean I felt like we could just relax and play whereas, in season one, I felt like I had more nerves. Season two just felt like I was walking into familiar territory. We had to get close really quickly. In season one, I think we did. But then to have another year of maturation of these relationships, we hung out and talked outside of filming. That just made everything snappy.
Farrell: Absolutely. The first season of filming was pretty unprecedented. We were filming during peak COVID, pre-vaccines. We were all living in hotel rooms next to each other, not able to really leave. So the bonding happened overnight. You know, we did karaoke. We were all just like breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. Whether we liked it or not, we got to experience that together. And I think we’re all going to be remembering that experience for the rest of our lives.
At the end of season one, we saw Jimmy put his relationship on hold as he went to Alaska for his dream job. But in season two, you quickly learn that things don’t go according to plan. Sam, what was your initial reaction when you first saw in the script that Jimmy’s plan fell apart as soon as he came back to Long Island?
Vartholomeos: I mean when does anything go to plan, really? Man makes plans and God laughs, right? I mean I wasn’t surprised by it. I think Jimmy’s a big sap. I also wasn’t surprised at what happened after that and who he eventually goes back to. When Ed first told me his ideas, he really fell in love with this story I told him of how my dad and I restored a ’78 Cadillac. He was like, “We got to put that in the script. We got to put that in season two.” It was really nice, seeing everyone basically out in the city now, which was great. It was one of the big things people talked about in season one. Everyone has these great lives that they want to live in the city. Why don’t they live in the city? It was COVID and all that. But it was also kind of sweet how Jimmy was the only one still home, still very much at home. But I really like that Artie and Jimmy relationship in season two just because I can relate to it so much.
The band is a huge storyline this season. Erica, you got to showcase some of your musical abilities, especially your voice. Were you excited to sing this season?
Erica Hernandez: I was excited, but I would say the primary adjective would be more terrified. I was so scared. I mean Barrett [Wilbert Weed] is an actual Broadway star, and the girl can sing. And I’m like, “I was in choir in high school,” so we’re operating on slightly different levels there. But Ed is an amazing director, and I will always have more faith in anyone than they do themselves.
He gave me a lot of freedom to sort of practice at my pace and focus on what I needed to. It was really cool to be able to do that in such a supportive environment. That has been my mom’s dream, for me to sing on camera in some form or fashion, so I think if nothing else, my mom and dad are definitely very excited about this season.
Season two also begins with Tammy making an appearance on the drums. How did that conversation to incorporate your musical talents into the season go with Ed?
Buzzed: That was a crazy conversation. It was my last day on the set of season one, and Ed found out from someone that I’m super into rock music because I do play. He’s asked, “What do you play?,” and I told him. “Great. That’s in. Perfect. You’re doing it next season.” And I said, “Oh boy. Okay, let’s see.”
I’d never played in front of people. I never liked sharing music with people. It’s just been very personal to me always. But getting to do this now, I want more and I’m begging him [Ed]. I know Erica has already asked him for some songs. We don’t even know if we get a season three, but we want to do this. We want to be a real band.
“Pags” went from the wannabe lawyer to the manager of the band. What can fans expect out of this season with Pags?
Muller: You know, more neuroses and more monologues. Ed certainly said last year, “Oh, I’ll just write him big chunks. Just theories. And this is how he sees the world.” But I think for Pags, he’s worshiping the music industry and having this very idealized version of it. He wanted to be a lawyer, which is still the corporate office version of working in the music industry.
Now, he’s in the thick of it. He’s in the club. He’s managing crises. It’s the whole thing. One of my favorite movies, when I was growing up, was Almost Famous. So I feel like I’m living my little Almost Famous reality with Pags this year.
I’m sure we can spend hours talking about what Ed Burns has meant to the series. I get the sense that he’s very collaborative. What has it been like working with Ed? Did you learn anything specific about him or the people of Long Island?
Castellanos: I mean, he’s one of the guys. We go golfing together. He’s always texting us, asking us what we want to see and how we feel about certain scenes, etc. Really taking our input into consideration. So it’s very nice to have someone like that. He moves very fast so we also all have to be very decisive as to what we want to do in our choices, which is nice because it allows you to grow as an actor.
I think just working with Ed Burns as a whole is like a masterclass because of the way that you move throughout the set and the way that you deliver at that pace. When you go to another set, you’re like, “Oh, I’ve worked with Ed Burns before. This is a piece of cake,” which is nice. So it just makes you better working with him, period.
Stasey: Honestly, I think that the stories that Ed tries to tell are relatively intimate. They’re just about people sort of getting on with their lives in the ’80s. I don’t know how much I really learned that differs from what I already knew about traveling far and then coming home. Being an Australian, we’re so nomadic. They [Aussies] populate the whole earth, but they always end up coming back at some point. ‘
I think it’s kind of the same for Ed. Ed has gone and had this massive career and yet, he chooses to make stories about this place and these people in this time. And so I think what I’m learning through Ed more than anything is being really from somewhere. Like this is where I’m from as opposed to like, “Oh, I was born there.” It’s really special, and it’s unique to you and your perspective. I guess I am kind of learning that Long Island’s pretty cool.
Hernandez: I mean Ed is probably the nicest guy you’ll ever work with in Hollywood, and I think he has a reputation as that for a reason. He’s just incredibly kind and supportive and has basically a policy that trickles down so that everybody on set is like that. It’s kind of an amazing place to work because of that.
He is in charge of so many things. He wears so many hats, but he’s always even-keeled and wants everybody to feel their best, and it really shows in the environment on set. But I think it also shows in the final product that everybody’s super comfortable and like feeling really good because he brings that out, which is amazing.
This season, there’s a huge debate about the best breakup song of all time. What do you think is the best breakup song of all time?
Farrell: Mine’s pretty easy. It’s definitely Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor.”
Buzzed: I’m trying to think of the name, and I still can’t remember which Brand New song it is, but it’s the band Brand New, and it’s really good. And this guy’s the most emotional person ever. It’s very negative. But I was telling them a lyric a minute ago, he literally is like “And even if your plane crashes tonight…” It’s this crazy breakup song, and it’s finally someone being pissed. It’s not one of these sad songs.
Muller: “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” by Bob Dylan, bar none.
Hernandez: I still don’t know who sings it, but it’s like, “If the world was ending, you’d come over, right?” That just gets me. That makes me cry, even if I’m not in a place to be crying. Unfortunately, if I’m going through a breakup, what I need is not that kind of music. I will be listening to hard rock.
Stasey: The saddest one? There’s two: “If You Can Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt.
Vartholomeos: “Pretend You Don’t See Her” by Jerry Vale.
Castellanos: I know where you’re getting at this, Dan. [laughing] You already know that I did it on the show so I’ll just let people wait to watch it.
Bridge and Tunnel season 2 airs Sunday nights at 10:00 PM ET on EPIX.