In an era that prizes deep snark and cynicism, Lee Pace makes feeling good seem cool again. As Ned, the upbeat, benevolent pie maker who helps his P.I. buddy solve murder cases and who is capable of resurrecting the dead – temporarily, anyway – the Oklahoma-born Juilliard graduate has not only scored a personal triumph but also an Emmy nomination for his work on ABC’s quirky, Day-Glo-colored Pushing Daisies.
“I don’t mean this as corny as it sounds but I’m really grateful that Pushing Daisies makes a lot of people feel good and gives them a funny, warm, fuzzy, romantic feeling,” says Pace, 29, who previously made strong impressions playing a transgendered nightclub performer in the Showtime film Soldier’s Girl, on the short-lived television series Wonderfalls and in a number of lauded New York stage performances. “A lot of TV shows have bad guy protagonists who are killing people or who have marriages that are falling apart. My character has his share of problems but he’s a really good guy who does whatever he can to make his childhood sweetheart Chuck’s (Anna Friel’s) life great and who uses his powers responsibly. Being on a lighthearted, sweet-natured show makes me happier in my own life. It’s a show that says if you’ve got a life, enjoy it like you don’t get a second chance.”
For Pace, Pushing Daisies will probably provide second, third and fourth chances to show what a big talent he is, as evidenced by his performances in the period comedy Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and in the upcoming Possession, with Sarah Michelle Gellar, in which he plays dual roles. On the new season of Daisies Pace promises more bizarre plot twists (murder by a swarm of bees, anyone?), a foray into a nunnery, a stronger overall storyline and even greater romantic obstacles for his character and Anna Friel’s Chuck, whom he brought back from the dead and therefore, by the strictures of his unusual talent, is unable to touch, lest she expire permanently. Pace couldn’t be happier with where he and his show appear headed.
“I’m really lucky,” he says. “I’d never, ever get recognized in public even if I walked into a huge store wearing a Pushing Daisies t-shirt. And believe me, I’m happy wih that. I feel fortunate to have the job, and if it’s short, great, if it’s longer, so much he better. I don’t feel like this is by any mens the big break. I’m in no rush, I’m only 29, and movies and plays will still be there for me. I’m excited for the opportunities that could await me when the show is done, and for guys, the parts only get better as you get older.”
With such dyed-in-the-wool optimism, it’s no wonder Pace makes a perfect Ned.