Lee Pace & Anna Friel: Pushing Daisies

Source: Media Blvd. Magazine
Date: October 16, 2008
By: Christina Radish

The critically acclaimed ABC television series Pushing Daisies blends romance, fantasy and mystery in a forensic fairytale about Ned (Lee Pace), a young man with a very special gift. As a young boy, Ned discovers that he can return the dead briefly to life with just one touch. But, his random gift isn’t without deadly consequences, as he soon finds out. The first touch brings something or someone back to life, but the second touch makes them dead again, forever. And, if he keeps something alive for more than a minute, something else has to die in its place.

When private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) discovers Ned’s secret, he convinces the cash-strapped Ned to help him solve murder cases, and collect the hefty reward fees, by raising the dead and getting them to name their killers. After his childhood sweetheart, Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Anna Friel), is murdered on a cruise ship under strange circumstances and Ned brings her back to life, he can’t bring himself to touch her again.

Nominated for 12 Emmy Awards in its first season, Season 2 sees Ned and Chuck’s relationship changing as Chuck yearns for more independence and moves out of Ned’s apartment, without Ned’s support. Lovelorn waitress Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth) cracks under the pressure of keeping Aunt Lily’s (Swoosie Kurtz) deep dark secret — that Lily is Chuck’s mother — and runs off to a nunnery. Co-stars Lee Pace and Anna Friel spoke to MediaBlvd Magazine, while on a Warner Bros. Studios set visit after the new season started filming, about the charm of Pushing Daisies.

MediaBlvd Magazine: How did you feel about coming back after the writers’ strike, and getting to start over again?

Lee Pace: Really good! It felt like we hadn’t left. It was like we left work on Friday, and then we were back to work on Monday. That’s honestly what it felt like, the whole five or six months that we had the break. It was good to see everyone again. We have a lot of the same crew that we had last season, so it’s just been a lot of fun to be back.

Anna Friel: I missed Chuck a lot, so it was very nice to come back to Chuck, and to become American and wear pretty dresses again, rather than wearing a very tiny pair shorts and a little tank top, all the time.

MediaBlvd: Lee, what did you do, over the break?

Lee: I had a couple of movies come out, so I promoted those movies. And then, I just promoted Pushing Daisies. We went to Australia, London and South America. So, I felt like, for a time there, the only thing I did was give interviews and take pictures. I was like, “Is this really my life?”

MediaBlvd: What’s been the reaction to the show, in other countries?

Lee: People really like it, which is nice. I was wondering if it was going to be an American taste, but people like it in other countries.

Anna: England really liked it. For me, it was a big thing, being from England and going back to my home country. That’s the country that I obviously wanted it to do well in, and they received it like the critics have here. They praised it and thought it was a really remarkable piece of television. I was really proud.

MediaBlvd: Lee, what can you say about Ned for the new season? What’s going on with him?

Lee: In the first episode, Chuck moved out. As far as the romance goes, Ned is trying to fight to get her back, and I like Ned best when he’s fighting for something. When he’s out of his element, he’s fighting to get comfortable again, so there’s always something to do. And, Olive is in a nunnery. We’re trying to earn that maybe there is something between Ned and Olive. I think it might develop into a little bit of a triangle. I love working with Kristen Chenoweth. She’s a pleasure to work with. She always comes to the set with ideas, firing on all cylinders.

MediaBlvd: Are the character dynamics any different, between the leads and the co-stars?

Anna: Yeah. Olive and Chuck are at loggerheads. And, Chuck and Ned start off having a little bit of a problem. If it’s all just sweet and romantic all the time, then there’s no challenge and no conflict, and there’s no drama without conflict.

Lee: They’re developing a great story for Emerson (Chi McBride), where he’s looking for his daughter. It’s good that those conflicts change with the core characters.

MediaBlvd: What can we expect this season with the Ned and Chuck romance? How many creative ways will you find for the two of them to get together?

Anna: We have to be careful. Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed the first episode said, “Guys, you’ve got to make sure you’re not getting too close.”

Lee: We’re not always just sitting there, talking. We were playing this game, called Snap. When there’s a double, you snap.

Anna: It’s like Russian roulette. They were like, “Guys, you can’t be doing that!”

Lee: They had to cut all the way around that game. We just thought it was funny.

Anna: I move into Olive’s apartment, and then Ned gets distressed because he misses Chuck so much.

MediaBlvd: What creative ways are you going to come up with this season, to not touch each other?

Anna: Bryan Fuller invented a contraption that allows us to lie next to each other and spoon.

Lee: What I love about this show is that we’re not going to always look at each other and be like, “God, I wish I could kiss you, but I can’t.” It gets complicated with us. That’s one of the fun things that we’re finding that we can play. It’s not always that we’re in love. It’s, “Hey, I wish you wouldn’t move out of my apartment. You came into my life and I don’t want you to leave.” It’s a good conflict.

Anna: There was a hug machine, as part of one of the cases. I kept saying to Bryan that Chuck should try to take it away so that we can use that and pretend we’re giving each other hugs.

MediaBlvd: Do you think the relationship between Ned and Chuck is hotter because they can’t touch?

Lee: I think so, yeah. I think it’s a turn on.

Anna: Absolutely! There are lots of tantalizing things. There are suggestions. She comes wrapped in a big duvet, and he says, “You’re my king-sized duvet of goosed-down goodness.”

Lee: And I say, “I wish I could duvet you, right this second!”

MediaBlvd: Do you think they’ll ever find a way around it?

Lee: I hope they don’t. I think that would be wiggling out of it. We’ve set up this really great construct for these two characters, and we’ve got to stay true to it. They can never touch. They’ll never, never, never touch.

MediaBlvd: They’ll never marry or consummate, or anything else?

Anna: I was interested about that, and whether she could get artificially impregnated. I’m always asking that question.

Lee: Not while we’re on at 8 o’clock.

Anna: She could say, “Excuse me, while I just use my syringe.”

MediaBlvd: Have you ever wondered why, when Chuck is brought back to life, she doesn’t want to go to the other side of the continent to prevent ever touching the person who can cause her death again?

Anna: Of course, but she hasn’t got anywhere to go. She has no friends. She’s never left the house. She actually doesn’t know what to do. And, we do investigate all of that. We’re not just going, “Everything’s happy. I’m alive. It’s all wonderful.” That would get very, very dull, after awhile. She’s a three-dimensional character. You start to see all these layers, and you start to see her question and say, “I don’t actually know if I can do this. I’ve never been out in the world. I went from my aunts, who were shut-ins, and now I’m trapped in this same place again.”

MediaBlvd: How many times do you have to re-take scenes because you do actually touch?

Anna: Honestly, lots. That’s a constant note we always have. If it’s on a wide screen and you want the two of us to be in a wide shot together, you can’t move. One of Ned’s major characteristics is that he always holds his arms back, or puts his hands in his pockets, so we don’t get together.

MediaBlvd: In Season 1, we got to see a glimpse of how good Chuck was with the dead people, when she helped talk to some of them. Is she going to get to do more of that?

Anna: She was like a little angel. She wants to fulfill their last wishes, as opposed to Emerson and Ned, who want to find out who did it because they want the money. So, I do keep that side very much alive.

MediaBlvd: What are some of the cases you will be on this year?

Lee: In the first episode, we were in a honey factory. In the second episode, we were at the circus. In the third episode, we’re at the nunnery. In the fourth episode, we’re dealing with frescorts, which are friends-for-hire. It’s always something.

MediaBlvd: Is the ratio of solving mysteries to romance going to change at all in Season 2?

Anna: I think there is a little bit more case-smashing.

Lee: It goes back and forth. There are some episodes where we have more procedural than romance stuff. I love doing the romance.

Anna: Me too. That’s my favorite!

MediaBlvd: Why do you like it?

Anna: Because it’s so romantic!

Lee: It’s fun to do. The morgue is fun because we get really fun guest stars. But, me and Anna will shoot a scene in the apartment, and it’s fun just to fall in love.

MediaBlvd: So many TV shows are all about sex and showing as much as you can, but this show is the exact opposite. Do you think that this show resonates because of that unique relationship? Is that refreshing to people?

Anna: Yeah. If you go back to the days of Moonlighting, I remember watching, as a little girl, going, “Just get together! Please kiss, please kiss!” There’s that whole thing that makes you want to stay tuned because you don’t know what the end of the story is going to be. There’s that anticipation, and just the sheer romance that’s involved in it. It’s lighthearted and it’s just true, beautiful, simple love.

Lee: Chuck and Ned are never going to get drunk and sleep together. That’s a different show. That’ll never happen between them. My cousins called and said, “It’s just so good to be able to watch TV with my kids and not be embarrassed.”

Anna: My daughter watches it. She’s only three and she loves it. She goes, “Look Mummy, it’s Pushing Daisies!” She loved the episode with the mermaids because she’s obsessed with mermaids right now. And, it’s just so bright and visual.

MediaBlvd: What has the show taught you about romance?

Lee: It’s given me appreciation for old-fashioned romance. There was a New York Times article, a few months ago, about the death of the romantic comedy, talking about how romantic comedies begin with divorce now, or they begin with a baby being conceived. It’s not just about two people who care about each other a lot. This show has given me an appreciation for that being enough. It’s enough to love someone and choose to be with them, even though it’s hard. What I like about the first few episodes, and where I see the story going, is that it’s not always going to be easy with Ned and Chuck. That’s real. It’s not easy. They have conflict, and they have to maybe be apart and fight to get back together.

MediaBlvd: Anna, what has Chuck taught you?

Anna: That the longer you stretch out the flirting, the better the goodie in the box will be.

MediaBlvd: Have you applied that to your own life?

Anna: I might have.

MediaBlvd: Are you married?

Anna: We’ve been together for eight years, but I’m not married. It is a long-term relationship. When I met my guy, I thought he needed a big hug, so I hugged him. He came back to my house that night and we woke up to the house on fire. And, it made such a mess of the living room that we closed the door and went into the bedroom for the next three days. He moved in two days later, and has never left.

MediaBlvd: Was it love at first sight?

Anna: Yep. We had met four years before, on a plane to Cannes for the Best of British. When I first met him, I didn’t think he’d ever like me. Everyone was quite in awe of him because he’s a very well-known actor, called David Thewlis. In England, he’s a very big heavy-weight. We’re both Northerners. I was like, “Hello, David, I’m Anna. Nice to meet you. How are you doing?” But, I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t think he’d be interested. Two years later, we went out for dinner, and that was that.

MediaBlvd: Has he moved to Los Angeles with you?

Anna: Yeah. I had two days to make the decision, whether I would accept this role, which would have meant losing the place at the school that my daughter was going to go to and moving here. But, he is the biggest L.A. fan ever. He just absolutely loves it! I love it, too, now. I really do. I had first come when I was younger and I just didn’t really know anybody. I was scared of my roots disappearing, and of becoming someone else, but I really, really like it now. And, all of the English actors that I knew are all here anyway. My house has become a retreat. Jonny Lee Miller is one of my best friends, and he recently got married. I’m friends with Ben Chaplin and Sophia Myles, who was on Moonlight, and Lena Headey is on Terminator. Me, Lena and Sophia used to always go for the same jobs in England, and we would cross each other at auditions. Here, we were all filming on the same lot and we became really lovely friends.

MediaBlvd: What do you miss about England?

Anna: All my friends and my family, of course. I miss my mum and dad the most. The good thing is that everybody comes out to see me here. My brother is in his last year of his medical degree.

MediaBlvd: Does your daughter take after you, in any way?

Anna: 100%, totally. She’ll eat breakfast in the morning in a princess dress.

MediaBlvd: Do you think you have a little actress in the making then?

Anna: We will, with a daddy like David and a mom who’s an actress as well. I try to keep her as grounded as possible, but she comes to the set and has the most incredible visual stimulation that any kid could.

MediaBlvd: How old is she?

Anna: She’s three.

MediaBlvd: What’s the best thing about being a mommy?

Anna: What isn’t the best thing about being a mommy, especially now that we can have conversations with each other, and I know what she’s actually thinking, and whether she’s happy or not. I’m watching her learn. She goes to sleep and then, the next morning, so many weird transitions have happened in her brain that have connected things together.

MediaBlvd: What’s the most surprising thing she’s come up with lately?

Anna: A huge, 20-words-long sentence about how she was feeling and what she did. She’s a really wonderful dancer. Her favorite present that I got for her birthday was a long stick with this huge multi-colored ribbon that you can do all these twirls with. It was really spectacular. And, I do a lot of photography. Danny McBride got me into Super 8 cameras, so we did a lot of our own backstage stuff on Land of the Lost, and I’m starting to do it here. Gracie loved Nirvana, when she was really young, and we’ve got her rocking out in a nappy. We should put that on YouTube.

MediaBlvd: What’s your favorite Pie Hole pie?

Anna: I always ask for apple because I’m a traditional type of girl.

Lee: I like apple. In the script, there is a lot of talk about rhubarb custard, and that sounds good.

Anna: Lee put a testicle in my trailer.

Lee: It was not a human testicle. David Arquette was our guest star, and he comes to make meat pies, so he brings all these awful innards to make these pies. So, before Anna got to work, I took one of the bull testicles and put it in her trailer.

Anna: And, I have a really weak stomach, so I was on the set, retching.

MediaBlvd: Who else is guest-starring this season?

Lee: We had Diana Scarwid, who was in Wonderfalls with me. And, Mo Collins plays a really funny nun.

Anna: There’s a very good one coming up, but we can’t say.

MediaBlvd: Are there any other new sets, besides the nunnery?

Lee: Every episode, there’s a big, new set. The first episode had the most beautiful set we’ve done so far, called Betty’s Bees.

Anna: Chuck gets her very first job, where she works in a place that makes honey because of her love for bees.

Lee: But, it’s a big, beautiful office that looks like a honeycomb.

MediaBlvd: Did you ever have any concerns that the first season was too weird and not accessible enough for a wide audience?

Lee: Not really. I really trust Bryan Fuller, and I think he’s got a really good sensibility and really good taste. It’s quirky and it’s odd, and it’s not like everything else, but I think that’s one of the good things about it. I didn’t really have concerns about that.

Anna: It was really, really important to me for it to do well in England. I kept thinking, “Are they going to get that sharp humor, and like how quick the dialogue is?” It’s very American. It’s a very different kind of show. But, they do love it. They absolutely adore it! That meant so much to me. The critics took it in the same way that they did in America.

MediaBlvd: Was there anything that you wanted to see develop that you didn’t get a chance to have develop because of the writers’ strike?

Lee: We’ve picked up where we left off. It is a year later. Of course, it would have been great to shoot more episodes, and I wish we could have, but there was nothing we could do about the strike.

MediaBlvd: As stunning as the show looks visually, what do you think it is about the story that keeps people coming back?

Anna: I don’t want to be vein and bring it to me, but I think the love story is a great big pull. And, people also want to know what’s going to happen. There is so much scope there. You have two people who can’t ever touch, you have someone who’s been brought back to life and was brought up by two mad aunts, you have two people making money off of other people’s misfortunate, and you have comedy. I think there is lots and lots there. There are so many angles. And, they’re also making them very self-contained episodes, so it’s not the kind of thing where you turn it on and, if you haven’t watched the last five episodes, you’re not going to understand what’s happening. There’s always the recap, and each and every case has a beginning, middle and end, for each episode. You don’t have to sit there, every single week. If you miss one, you can still understand it.

MediaBlvd: How do you prepare to put on those tightly cinched dresses that Chuck wears?

Anna: Underpinnings, like the old girls used to have. Everything is boned. All the dresses have got bones in them.

MediaBlvd: Do you do anything to work out?

Anna> I have this contraption outside my trailer. It’s how every girl should work out. I have a little tent and I have what’s possibly the biggest vibrator that you’ve ever seen. It’s called the Power Plate, and it vibrates. I can’t go to the gym with all the hair and make-up. It would take too long to redo. So, it’s the best machine I’ve ever used. It makes each and every muscle vibrate, 40 times per second, so you only have to do 10 minutes a day. It works, I swear to god. I hate work-outs. I can’t bear it. For Land of the Lost, I had to be really fit and fighting all the time, in a little pair of shorts, so I did this every single day and it’s remarkable. All the cast was like, “What is that? What’s she doing?” And, literally, a day later, everyone was using it.

MediaBlvd: What do you both do to de-stress?

Lee: I hike. That’s about it. I read a lot. I enjoy reading. And, I bought a great house this year.

Anna: I’ll do things, like turn what was a decrepit old tree-house into a beautiful, shabby-chic tower for my daughter, with lights and all that. And, I’m big on the garden. I love to cook. I make really, really good salads, soups and stews, from my Irish heritage. Give me a flea market or a vintage store and I’m as happy as a pig in the muck. I much prefer to go through the old stuff. That was a lot of the influence with Chuck as well. I love how women used to dress. It was a big deal to go out, every time.

MediaBlvd: Anna, did you do any film projects during the writers’ strike?

Anna: I was very lucky. A week later, I had an audition for a Will Ferrell movie, called Land of the Lost, and I got the lead in that. It’s me, Will Ferrell and Danny McBride. When I first came back onto Daisies, I had two weeks where I worked 7-day weeks. I would pop over and do a scene for Chuck, and then I’d go back and do the movie. I have not had a break.

MediaBlvd: What was it about Land of the Lost that made you want to get involved with the project?

Anna: I’d always wanted to work with Brad Silberling, the director. He did Lemony Snicket. I had met him for a film he did, called Moonlight Mile, about five years prior. I just thought he was a very clever director, and that he’d know what to do with a project like that. And, it was the fact that I could play British, in my actual, own accent, which I hadn’t done for ages. It was a real treat. And, I always choose something that’s going to terrify me a bit, like working with the best improviser, in Will Ferrell. I can’t say nice enough things about him. He is the most wonderful, giving, respectful man I’ve ever met. He’s funny, but he doesn’t have the pressure to be on, all the time. He’s very, very comfortable in his own skin. And, Danny McBride, from Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder, was great.

MediaBlvd: Lee, what is Possession and when will that be coming out?

Lee: That will be out in January, from what I’m hearing. It’s a sexy thriller, and I play this baddie. Sarah Michelle Gellar is married to my character’s brother, who is a really good guy. We get into a car accident and I wake up from the coma, insisting that I’m him. And then, I’m a good guy.