Lee Pace, Anna Friel: TV’s most romantic ‘untouchables’

Source: Inquirer
Date: September 28, 2008
By: Ruben V. Nepales

Lee Pace and Anna Friel are currently TV’s most romantic no-touch couple, thanks to their quirky, beloved series, “Pushing Daisies.”

Anna, who admitted to being an atypical British, said she is “really tactile.” So in their joint interview, she occasionally locked arms with Lee, who plays Ned, a pie maker who has the power to bring the dead back to life with the touch of his hand. Anna is Chuck, Ned’s childhood sweetheart who is really dead but has been resurrected though his touch. They can’t touch again or else Chuck will become permanently dead. So they pine for each other. And nobody does the longing look better than Lee, whose hangdog expression is causing many viewers to swoon.

Audiences are also falling for Anna and the rest of the cast, Chi McBride, Ellen Greene, Jim Dale (narrator), Swoosie Kurtz and Kristin Chenoweth, whom we featured in our column last Saturday, and the show’s imaginative writing and colorful look. While key scenes take place in Ned’s The Pie Hole restaurant, “Pushing Daisies” features elaborate scenes that make the series look more like a feature film. Bryan Fuller created the series which received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, with early episodes directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.

Below are excerpts of our chat with Lee and Anna:

How do you express your love to one another, bearing in mind that you can’t touch?

Anna: It’s all about the eyes. The challenge is to be able to show you love someone without being able to touch because a touch can express so much, so many words. I look into those lovely dreamy eyes (of Lee’s) and it’s not that hard.

Lee: It gives us something to play with.

They come up with creative ways for you to kiss, like through Saran Wrap.

A: The last script we got said, “Ned and Chuck have their first adult kiss.” I don’t know how we’re going to get around that one. I am going to be quite scared, I think (laughter).

L: But it gives us something good to do. Because a lot of the show is about heartbreak and about how people who desperately want to connect but can’t. Ned and Chuck do want to connect. In the second season, you will really see that deep longing to connect but it is even harder.

It’s interesting that touching through plastic like Saran Wrap doesn’t count.

A: I know, isn’t it?

How adult can that be?

A: The plastic starts to get thinner and thinner. I’m scared that it would break. But it would be a nice way to die. At least it would be death with a beautiful kiss.

In real life, how much of a touch person are you?

A: I’m really tactile. I’m very close to my mum and dad. I get my big lovely hugs all the time. It’s not nice to be able to work with someone so gorgeous (as Lee is) and not be able to go “Hi” (and she demonstrated physical contact by locking an arm with Lee’s).

L: I sometimes have a hard time getting close to people. Anna caught me when we were shooting. Someone had come up to me and touched me. I kind of flinched. Anna said, “That’s Ned.”

How challenging is it to keep remembering the no-touch rule while you are taping scenes?

A: We do get in trouble a lot because sometimes we won’t be aware, especially if it’s an emotional scene.

Since you play childhood sweethearts who shared the first kiss, can you tell us about your first kiss in real life?

L: My first kiss was very awkward. I’ll say the girl’s name if people promise not to print it (laughter).

It’s just between us (laughter).

L: Her name is actually very funny. [He mentioned the name.] I remember walking around the back of the junior high school and holding her hands. Both our hands were all sweaty. We kissed and we didn’t know what to do with our tongues. Then we pulled away and went like, “Was that it? Yeah, I think that’s it (laughter). All right, let’s go home.”

A: I got taught. I got to practice. I used to go to my godparents every weekend. Their son taught me how to do it (laughter) because I didn’t know how. He showed me on his hand so it wasn’t particularly romantic. I thought, at least when it does get romantic, I’ll know what to do. My girlfriends and I used to lie in bed and we’d practice on our own hands. I don’t know how many girls will ever admit to doing that. You quite don’t know what to do with the tongue bit.

What kind of comments about the show or your characters do you get from strangers?

L: I get the “Oh, shake my hand. Oh, I’m dead” bit.

The show has a lot of rabid fans who ask questions about your powers on the Internet like if Ned touches a skeleton, will that skeleton come back to life in that condition?

L: One of the things I love about Ned is that Bryan Fuller wrote the character in such a way that Ned doesn’t know the extent of his powers. There are things he’s still going to discover.

The show, in a way, reflects our fascination with the topic of death.

L: It’s one of the big mysteries. I remember being in a church in New York. The pastor talked about how one of the things that separates us from animals is that we know we’re going to die. We know we’re going to lose people close to us, that we’re going to have to deal with the pain. The pastor said that’s what brings us to look for God. But the show is about life primarily.

Anna, you are quite well known in England. How has your life changed since you moved to the US?

A: I bought a house. I have a three-year-old daughter. The first time I came to America to work, I spent a lot of time in New York because I did Broadway. I did “Closer.” I think I just wasn’t old enough. I wasn’t ready. The whole idea of America terrified me. I went back to my lovely career in England. I did more theater and lots of European movies. I wanted to become as good as I can before I can say hello to one of the most important countries in the world as far as acting careers go.

I came back to get an agent and I was offered lots of TV shows. Very fortunately, “Pushing Daisies” was the one that I couldn’t say no to. My partner, David Thewlis, is also an actor. He had spent a lot of time in LA a few years ago and couldn’t wait to move here. America has really embraced me.

How has becoming the star of a TV show changed your lifestyle?

L: I rent my house. I lease my car. It’s just me and my dog. I camp on the weekends. There’s a lot of really beautiful places around Southern California like the Joshua Tree National Park. There’s beautiful wildlife around here. I hike every morning. If I’m not called to work early in the morning, I take the dog out to Runyon Canyon Park. He’s an English pointer. His name is Carl. I just lost my phone. I would have showed you pictures of him on my phone.

I like being alone a lot. I don’t really love a fast-track Hollywood life. I dream about having a house by the water and not doing anything, not feeling ambitious nor having the need to make money.

A: I’m the opposite of Lee. I love being with people. I’m not very good at being on my own because I come from a big family. I’d much rather have my mum and dad here. That makes me sound like a baby, doesn’t it?

So do you eat pies on the set?

L: Ned never eats pie because he touched all the food back to life. Chuck eats the pie.

A: We have a real pie maker. The Pie Hole actually smells of freshly cooked pie because there’s a man in the back of the fake kitchen who’s making real pies all the time. It’s really hard to be disciplined (and not eat the pie).

What can we expect in the new season?

L: We go into Chuck and Ned’s families a lot. We see their fathers again.

If you really had the power to bring dead people back to life, who would you touch?

A: Gandhi, because the world is in desperate need of a great leader. He would have a lot of things to teach. It’s a very messed up world at the minute.

L: I’d bring back just about everyone for a minute. I wouldn’t let anyone live longer than a minute because someone else has to die.