Actors in offbeat ‘Pushing Daisies' must keep their distance

Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
PUSHING DAISIES - 8 p.m. EST Wednesdays - ABC

BURBANK, Calif. - Anna Friel avoids bumping into her "Pushing Daisies" co-star Lee Pace at all costs, at least when they are at work.

There's no tiff between the British actress who plays the optimistic Chuck and the Oklahoma native who portrays the heavy-hearted Ned. Fans of their show, "Pushing Daisies," know they can never touch during an episode. Chuck would die. She's only back among the living because Ned has this special ability.

This odd no-contact rule has turned the pair into the most unrequited lovers since Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

"Barry Sonnefeld was the director of the first episode. And his only note to us was, 'Guys, you have just got to be really careful.' Because of the format we shot in, there are times when our characters have to be close together, and everyone gets worried," Friel says during an interview on the show's central restaurant set at the Warner Bros. lot.

"Pushing Daisies" captured the fancy of viewers last year. The writers' strike ended the show after only nine episodes. It has not regained the same ratings magic in this, its second season. And the series will have been off the air for at least two weeks because of election coverage and the Country Music Association Awards.

The no-touch rule might create headaches for the cast and crew. But Friel is convinced it is the whole idea of "you can look but not touch" that viewers understand.

Friel says the boundaries make her work harder.

"If I reach out and touch you, that says so much. But rather you have to have 10 sentences to explain that. The power of touch is such an incredibly important sense. I have always said if I had to lose one sense, that is the one I would hate to lose," Friel says.

One touch onscreen would put a dagger into the mythology that has made the show so different. And it has been a different role for Friel. Most of the work she has done since she started acting at age 13 has been dramatic roles such as "The Fear" and "Goal!"

"I try to mix it up because there is a shelf life for every actress," Friel, 32, says. "As soon as the lines (on the face) begin to appear, then you start to play the mother as opposed to the girlfriend.

"I don't know what I would do if I couldn't act. So I decided to try and give myself longevity by being able to be a character actress rather than a pretty face."

She stops and smiles. Her cheeks turn slightly red. Friel adds, "That sounds a bit like I am saying I have a pretty face. It's an all-right face."

Her next film role, compared to "Pushing Daisies," will be as different as cherry and rhubarb pies. She gets to use her heavy British accent to play a Cambridge Medical student in the movie version of Saturday morning TV's "Land of the Lost."

Friel had not seen an episode of the TV series when she found herself auditioning with the film's star, Will Ferrell. They had to shout at pretend dinosaurs. In hindsight, Friel is glad she did not seek out the show. The character she plays was only 14 years old in the series.

"I still wear the pigtails, and she has a mouth on her," Friel says. "The big difference is you can no longer see the zippers on the Sleestak. And there is a nice love story."

At least in "Land of the Lost," Friel will be able to bump into her leading man.





A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.