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Bringing the dead back to life has not traditionally ended well for fictional characters. Frankenstein was destroyed by his own monster, and zombies seem to only cause trouble. This fall, ABC's new series Pushing Daisies offers a different sort of resurrection dilemma.

Ned (Lee Pace) has the ability to bring the dead back to life briefly with just one touch. He discovered his unique talent as a young boy. Grown up Ned puts his talents to good use, such as by touching dead fruit and making it ripe. Not surprisingly, he opens a pie shop. But his gift leaves him wary of becoming close to anyone. So when private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) finds out about Ned’s secret. Cod convinces the cash-strapped Ned to help him solve murder cases (and collect the hefty reward). He can just ask the victims who killed them. Unfortunately though, Ned's second touch returns the subject to the grave, permanently. So when he brings back his childhood sweetheart Charlotte "Chuck" Charles (Anna Friel), who was just murdered on a cruise ship under strange circumstances, he has strong feelings for her, so he decides to leave her alive. But the quandary he finds himself in is- he can never touch her again. That would kill her for good.

"I think the conditions of his life give him something very tricky to deal with," Pace told Dish recently. "From the beginning moments of the pilot, he's created a place from where he understands that. He can bake a pie. He can give people fresh pie and goodness and be a generous person within a small world. Then he brings Chuck back to life and his entire life is blown open."Pushing Daisies" is the kind of show where Charlotte is abbreviated to Chuck. It also boasts a visually surreal aesthetic. Somehow a show about death becomes a life-affirming romance.

"[It is] the most positively uplifting character I've ever played," said Friel. "There are lots of very dramatic roles that involve lots and lots of crying and very serious stuff. This role is something that's incredibly new to me. It's very, very refreshing because I do not like crying. I think it's what's called for. It's this and a space in the television schedule so that when people get back from work they can be uplifted, and reminded that there are nice things out there, and remember that love and romance [exist]. It's a very funny show."

Ned does not get mired in the tragic irony of his gift. Even he learns to see the benefits of his ability. "He learns something new every episode about how to enjoy his life, how to make other people's lives a better place," said Pace. "That's the big psychology behind his gift. It's a good gift. It's a life-giving gift but it's a tricky one, one that comes with consequence and one that comes with dilemma. At the end of the day, I think he's a good person and a decent, smart person. I think he'll make some good decisions, I hope."

The first episodes have been directed by Barry Sonenfeld, of the Men in Black and Addams Family movies, who will continue to executive produce the show. To help sell the fantasy world, he orders the actors to say their lines fast and flat. This was an adjustment for the thespians but they have warmed up to it.

"It's great," said Pace. "With someone like Barry, you trust his taste. He's got great, great taste. So if you just kind of follow that train that he's on, you can give good stuff that you didn't know you had."

Most romantic shows keep their lovebirds apart for the run of the series. Once they get together, it's all over. Given Pushing Daisies' unique dilemma, the writers are already finding opportunities to let Chuck and Ned touch safely. That is part of the fun.

"My main question after watching the pilot was it's fantastic and it's wonderful but where are you going to go from here?" said Friel. "What are we going to do? They said there's going to be a theme that every single week they're going to find a way of touching. I've seen the outlines for the first six episodes now, and each time on the series, it's incredibly inventive. Every single time I'm like, 'Oh my God, they do what? We do what?' There are windmills involved and dandelion cars. It's a big treasure chest of fancy dress clothes and being able to put them on, but it's like that with ideas."

To help establish the characters' relationship, Pace and Friel had the opportunity to become close after filming the pilot. Pace shot a film in London and socialized with Friel all summer. "It helps that we like each other a lot," said Pace. "We get along really, really well, so we've become good friends. Two months in London together having a really good time."

Still, the limitations on Ned and Chuck make the relationship fun to perform. "I think it makes it more exciting not to be able to touch," said Friel. "It's the longest foreplay ever in existence."

Pushing Daisies has already been singled out by critics for its originality in the new fall line-up. Pace just hopes that such acclaim translates to viewers. "It's great. It's fantastic that people like the show and I'm really grateful that people like it so far. If people like it as much when they tune in on October 3rd, I'll be really grateful for that. We'll see."

Pushing Daisies premieres on Wednesday, October 3 at 8pm et/pt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 75 - September 2018
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