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Feature: Pushing Daisies
The ex-Brookside star Anna Friel said ‘Never again’ after her first try in Hollywood. Then a quirky pie-maker came along…
It’s the ultimate ‘Will-they, won’t-they?’ love story – with the twist that they never can – and it’s captured the imagination of viewers around the world. After a spate of sex-obsessed shows from Californication to Sex in the City it’s the old fashioned romance of Pushing Daisies that’s won fans’ hearts, because, as star Anna Friel says, the sugar candy-coloured fairy tale appeals to the old fashioned romantic in everyone.
“I think it goes back to the days when we watched all those wonderful black and white movies and we’d be totally satisfied with just the kiss at the very end,” Friel comments. “We didn’t have to be completely naked and show everything for everyone to be happy. It’s the old-fashioned idea of romance. You are willing them and wanting them to be together because love wins and the heart conquers all. I compare it to Moonlighting, with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd, every single week you watched them because they never ever quite got together, and you willed them and you wanted them to, and I think it keeps that kind of hook.”
No matter how unusual it is for TV couples to stay together without jumping into bed, Friel knows the old-fashioned principle of romance can work in real life. Her own grandfather and grandmother had the ultimate chaste courtship before they tied the knot.
“My grandma and granddad didn’t kiss for the first two years of their relationship and stayed together for their whole married life,” she says. “I love that but I’m just a big old hopeless romantic.”
But the whole premise of Pushing Daisies means no matter how hard viewers are hoping for a happy ending, there’s no way round the fact that Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Charles will die if she and pie-maker Ned ever so much as brush hands. It means while the pair are falling in love they have to come up with increasingly elaborate ways of getting round their problem. From body bags to beekeepers’ outfits they try to find ways of staying close without risking Chuck’s life, which for the actress who made her name with that Brookside kiss has meant learning to kiss through cling film.
“It was a little bit weird, you just had to make sure you timed your breathing, but there was something strangely romantic about it,” she comments. “The body bags were awkward, I didn’t know whether I’d be able to get his lips or not. But as the series goes on the plastic gets thinner and thinner.
“It’s been fascinating though because as they can’t touch it makes you use your eyes to say so much more,” she adds. “It’s not that they don’t want to have sex, they do, but they have to find ways round it.”
Right at the start Friel and her co-star Lee Pace decided to test out how hard it would really be not to touch by setting themselves the challenge of avoiding contact both on-set and off, but immediately floundered.
“We decided to try method acting,“ Friel laughs. “We decided to try, just for one week, not to touch each other at all. But I’m a very tactile person, if I’m sitting next to you I’ll be on your lap hugging you, so by day three I’d been dead six times. I was absolutely useless at it.”
by Jenny Eden
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