CHANGE OF PACE

Push­ing Daisies is a love story and a mur­der mys­tery with a whim­si­cal twist. Guy Davis talked love, life and death with its star, Lee Pace.

Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide - - FEATURE -

OAn un­con­ven­tional com­bi­na­tion of mys­tery and ro­man­tic com­edy keeps Lee Pace smil­ing. ver the years, the term “quirky” has gone from be­ing a mark of dis­tinc­tion to a warn­ing sign. To help their work stand out from the crowd, many creative types throw in all man­ner of odd­ball bits and pieces, and the re­sults can be twee, too cute by half or just plain an­noy­ing.

But quirk isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. In­deed, when it’s done right, a movie, song or TV show that is a lit­tle off­beat can pro­vide a ter­rific, re­fresh­ing con­trast to the main­stream.

The new se­ries Push­ing Daisies … well, it’s a lit­tle weird. How else are you go­ing to de­scribe a whim­si­cal ro­man­tic com­edy about a mild-man­nered baker who can bring peo­ple back from the dead?

“I al­ways feel so stupid, like I’m not do­ing the show jus­tice when I try to say ‘I play Ned, who can touch dead peo­ple and bring them back to life, but if I touch them a sec­ond time, then they die. And if I keep them alive for more than a minute, then some­one else will die’,” said Lee Pace, the star of the se­ries.

“It makes it sound like CSI with a twist. It’s a re­ally tricky one to de­scribe.”

That it is, but in a good way. In a twist on the usual crime-in­ves­ti­ga­tion yarn, Ned uses his gift to help ill-tem­pered de­tec­tive Emer­son (Chi McBride) crack mur­der cases.

But one of their cases has a heart­break­ing twist when they dis­cover that the vic­tim is Char­lotte (Anna Friel), the child­hood sweet­heart Ned never stopped loving.

He brings her back to life but can now never touch her again. The course of true love rarely runs smooth, but on Push­ing Daisies it tends to in­volve bee­keep­ers’ suits or a whole lot of plas­tic wrap.

So it’s a ro­mance with a slightly me­lan­choly touch, and a mur­der mys­tery with a play­ful side. Tough sell. But the gen­er­ally op­ti­mistic and hope­ful tone of the show gives it an ap­peal all of its own.

The like­able cast helps a lot as well, with charm­ing UK ac­tor Friel and im­pos­ing tough-guy ac­tor McBride adding tex­ture to the se­ries.

But much of Push­ing Daisies’ suc­cess hinges on the char­ac­ter of Ned, the kind of role that re­quires both the pres­ence of a lead­ing man and the charms of a char­ac­ter ac­tor. And Pace brings both to the ta­ble.

Se­ries cre­ator Bryan Fuller knew he needed Ned to be “this like­able guy”. Hav­ing worked with Pace on his short-lived but crit­i­cally ac­claimed se­ries Wonderfalls, he be­lieved the 30-year-old ac­tor to be “adorable, vi­o­lently charm­ing and in­tensely like­able”.

So he crafted the cen­tral role with Pace in mind. Pretty flat­ter­ing, you might imag­ine, but there was a hitch. When it came time to line up the show’s cast, Pace was com­plet­ing an eye-catch­ing sup­port­ing role in The Good Shep­herd and the ac­tor’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives were more fo­cused on film roles.

“His agents shut the door in our faces,” Fuller said.

For­tu­nately, wiser heads soon pre­vailed. “The more I thought about it, I couldn’t see it go­ing wrong,” Pace said.

Born in Ok­la­homa, Pace grew up in Texas, where he ini­tially ex­celled as a swim­mer. But when in­juries forced him to quit the pool, his mother sug­gested drama and de­bat­ing as al­ter­na­tives.

Pace soon won praise for his the­atre work, as well as his per­for­mance as a trans­sex­ual in the tele­movie Sol­dier’s Girl.

When it came time to au­di­tion for the role of Ned on Push­ing Daisies, he was con­fi­dent. Not only did he have the sup­port of the show’s cre­ator, he felt the net­work ex­ec­u­tives were be­hind him as well.

“Every­one in the room re­ally wants you to get it,” he said.

“You wouldn’t be there un­less they re­ally wanted you to get it. They want you to come in and be your­self and knock it out of the park. They don’t want to see you try to be Ge­orge Clooney. They don’t want to see you try to be some­thing that you’re not.”

And he clearly did, achiev­ing both Emmy and Golden Globe nom­i­na­tions for his per­for­mance as Ned. While the show has not been re­newed for a new sea­son, Pace re­vealed that he had noth­ing but good mem­o­ries of mak­ing Push­ing Daisies.

“With this show, it’s just so fun and light-hearted,” he said. “I don’t wake up grumpy. I wake up and it’s ‘Ah, it’s a sunny day in LA and I get to go shoot Push­ing Daisies’.”

Colour­ful char­ac­ters: From left, Swoosie Kurtz, Ellen Greene, Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Kristin Chenoweth and Chi McBride ne­go­ti­ate life in a dif­fer­ent way in the play­ful drama Push­ing Daisies.

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