15 Lively Facts About Pushing Daisies
Years before Bryan Fuller created the visually stunning Hannibal, there was the equally pretty and just plain strange world of Pushing Daisies. Lee Pace starred as Ned, a pie-maker who could bring the dead back to life with a simple touch—and back to the dead again with a second touch.
After the love of his life, Chuck (Anna Friel), is murdered, Ned brings her back to life and develops a romance with her, though the two can never touch. Chi McBride played Emerson Cod, a private investigator who enlists Ned’s help in solving cases. In a touch of irony mentioned many times by now, Pushing Daisies had the misfortune of being pronounced dead by ABC in 2008, right before it became standard practice for cult shows to be resurrected. Here are some facts about the beloved series, which premiered 10 years ago today.
1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY INTENDED TO BE A SPINOFF OF DEAD LIKE ME.
Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller left his former creation, Dead Like Me, before its second season, during which he planned to introduce Ned as an adversary for George's grim reaper. Ned would have revived dead bodies before George could claim them, and a romance would have transpired.
2. ADAM BRODY TURNED DOWN PLAYING NED.
Fuller wanted Lee Pace for the role of Ned, but was told by Pace’s agents that he was only interested in movies. So he approached Adam Brody, who said he wasn’t ready to do another series so soon after The O.C. had ended. Then Pace’s manager went around his agents and got Pace the pilot script, which the actor loved.
3. CHI MCBRIDE PITCHED EMERSON’S BACKSTORY HIMSELF.
Chi McBride suggested to Fuller that his character became a private investigator to find his daughter, who disappeared after his ex ran off with her. According to the actor, Fuller initially had a “completely different” story in mind for Emerson.
4. ANNA FRIEL HAD A LITTLE RITUAL BEFORE SHOOTING A SCENE.
Dubbed “The Anna” by director Barry Sonnenfeld, Anna Friel would pump her arms rapidly, like someone running in place, before each scene to keep her energy up. Eventually, Pace, Swoosie Kurtz, and Ellen Greene (who played her aunts) did it, too.
5. FRIEL USED AN AMERICAN ACCENT ALL DAY ON SET.
The English actresses only slipped back to her British accent when her mother called (Mrs. Friel didn’t like the American accent). Jim Dale, the show's narrator, didn’t even realize that Friel was British "until I heard her being interviewed."
6. LEE PACE STAYED IN CHARACTER WHENEVER FRIEL TRIED TO HUG HIM.
Since Ned and Chuck could never touch, Pace and Friel attempted to not make physical contact with one another for a week, and failed repeatedly. Friel once tried to give Pace a hug, and Pace instinctively flinched. "It's just playing Ned," Pace explained. "I shouldn't be flinching when a beautiful girl like Anna Friel gives me a hug, but I flinched! That's weird, that's odd, that's not normal."
7. THERE WAS A NOTED AMÉLIE INFLUENCE.
Cinematographer Michael Weaver said that Fuller, Barry Sonnenfeld (who directed the first two episodes of Pushing Daisies), an executive producer for the series, and he all agreed to give the show a feel “somewhere between Amélie and a Tim Burton film—something big, bright, and bigger than life.” Pushing Daisies music composer and arranger Jim Dooley described his score as “having an Amélie type of sound.”
8. BARRY SONNENFELD HAD A "NO BLUES" RULE.
Production designer Michael Wylie’s instruction from Sonnenfeld was “virtually no blues.” Friel told ITV, “there’s no blue at all. The director hated blue,” before revealing another big influence for the show was the work of Nighthawks artist Edward Hopper.
9. KRISTIN CHENOWETH MADE A VERY SPECIFIC SONG REQUEST.
Kristin Chenoweth told Fuller that she wanted to sing "Eternal Flame" on the show. Fuller granted her wish, and Chenoweth's Olive sang her heart out in the episode “Comfort Food.” Had the show continued, there would have been an all-musical episode.
10. THE VIEW OF THE TOWN FROM THE PIE HOLE WAS A 180-FOOT LONG, 18-FOOT HIGH ‘TRANSLIGHT.'
It was created from photographs of a series of matte paintings.
11. THE VISUAL EFFECTS SUPERVISOR WAS SO GOOD, SOMETIMES HIS JOB WASN’T RECOGNIZED.
Because there wasn’t enough in the budget to get permission to shoot in the classic Bradbury building, which was used for movies like Double Indemnity and Blade Runner, William Powloski was tasked with recreating it. He went to the building, took 2000 digital photos, and created a digital version of the building.
"Our crew saw the result and asked, 'When did you go shoot the Bradbury building? Because the footage cuts right in with our set,'" Powloski recalled. "I hear this from colleagues, too, 'Hey, great shot inside the Bradbury.' And you really can't see the difference between the physical set and the very specific extension of one of the city's most well-known interiors. You know what, I know where to look and I don't see the seams either. I just love that!"
12. IT HAD MORE EMMY NOMINATIONS THAN EPISODES AFTER ITS FIRST SEASON.
Because of the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike, Pushing Daisies's first season was only nine episodes long. The show was nominated for 12 Emmys, and won three (including awards for Sonnenfeld and Dooley in their respective categories). In 2009, a year after Fuller had confirmed the series' cancellation, Pushing Daisies won four more Emmys, including one for Chenoweth as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
13. FULLER NEVER WANTED TO REVEAL HOW NED GOT HIS POWERS.
Fuller said that if that part of the mythology was ever revealed, “then all the fun goes out the window.”
14. HAD THE SERIES CONTINUED, THE NARRATOR WOULD HAVE APPEARED, AND THE CORONER WOULD HAVE HAD A CRUSH ON EMERSON.
Fuller intended to put Jim Dale in front of the camera. He also later revealed that Sy Richardon’s coroner character was gay, and his infatuation with Emerson would have been introduced if Daisies had not been cancelled.
15. A FUTURE MOVIE AND/OR MUSICAL ISN’T OUT OF THE QUESTION.
In 2014, Fuller claimed he had met with Sonnenfeld about finding financing for a musical, and talked to Netflix about a “lost season.” Though that was a few years ago, fans are still hoping that Pushing Daisies will rise again.