As Ned on Pushing Daisies, Lee Pace plays one of the sweetest characters on television. I was lucky enough to score a few minutes on the phone with him this week to talk about the second season of Daisies, what's coming up for Ned, and what it's like to be on a show that's so outside the box. Here are highlights:
Has the show changed at all going into season two?
I think it has a lot. I think Bryan [Fuller]'s figured out a different way to tell the stories . . . With playing Ned, at least, I wanted to pick him up a year after the show had ended [last season]. So he's been with Chuck for a year, and he's a little more enthusiastic about life, he's a little more prepared for the curveballs that he's gonna be thrown this season.
And how did the events of season one change Ned?
Chuck coming to life was probably the biggest thing that's ever happened to him in his life. Ned is someone who's created a world around him that he understands and that he's comfortable with — he can make pies and give them to people. And then he's got Emerson pulling him along on these cases and making his life more complicated, and now he's got Chuck making his life more complicated. This season, Chuck is wanting a little more independence, which scares Ned, because her independence means someone could find out about him and what he can do, which is his worst fear.
Has playing Ned changed how you're perceived at all?
I think it has, actually. I've played a lot of bad characters in my life — not bad, but kind of rough, complicated characters, and Ned is such an adorable, sweet guy that I think people think that's who I am. . . . I am not unlike Ned — I'm pretty shy and kind of reclusive, but not as much as Ned. I should probably never describe myself as adorable.
Lots more from Pace on the mysteries of Ned, the feedback he hears about the show, and what he'd do with Ned's power, so read more.
Ned is also a pretty mysterious character, and we've learned a lot about him through the flashbacks with little Ned and little Chuck. Are there any things that surprised you about him when you read them in the script?
A few episodes down the line in this season, Ned — we're dealing with a lot of his past and family issues, like issues with his own father, issues with Chuck's father, killing him, and Ned gets a little angry. Ned gets a lot angry, actually, and it's good because that was kind of a surprising scene to read and those were fun scenes to play, fun to kind of stretch Ned a little bit. He's not defensive. He's a very active character. He's got hangups, he's got complications in his life, but you never get to see him get angry.
Do you have a favorite death or favorite awakening scene?
There's one on next week's episode when we're at the nunnery. I bring to life a nun who's been killed, and I think it's one of the funniest "alive again" scenes we've got because she's played by Mo Collins from Mad TV, and she's just really foul-mouthed and really funny. It's a really, really funny scene to have a nun talking the way she's talking.
There's really nothing this whimsical on television. When you got involved with the show, did you think there was anything risky in doing something that was so far outside the usual realm of US TV?
I don't think about it as risky at all, because I think it's a good show and I think you can't really go wrong if the material is quality because then you'll get a quality director and you'll get good actors to work on it with. It comes from Bryan Fuller, and that's already really good. . . . I didn't really see much of a risk on it being outside of the box. Those are all kind of things in its favor.
What's some of the most interesting feedback that you've gotten about the show?
One thing that I hear a lot is that people want to hear a kind of mythology about the show — like if there's going to be a way that Ned and Chuck will be able to touch at the end of the show. And my thinking is that this is what separates it from a comic book or a superhero story. There is no mythology. Ned is discovering his powers as the audience is, really.
The show's really known for its tongue-twisting dialogue. Are there any particular lines that you had a really hard time getting down?
Honestly, every day I've got one speech that I cannot — I have to motor through it and say it all really quickly. And it's never easy stuff that I'm saying either, it's all like "Happy Time Temp Agency." You fit all these words in your mouth and it's always really tricky, there's no way around it. I go in in the morning and I learn the lines and I shoot the scene and then the lines just go out of my head.
If you're just walking down the hallway, do you ever brush up against Anna Friel and freak out?
We actually bump into each other all the time — all the time! Anna will kind of run up and give me a big hug — earlier this week, she did it, and I kind of flinched a little bit, and she kind of jumped back and was like, "Did you just flinch when I gave you a hug?" I was like, "I'm sorry, I don't know where that came from!" It's just playing Ned. 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.
If you had Ned's power, do you think you would see it as a blessing or a curse?
I think it would be kind of a curse. It's caused Ned a lot of trouble, the power. I wouldn't particularly want it. I wouldn't want it at all, actually. But he was able to bring Chuck back to life — I don't know, it's complicated! As all things in life are.