Blast got to have an in depth talk with “Pushing Daisies” creator Bryan Fuller. We talked about what we can expect from its second season, the 12 Emmy nominations it got for its nine aired episodes, and just how much we both love McDonald’s deep-fried pies:
BLAST: How goes the filming of “Pushing Daisies”?
BF: It’s going really well; we’re filming episode seven right now. We start episode eight Friday [August 29], and we’re moving along. We just turned in our outline for episode 10 and are story doc-ing it for episode 11 and about to turn in our story for 12 and we have 13 episodes ordered and so we have one more to go in the order before they have to tell us if we’re doing more or not. So it’s very exciting.
BLAST: You guys got cut really short last year. How did that change the story progression?
BF: You know, there’s a lot of stuff that we’re doing this year that we were going to do in the first season, but I think what really helped us is the fact that this is the second season and there were some stories the network was really nervous about like “I don’t know if that’s a first season story or if you should save that for second season.” It really actually helped us to come back with the second season so we could do some of the stories they were nervous about letting us do in the first season, since we had such a short first season, we got to do right away in the second season. It also really helped us kind of get perspective on the show. When the shut down happened, when it was like “Pencils down” from the Writer’s Guild, we were almost at the end of our scripts anyways, so we were scrambling to get another script ready, and then the shut down happened, so we didn’t have to worry about that. So a lot of those ideas we kind of got back-burnered but the specific episodes; we redid like one or two of them and there are still quite a few that we want to do from last year that were going to be part of the first season. The good thing is that we were just able to get perspective. So we took a step back from the show and being on break and working the terrors of production gave us a chance to just stop and say “Okay, what’s the story that we want to tell?”, “Where are these characters going?” It just gave us the necessary breathing room to chart out a second season which I am really proud of and very excited by. I think the writer’s strike allowed us to not get trapped in the sophomore slump of shows and you feel kind of a lag in the creativity because you see it literally go right from one to the other, and in this case it really allowed us to recharge our batteries, consider what was working on the show and maybe what was not working as well and just have a much more invigorated approach to the second season.
BLAST: Can you give us a preview of what we might be seeing in the second season?
BF: Well all the cliff-hangers that we had; we had the cliff-hanger with Swoosie Kurtz’s character Lily, that plays a big factor in the first three episodes. Really, beyond that, it really is just a big game changer that affects all of the characters; we understand why that secret was kept and why Lily made the choices that she did to not be honest with Chuck about their relationship and we see what happens when Olive, who has been keeping all these secrets from everybody, how her breakdown sends her off to a nunnery to keep those secrets and what happens when she comes back and lets Chuck know and where does that take Chuck, what’s Chuck’s reaction. She’s in a difficult situation because she can’t just go to Lily. Here are these two people like mother and daughter who both think the other one is dead, and it puts them in a really odd situation that we’re going to have a lot of fun with that drama of that particular situation. We also are introducing a character in episode five named Dwight Dixon played by Stephen Root, and he will have a shared history with Chuck’s father and Ned’s father and will stir up a lot of hullaballoo for Ned and he becomes a catalyst to really bring the aunts into the story of the Pie Hole in a way that we really hadn’t seen last year because it was one of those things we were forced to do because of Chuck’s situation and people not knowing she was alive again was to keep the aunts separate. In our first episode, we have the aunts marching through the front door of the Pie Hole and what happens to our characters when that world starts to encroach on theirs and how do they react. It really is about trying to put the characters in really fun situations where they’re forced to keep the secrets that they’ve been trying to keep keeping but may not be able to for long because the walls between worlds are crumbling down.
BLAST: So is it safe to safe to say that Chuck’s secret becomes more tenuous? That it might be harder to keep, which we were kind of seeing at the end of last season?
BF: Yes, definitely. We’re definitely steering towards as much drama as we can mine from that idea as possible. Last year we had an episode “The Fun in Funeral” where Chuck discovers that a watch that was buried with her was stolen by the funeral director, and she gets it back. That watch basically plays a pivotal role around the middle of the season, and we understand that there is significant weight on that watch and that people want it for various reasons.
BLAST: Last season, surprisingly for it being cut short, felt very un-rushed; the progression still felt really natural. Where will the second season pick up?
The second season picks up ten months after the first season. They’re kind of in the same place where Chuck and Ned ‚ we saw last season were in an emotionally difficult place and those wounds have healed and they’re moving forward, but who hasn’t ‚ healed is Olive who’s been forced to be the keeper of a great many secrets. We pick up in a way that that picks up kind of where we left of, except a lot of time has passed which kind of allows Olive to buckle under the weight of all the secrets she has been keeping, that spurs a very dramatic decisions on her part to quit the Pie Hole and leave and set out on a life of her own where she doesn’t have to be keeping his secrets from so many people.
BLAST: So does she end up actually leaving, or is that part of the drama that unfolds?
BF: That’s part of the drama that unfolds; she quits the Pie Hole the first episode and joins a nunnery.
BLAST: What was the decision behind throwing [Kristin Chenoweth] on the show? I hear she’s going to have more musical numbers too.
BF: She is. Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed the pilot, is one of our executive producers that just worked with her on a movie called “RV” with Robin Williams, and we talking about who Olive was and how she has a relatively small role in the pilot and that role would get bigger as the series develops. And because of how much story telling we had to get done in the pilot because being a primus story there wasn’t a lot of room to do a ton with Olive. As we got into the season, we really fleshed out her role, and basically had this conversation; Barry and I got on the phone with Kristin and made her promise that if you do this show we will not let your talents go to waste. That’s why we created the musical numbers for her and one of the things about doing an ensemble show is that there’s an ebb and flow with the characters so we will have some characters be featured more in some episodes and others less so and so we have a great arch for all of the team this season and then she is… not relegated to the background, but she becomes so much a part of the crime solving team that we’re able to see much more of her this season than we were last season. Kristin is Carol Burnett. She has such fantastic comedic timing. She’s also a wonderful dramatic actress. She really is the Carol Burnett for our generation.
BLAST: At Comic-con, you were saying that the idea for “Pushing Daisies” came from a future idea you had for “Dead Like Me.” Is there ever going to be a similar foil that can kill people like your character in “Dead Like Me” who is introduced in “Pushing Daisies”?
BF: There’s no plan for that right now. There are going to be some small crossovers between “Dead Like Me” and “Wonderfalls” and “Pushing Daisies” planned throughout the season, but just letting an audience know that those three series exist in the same universe. Right now we have so many stories to tell with Ned and Chuck and Emerson and the aunts that right now I can’t imagine being able to squeeze in that. But maybe that’s a fun thing to do in the third season, knocking on wood that we get one.
BLAST: You guys have been nominated for 12 Emmys. Give me your response to that great critical feedback.
BF: It’s a pretty fantastic ratio for having only done nine episodes to get 12 Emmy nominations. It’s always the “I’m so happy for everyone who got nominated” and I’m thrilled that I got nominated for writing the pilot and I also wanted Ellen and Swoosie and Chi and Anna to be nominated but I was thrilled that Kristin and Lee were nominated and Barry was nominated and that a production designer. It’s a wonderful acknowledgement that everybody’s back-breaking work from last season, and everybody was functioning on all cylinders and so committed to this show and the creative vision that it just makes me proud.
BLAST: It’s definitely something to be proud of.
BF: Well thank you.
BLAST: Can you tell me a little bit more of where the creative vision came from? It definitely has a very unique feel to it.
BF: It’s very much like decorating a Christmas tree. The idea started back on “Dead Like Me” when I thought “Okay, Georgia is a character who touches people and takes their souls and wouldn’t it be interesting if she had a romantic foil for somebody who touches people and gives their life back.” Then I put that idea in my back pocket and it just kept on percolating. I had a deal with Warner Bros. to do a pilot for them. I pitched several ideas for TV series and by that time I was like “You know, I’m just going to write [“Pushing Daisies”] as a feature. I tried for several years to get it done and they seemed very interested in doing it as a TV series. So I thought, “Okay, I’ll just do it as a feature.” As a last minute thing I pitched it in that pitch session and Susan at Warner Bros. Television was like “That’s the one. That’s the idea that we’re doing.” What I pitched was that a guy can touch dead people and bring them back to life, but if he touches them twice they go back to being dead and he falls in love with a dead girl and he can never touch her again. That was kind of the pitch of the show. So the pie-maker came after that. I was like “What’s that one-liner that’s kind of odd.” I just kept on thinking “Well what does this guy do? Well, I like pie, so maybe he’s a pie-maker. I love reading, I like to read just voraciously, so she’s a shut in who reads every book that ever comes across her path,” and literally just started putting one ornament on the tree after another, and then some ornaments would come off and others would go on and I would add tinsel and light and finally the star on top. It’s strange how these ideas are developed because they are living breathing things in and of their own light and a lot of times the show will tell you what it wants to be. It really is a fascinating process because as much as I would like to say “This was the plan, and I carried it out with precision” it’s just so random and you have to see what fits and what looks good and if it’s something that’s too much then you take it off and the whole process of creating a TV show is really an interesting arch.
BLAST: It’s very much developed.
BF: Developed is such a great word because it’s something that, like you’re preparing a dish, so you add ingredients and you take ingredients away and you bake it for a certain amount of time and then you have to pull it out of the oven and butter the crust and there’s so many steps that can either ruin the dish or make it better than you imagined all along the way that it’s alchemy.
BLAST: What about the look for the show?
BF: There’s big inspiration in “Amelie” for all sorts of reasons; tradition reasons and the story telling and also the look, the saturated colors and the hyper-reality and then there’s also the working with Barry Sonnenfeld who is such a fantastic visualist. What I love about Barry and his approach to making anything is that he wants it to be pretty. He’s like “Okay, this has to be pretty. This could be prettier.” He’s got an aesthetic where he appreciates beauty and sometimes we see movies and television and they revel in kind of like ugly images and Barry is not that guy. He appreciates beauty and wants to create it. It couldn’t have been a better pairing.
BLAST: Some of the content on the show; you guys touch on bulimia and the doll and [a character] thinks she’s a human, but you guys take it with such a grain of salt and such comedy, was that ever an issue trying to get some of the problems that they had to use detective work on into the show?
BF: Not a big problem. There were some stories that we weren’t able to do because sometimes we tipped the scales a bit on certain issues. Usually for the bulimia and the episode dummy it was just a small flavor of who this character was and there wasn’t too much… The network tends to get nervous when we go big and gross, so we try not to go to big and gross places. But if it’s a matter of, once again, alchemy’s a great word; it’s a matter of finding that delicate balance of things in the right ratios that make them much more digestible than if we had significantly spent time in the bathroom stall with that character and her vomiting than it might now be as… fun. So like suggestions of things I find go much further than the visceral brutality of other things.
BLAST: How did you develop that sort kind of relationship, especially between Ned and Chuck where they’re these adults but they still have this childness to them?
BF: I think that’s really my outlook on life, that there is a sense and an appreciation to life. I think that’s what is so great about Ned and Chuck and their relationship, is that they have awe for each other and I think that the world could do with more awe. ‚ Being able to step back and say “Wow that’s neat,” and for me consciousness is enough to make me go “Gah” about being alive, because this base between the backs of your eyes and the back of your head is thick that it can’t be measured and for me that’s enough for me to believe in a power that’s much greater then I will ever be, and appreciate my role in the universe, however small it is. It’s pretty awe-inspiring.
BLAST: Never has a show made me more hungry than this show, I swear. With all the pie, I’ve been craving a nice apple pie for like the past month or so. Can you talk a little bit more about the whole choice for the pie?
BF: You know, really for me it was just sitting down to do this show, I just wanted to fill it with so many things I love. I couldn’t do Criminal Minds or CSI, because you have to live in a very dark head space and a very dark outlook on the human condition. Working on a TV show really is in a lot of ways a prison sentence; you live it, you breathe it, you sacrifice your personal life because it just demands so much of you. I wanted to fill it with so many things I love, that when I have to be here all hours of the night that I was here with things that make me happy. And I love pie. I love a good cherry pie.
BLAST: Every episode just doesn’t leave you alone, it’s like “Oh my god I want pie so much right now!”
BF: I miss those old McDonald deep fried pies.
BLAST: Oh my god, yes!
BF: Remember those?
BLAST: Oh absolutely. I think they still do the apple pies there don’t they?
BF: Well they used to have them in these little hot pockets, and slide them. I think they had a lot of law suits, because people would bite into them and take off all the skin from the inside of their mouths. But I miss those. That was one of my happiest moments; going through the McDonald’s drive-thru and getting a cherry pie.
BLAST: They had cherry pie and I think they had peach at one point, and I would get the apple and they had them two for a dollar and I would just be like “Ah, this is heaven.”
BF: [laughter] The cherry was always my favorite. And you know, a great apple pie is so hard to come by.
BLAST: Yes, yes. Diners are the classic place to go and get pie, and they look so great on shows like “Gilmore Girls,” and then I go to a diner and they aren’t quite up to snuff.
BF: No, no. I mean like, “Twin Peaks,” their pies, yum yum yum.
BLAST: We’ll be on the search for the perfect pie. But back to the show!
BF: That’s a good aspiration.
BLAST: Are we ever going to see Alfredo again? He had this brief two episode stint where Kristin Chenoweth realized she had this potential for another relationship and then he didn’t come back.
BF: Well, we were going to have him come back this season, but he booked a play. As soon as he’s available and we can squeeze him in, we absolutely want to get him back. We have a new romance that’s going to be a brewing for Kristin this season, and what we want to do is get knee deep into that hot and heavy, and then bring Alfredo back. So that there is a big conflict on whom does she choose?
BLAST: Well at least she’s finding some happiness instead of being upset the whole time about Ned and Chuck.
BF: Yeah, we got to give her some happy.
BLAST: Okay, and for my final questions, is there any hope for Ned and Chuck?
BF: In terms of…?
BLAST: Their relationship continuing versus just being on the brink every second hoping that there is no accidental touch that’s going to send Chuck back?
BF: I think there is a tremendous amount of hope for Ned and Chuck. We’re going to see all sorts of devices. I’m excited about an episode were doing now, episode eight, where something really big happens in the story and it’s something where you just want to see Ned and Chuck hold each other and you cut to, Ned and Chuck spooning, where Ned has his arms around her holding her tight and then you reveal that there’s a plastic divider that’s he’s pulling a plastic bubble holding her. So we’re coming up with all sorts of ways we can get them to touch without touching. What’s really fun about this season is that we’ve sexualized Chuck and Ned’s relationship. It’s a family show so we don’t go too far, but we definitely treating them as two sexual adults. There is some nudity, but it’s eight o’clock, so not that kind of nudity, but there’s bare backs and stuff like that. It’s nice to see them grow in that direction.
BLAST: They aren’t going to be kissing each other through Emerson or anything like that though, right?
BF: Like Ned kisses Emerson and Emerson kisses Chuck? [laughter] No, we won”Ëœt be doing that. We do have by proxy high fives and stuff like that that Emerson helps out in. No, he will be out of their bedroom business. He wants to stay away from that.