Ned the Piemaker
The story of Ned the Piemaker and his mysterious magical power are front and center in the world of Pushing Daisies. Ned, played by Lee Pace, who previously appeared in Fullerverse show Wonderfalls as Jaye Tyler’s brother, is a character unlike any other. He can bring the dead back to life with just a touch; however, this powerful tool is not without consequence. If he does not touch the dead back to death within one minute, the person will remain alive (and, of course, Ned cannot touch the person again lest they die), but another life will be taken instead in an eye-for-an-eye, life-for-a-life balance-maintaining system. Like any good fairy tale protagonist, Ned learns the limits of his powers, which, unfortunately leads to the death of both his mother and Chuck’s father when Ned is a young boy.
Ned’s restaurant, the Pie Hole, is the crux of the show. By baking pies with rotten fruit he touches in order to restore them to ripeness, his pies are delicious and flavorful. However, he cannot eat his creations or the fruit will die again while he’s consuming them.
Because of his powers, Ned lives an introverted life, fearing that close relationships with others will lead to the deaths of people he loves. However, despite his willingness to achieve a plethora of relationships, he develops various relationships with many characters on the show.
Chuck Charles, Ned’s childhood sweetheart, becomes very close with Ned after he resurrects her, and the two eventually resume a romantic relationship. Even though the couple cannot demonstrate their affection through physical touches, they have creative methods around this problem, such as kissing through plastic and holding their own hands pretending they’re holding each other’s.
Ned’s powers allow him to work as a detective with his partner and friend Emerson Cod. Emerson helped Ned save his restaurant from financial collapse and their business partnership allows each to collect a fair amount of reward money. The two make an excellent team due to Ned’s powers and Emerson’s skill as a private investigator.
Despite the fact that Olive Snook constantly attempts to make both romantic and sexual advances on Ned (which the latter avoids), the two characters are eventually able to have a decent friendship.
Digby, Ned’s Golden Retriever, is undoubtedly his best friend. They have been inseparable since Ned’s childhood. When a car struck and killed Digby, Ned first learned about his powers. Although Ned can never touch his dog ever again, he ensures that he gets plenty of affection, especially from Olive. Ned pretends to be allergic to dogs in order to explain why he cannot pet and play with Digby himself.
Charlotte “Chuck” Charles
Chuck Charles, portrayed by Anna Friel, was murdered on board a cruise ship and subsequently brought back to life by Ned, her former childhood sweetheart. Seeing Chuck again struck Ned so deeply that he couldn’t bear to return her to death, so he kept her alive. Chuck is a whimsical, bright spirit, which carries a touch of irony considering she is actually a resurrected dead girl walking the earth.
Chuck works with Ned and Emerson in their detective group and brings a warm, friendly soul to their work. She displays an immense amount of compassion for the victims, which Ned admires greatly. Because nobody knows she is alive, Chuck is forced to dress in elaborate disguises that mask her true identity. Despite the fact that Emerson often makes jabs about Chuck’s being dead and is initially reluctant to allow her on the cases he examines, he eventually warms up to her.
Chuck also garners somewhat of a friendship with Olive throughout the show. Chuck, unlike Olive, does not want to compete for Ned’s heart, but the two are able to overlook their grievances and become friendly with each other, even working together on occasion and eventually becoming roommates.
Chuck is very close with her aunts
Emerson Cod, played by Chi McBride, is a private investigator who, it seems, is in the business only for the money. However, even though he presents himself as a self-interested individual, the show proves that he does indeed care for justice, the victims and the work he does. Emerson may seem like a burly, hard-working man, but he loves to knit in his spare time and adores pop-up books. This allows the show to explore the stereotype of masculinity, proving that just because Emerson appears as a big tough guy, he enjoys a wide range of activities that further his character rather than diminishing it. Emerson is a bit skeptical, yet he does not question the magic of Ned’s powers. He is blunt and honest, but his charm and humor provide warmth and wit to the show.
Emerson has been raised to be a private investigator since birth, following in his mother’s footsteps. He has mentioned having a warm and loving relationship with his mother.
Emerson is Ned’s partner and friend, as well as the sole keeper (besides Chuck) of the secret of Ned’s powers. He is a capable detective on his own, but he enjoys the partner he has found in Ned.
He is initially quite wary of Chuck, questioning her existence especially since Ned had the power to stop it, and even her sweet demeanor takes a while to make its way into his heart.
Emerson manifests a soft side for Olive too, and offers her a spot as a junior PI.
Emerson has a daughter named Penny with his ex-wife, Lila, and has not seen her since the two divorced.
Bright, bubbly, and full of life, former horse jockey Olive Snook, played by Kristin Chenoweth, is a waitress at the Pie Hole. She brings energy to the restaurant, even going as far as interacting individually with customers in order to make their visits more special. When she bakes pies, she pours love into them in order to give consumers that same feeling. Olive is quite emotional, and one way she deals with these emotions is by bursting into song as a means of coping. Olive’s singing adds whimsy to her character as well as to the show; Olive’s songs are in harmony with those “in real life, people don’t burst out singing” moments that make fantasy so much fun. Olive herself is also quite spontaneous. Olive is often the one left out of the loop, but when she does eventually find out a number of secrets, she is overwhelmed and makes the quick decision to join a nunnery, a place where she does not stay too long.
Olive harbors a huge crush on Ned which she does not make attempts to hide. She is quite often confused by his rejections, as well as very saddened by them. Despite this, the two remain good friends.
At first, Olive views Chuck as a rival and is incredibly jealous of her. She spies on her secret moments with Ned and retreats into sadness and her imagination when she notices them being romantic with each other. However, she is eventually able to overcome a majority of her dislike for Chuck and become her friend and roommate.
Olive often dogsits Digby, and she uses him to feel a connection with Ned. She provides the dog with the affection and hugs that Ned cannot, while also allowing herself to be a physical part of Ned’s world by caring for his dog.
Olive also grows close with Chuck’s aunts, Lily and Vivian. She brings them pies and listens to their stories, serving as a sense of comfort for them as well as a listening ear.
In parallel to her relationship with Ned, Olive does not pay much attention to the romantic advances made by Alfredo Aldarisio, presumably because she is so preoccupied with spying on Ned and Chuck. When she does realize that she is the source of the salesman’s frequent visits and comes to understand that he could provide her with new opportunities, it is too late.
Lily and Vivian Charles
Lily Charles, portrayed by Swoosie Kurtz, is one-half of the Darling Mermaid Darlings, a team of sisters who performed in a synchronized swimming act for huge crowds of fans. The duo stopped performing when Lily got dust in her right eye, resulting in the loss of it entirely. She wears an eyepatch over it and sometimes thinks that her vision plays tricks on her. Lily drinks often, particularly martinis, and she is very protective of her sister. She refuses to associate with anything related to water due to memories of her former life as a Darling Mermaid Darling.
The sisters raised Chuck after the death of her parents. They came to rely on her very much, and they both harbor strong adoration for her. The news of Chuck’s death weighs heavily on the aunts’ hearts and they have much trouble coping with it. Chuck, although still hidden from them, attempts to bring them happiness even though she cannot interact with them personally.
Lily and Vivian meet Olive early on in the series and learn to enjoy her company and friendship. Olive is a messenger from Chuck to the aunts.
Lily, it is revealed, is Chuck’s real mother and a story was fabricated in order to protect Vivian, who was Charlotte’s father’s fiance. Lily hid out as a nun at the same nunnery that Olive eventually runs away to.
Vivian, played by Ellen Greene, also has strong social anxiety that prevents her and her sister from leaving the house. However, Vivian is friendlier than Lily and more willing to speak to and accept strangers, although she does not like being touched. Vivian and her sister love birds and are aficionados of cheese.
Digby, Ned’s Golden Retriever, is the first one brought back to life via Ned’s magic touch. The primary dog who plays Digby, Orbit, appeared in Dead Like Me as J.D. Digby seems to have the knowledge that he and Ned cannot touch, because he avoids it while still serving as man’s best friend. Despite this, Digby is said to be neurotic and craving the physical attention he does not get from Ned. Digby appears to have some form of human intelligence.
Pigby, a truffle-hunting pig with a name strikingly similar to Ned’s Golden Retriever, becomes a friend to Olive. She confides in her during her time at the nunnery and Olive eventually takes her along when she returns to the Pie Hole. Digby and Pigby eventually strike up a friendship.
Alfredo Aldarisio, portrayed by Hannibal’s Raúl Esparza, is a travelling salesman who specializes in homeopathic antidepressants. Alfredo is a fast-talking, exuberant man, and his peppy nature strongly implies that he takes regular doses of the products he sells. He harbors a strong affection for both coffee and Olive Snook. He has an irrational fear that the Earth’s oxygen could mysteriously and suddenly be sucked away, a phobia that weighs heavily on him. He proves himself handy by fixing the Pie Hole’s espresso machine, which is also a gesture of his love for Olive.
Despite his frequent visits to the Pie Hole, the only two people Alfredo interacts with in his appearances are Chuck and Olive. Nobody else seems to notice or care that he is around.
Upon meeting Chuck, Alfredo gives her a sample of his products, which she then bakes into pies for her aunts in order to help them cope with her death.
Alfredo admires Olive during each visit, an affection that seems to mirror the way Olive feels about Ned. Olive does not recognize these advances at first, even when Alfredo blatantly displays his feelings. When she finally does acknowledge them, Alfredo has vanished and subsequently disappears from the show.
Charles Charles, primed and ready with a name fit for a fairy tale, is played by Josh Randall. Formerly, Charles was a member of the Blue Berets, a UN Peacekeeper group based out of Egypt. Charles died while watering his lawn in exchange for Ned’s mother when he brought her back to life. Ned attempts to keep this information a secret, but guilt weighs out.
Ned and Chuck dug up her father in order to question him and to give Chuck a chance to say goodbye. Following his resurrection, Charles displayed aggressiveness toward Ned but affection for his daughter. Charles does not care for pie.
Charles is an acquaintance of both Ned’s father and Dwight Dixon. All three of them served as members of the Blue Berets.
Dwight Dixon is shrouded in mystery. He is played by Stephen Root and when he first appears, he tells Ned that his pies remind him of the ones Ned’s mother used to make. Dwight has connections to both Ned’s father and Chuck’s father, having served in the Blue Berets with them. He comes seeking the gold pocket watches possessed by all three men, even going as far as to attempt to date Vivian for access to the one belonging to Chuck’s father as well as planning to kill Chuck for it.
Dwight is inadvertently killed by Ned’s magic touch when Charles Charles is brought back to life.
Norwegian Nils Nilsen, portrayed by Michael Weaver, is part of a group of private investigators working on the case of Dwight Dixon’s disappearance. He shows distaste for Ned, calling him Emerson’s sidekick.
Not much is known about Ned’s father aside from his connections with the Blue Berets and his insistence that young Ned attend a boarding school after his mother’s death. He moved away shortly after, marrying another woman and fathering twins, Ned’s half-brothers, Maurice and Ralston. The ages of the twins as they appear in the show suggest that they were born before Ned’s mother’s death, implying that the father was not being faithful. Ned’s father taught magic tricks to all three of his sons.
Vivian and Lily Charles did not approve of Ned’s father and speak unkindly of him, claiming that his moving away was best for Ned.
Ned’s mother, played by Tina Gloss, died when a blood vessel burst in her brain. A confused young Ned revived her, unaware of his powers. Charles Charles was inadvertently killed as a result. However, a simple goodnight kiss caused Ned’s mother to die again, this time permanently.
His mother showed much affection for Ned, and the loss of her life made Ned avoid social interactions in order to prevent more death. His mother was a lover and baker of pies, a skill that she taught Ned, who carried it with him and eventually used this love to open the Pie Hole.
Maurice & Ralston
Ned’s half-brothers, played respectively by Alex and Graham Miller, are stage magicians as part of an act conducted by The Great Hermann. They are both open and friendly, bearing great loves for magic. This is ironic considering that their half-brother possesses a certain kind of magic.
Clingy by nature, the twins long for a family and thus embrace Ned as their half-brother, thrilled to have a family. They are fascinated by him and even go as far as to help him solve the murder of their mentor.
Both Chuck and Olive display a level of attraction to the twins, which is most likely due to the fact that they are similar to Ned by blood, yet they are not as reserved as their half-brother.
The Great Herrmann
The Great Hermann, portrayed by Fred Willard, is a magician (real name Herman Gunt), who headlines Conjurer’s Castle and is the mentor to Ned’s half-brothers Maurice and Ralston. He serves as a father figure to them following the absence of their real father.
He contacts Emerson for help, fearing that because his animals have been dying, he will be the next to go.
The Great Hermann’s assistant, Alexandria, who is played by Kerri Kenney, is initially a suspect in the multiple attempted murders surrounding the magician himself. She is eventually cleared and becomes the headliner of the show, taking on the stage name “The Great Alexandria.”
Another member of the magicians group at Conjurer’s Castle is the Geek, played by Paul F. Tompkins. His act consists of swallowing objects and throwing them up. He is eventually convicted for the murder of his mentor.
Played by Sy Richardson, the coroner is a recurring character who, although somewhat suspicious of the Pie Holers’ frequent visits and investigations, never interferes or questions their motives or actions. His willingness to let them in as long as he gets paid reflects a bit of apathy.
Bryan Fuller revealed that the coroner is gay and has a crush on Emerson. Unfortunately, the show’s early cancellation meant that the character was not explored more in depth.
Mr. Abner, Mr. Booker, & Mr. Clay
These three characters are quick-speaking attorneys who represent a toy company that has been charged with tossing chemicals into the water supply. Unfortunately for these men, they are Mennonites, a religion that does not allow its followers to lie, meaning that they give away telling truths about their client.
Tina, played by Abbe Meryl, is the lover of Tony DiNapoli. She is convicted of his murder and contacts Emerson for help catching the real killer.
Burly Bruce Carter
Burly Bruce Carter, played by Michael Cornacchia, is a man who believes his life-sized doll, Sheila, is actually alive and that the two of them share a happy romance. He purchased Sheila in order to drive in the carpool lane, and subsequently fell in love with her. He becomes enraged at Tony DiNapoli when he brings up the fact that Bruce’s girlfriend is a doll.
Billy, played by Mike White, is the brother of Dilly Balsam. He attempts to disguise himself in order to sneak into the Pie Hole, which the siblings view as competition against their candy store, Bittersweets. Billy gets into a fight with health inspector Andrew Brown over the prices charged for the scandal of shutting down the Pie Hole.
Dilly Balsam, portrayed by Hannibal actress Molly Shannon, is a conniving woman who adores her brother and wants to put the Pie Hole out of business in order to benefit her own store. She has a large phobia of birds because her parents died of bird flu.
Steve Hytner plays the corrupt health inspector Andrew Brown, who is hired by the Balsams to shut down the Pie Hole. However, he does find evidence enough to close down the restaurant when he sees Ned’s room full of rotting fruit.
Betty Bee, played by Missi Pyle, is the founder of Betty’s Bee’s. She has been having trouble with the new owner, Woolsey Nicholls, and is saddened over the death of Kentucky Fitz, the face of Betty’s Bees who has recently been stung to death.
Marianne Marie Beetle
Portrayed by Beth Grant and having been seen previously in Wonderfalls, Marianne Marie Beetle is the owner of Muffin Buffalo, a competitor of the Pie Hole at the Papen County Comfort Food Cook-Off. She is dedicated and determined, as well as haughty towards Ned and Olive, creating a fierce rivalry between the two businesses. She is not afraid to play dirty, as shown by her sabotage of competitors Ned and the Waffle Nazi.
Played by Tim Bagley, Colonel Likkin is parody of Colonel Sanders, the face of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He is the owner and founder of Colonel Likkin’s Southern Fried Chicken and is known for keeping his recipes secret.
Leo Burns, played by Eric Stonestreet, is the coordinator of the Papen County Comfort Food Cook-Off. He plots against Colonel Likkin, wanting to garner revenge because Leo has gained a substantial amount of weight to due the chicken he consumes from Colonel Likkin.
Jerry Holmes & Roy “Buster” Bustamente
Played respectively by Richard Benjamin and George Segal, these ex-con men are thieves and “accidental kidnappers” who, although they have been imprisoned for 25 years, are very concerned with Olive’s happiness and do all they can to stay in touch with her. They serve as her father figures and want the best for her.
Karly Rothenberg plays the monotone Becky Caden, who hires Emerson to prove that her husband’s death was not a suicide. Through this, she will be able to receive a life insurance entitlement.
The Shiny Shoes Killer
Chuck’s murderer, the Shiny Shoes Killer, collects porcelain to the point of obsession. He also seeks to kill Deedee Duffield, who hires Ned and Emerson, thus leading to Ned reuniting with Chuck.
Father Eduardo Dedonde
Played by Michael Hitchcock, Father Dedonde is the priest at the nunnery Olive runs away to. Olive becomes suspicious of his possible involvement in a homicide. The priest gives Ned the advice that he shouldn’t abandon people, which is a tactic similar to the fact that Ned’s father abandoned him.
Harold Hundin, played by Joel McHale, is a dog breeder who believes he has created the perfect dog breed; however, none of his four wives approve of his goal to institute the dog breed all across America.
John Joseph Jacobs
Played by Hamish Linklater, John Joseph Jacobs is a jockey with ties to Olive’s past. He was presumed dead when he was trampled by the other horses. Olive was the winner of the race in question. After his death, he was revived using electricity and given the legs of his prized horse. During the time in which he is presumed death, his mother dresses up as his ghost in order to sabotage other competitors.
The head of the nuns, played by Diana Scarwald, gives Olive comfort and shelter when she arrives. Initially, she believes that Olive is pregnant, but this turns out to be false. She ensures that Olive abides by the standards of the nunnery, such as giving her belongings to the poor and attending prayers on time.
A nun at the nunnery where Olive stays, Sister Larue, played by Mo Collins, is a mycologist-turned-nun who experiments on truffles. She also falls in love with Hansel Von Getz in the kitchen of the nunnery and finds herself in trouble with Mother Superior before she can leave the nunnery to be with him.
Played by Hayes MacArthur, Buddy is the founder of My Best Friend, Inc., a company that provides friends for lonely people. He created the company in order to provide help for the people he picked on in high school.
Blanche & Cora Ramora
The Ramora sisters, played by Nora Dunn and Wendie Malick, make up the duo Aquadolls, who have always been the rivals of the Darling Mermaid Darlings. Cora is most similar to Lily Charles, especially since she tends to be the more outspoken of the two.
The Narrator, voiced by Jim Dale, is an omniscient and omnipotent presence in the show. He gives exact details regarding characters, times, and explanations. The narrator’s involvement in the show allows for it to run much like a fairy tale. He possesses a vast knowledge of things even the characters are unaware of. He opens a backstory with the show’s trademark “The facts were these…”