Rick Bentley

Anna Friel goes from love to war with 'American Odyssey'

• ‘American Odyssey’ a journey of how to get home

• New NBC series was physical challenge for Anna Friel

• Elisha Cuthbert enjoys funny side of career


One of my favorite shows that was canceled was 2007’s “Pushing Daisies.” It was a sweet — and quirky — love story about two people who couldn’t touch because of a mysterious power that brings dead people back to life.

Lee Pace, who currently stars in the cable series “Halt and Catch Fire,” starred with Anna Friel on the network series. Since the ABC show ended, Friel has had an interesting career: She starred in the painfully bad film “Land of the Lost” and the Scandinavian TV series “The Heavy Water War: Stopping Hitler’s Atomic Bomb.”

Now, she’s back as the lead actress in the new NBC series “American Odyssey.” Friel plays Sgt. Odelle Ballard, who while in North Africa finds computer files that show a major U.S corporation is secretly funding terrorists. She downloads the files, but her unit is attacked before she can tell anyone.

The world thinks her entire unit was killed. B she survives and is looking for a way to use the information to stop the corporation.

The series also stars Jim True-Frost (“The Wire”), Sadie Sink, Omar Ghazaoui, Elena Kampouris (“Men, Women & Children”), Daniella Pineda, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (“Lost”) and Treat Williams (“Everwood”).

Just like the name “Pushing Daisies” left no question that the series was about death, Friel stresses the word “Odyssey” in the title makes it clear the story is a journey.

“An odyssey is like a journey home, a journey of how to get home,” Friel says. “I hope it’s a journey that we invite you to come on with us. You have to care about our characters in order for our series to succeed. I think that’s what we really tried to do.”

“Daisies” was a project that pushed Friel emotionally. “American Odyssey” pushed her physically. Her trainer ran Camp Bastion in Afghanistan where he had 22,000 soldiers under his command.

He didn’t cut the actor any slack.

“He says anytime I kind of complain and go, ‘Oh, God, I’m tired,’ he goes, ‘Yeah, but you can say, ‘Cut.’ We don’t get to say, ‘Cut!’ We go back, and he makes me swim for half an hour or do press ups for ages,” Friel says. “I know it doesn’t look like it, but you don’t have to be big to be strong. Size isn’t all that matters.”

Life’s funny for Cuthbert

It’s a little confusing listening to Elisha Cuthbert talk about starring in he new NBC comedy “One Big Happy.” She says her previous series “Happy Endings” helped move her away from drama to comedy.

She was the best part of “Happy Endings” and showed a lot of comedic skill. But, I remember laughing at her series work before “Happy Endings” because of a comedy moment that is as hilarious today as it was then.

Who could imagine a drama like “24” could provide such a moment. But, there was that scene in the first season of the Kiefer Sutherland series where Cuthbert, playing Jack Bauer’s daughter, is threatened by a cougar. It’s considered the lowest moment in the history of the series.

It’s not fair to call this a comedy moment since she was the victim of writers running low on ideas. She’s now seeing better comedy writing with the new show.

Cuthbert points to “Happy Ending” as what has made her current work so strong.

“I think that sort of kick-started the confidence in myself that I was capable. Then for this show in particular, I had read the pilot. I couldn’t believe that they were even considering me for this character. It just seemed too good to be true,” Cuthbert says. “I said there’s a problem. I can’t do a multi-camera show. I mean, I am terrified of the fact that we would have to go in and shoot in front of 200 people live.”

Nick Zano, who is her co-star on “One Big Happy” and a long-time friend, told Cuthbert she could handle the live audience.

“If it wasn’t for Nick, I don’t know if I would have had the guts to do it, but I’m grateful to him that I did. I’ve been just having such a good time. It’s bringing out more comedy in me that I didn’t realize I had, this sort of physical thing. It allows you to be a little bit bigger, a little bit wilder. It’s just been so much fun,” Cuthbert says.

A lot of the fun has come from being able to work with Kelly Brook. They play women who are complete opposites except for their feelings about the man in their lives.

Cuthbert sees “One Big Happy,” which airs 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays on NBC, as part of a new chapter in her acting life.

“Each character is so unique and so different that you can’t really compare, but you take things from each experience and hopefully grow as an actor. I love being on TV. I do,” Cuthbert says. “I know that’s simple, but it’s just I love TV. I think it’s amazing.”

It’s time to give Cuthbert a pass on that whole cougar mess. To be fair, she actually got attacked by the big cat while filming and ended up with stitches in her hand.