By Natalie Abrams
Updated January 16, 2015 at 08:56 PM EST
Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC; ABC

Long before Zooey Deschanel brought New Girl‘s critically adored Jessica Day to life, Anna Friel was a ray of sunshine as Charlotte “Chuck” Charles on Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies, the colorful, but short-lived ABC series that was surprisingly upbeat for a story about death. Chuck, who was brought back to life by her childhood sweetheart Ned (Lee Pace), really was the original adorkably beautiful brunette.

But now, Friel will bring a very different character to life on NBC’s Odyssey, a gritty drama in which a U.S. soldier Odelle Ballard (Friel) uncovers a computer file that suggests a U.S. corporation is funding Jihadists, which leads to her entire unit being wiped out as she attempts to make the conspiracy public.

“This is a bit of a jump from that, isn’t it?” Friel told EW at the Television Critics Association’s winter TV previews. “What you want as an actress is to mix it up as much as you can so you can’t be pigeon-holed. That’s the only way of survival and longevity. Pushing Daisies was such an incredible character. I was so lucky. I was offered so many pilots after that, but it was such a hard one to follow. It’s really funny because now with the success of The Hobbit with Lee, it’s having a new audience again. People who never saw [Pushing Daisies] are getting to see it again.”

Though Friel really has to get her hands dirty on Odyssey, the actress noted that it’s almost easier than her role on Pushing Daisies. “Every single character has its own task,” she said. “With Chuck, she was always happy. She was never not allowed to smile. You couldn’t use anything if you did feel a little grumpy or you were a bit tired in the morning, so that had its own challenges. This couldn’t be more at the other end of the scale. Odelle is completely different. Odelle is a mother, Chuck isn’t. Pushing Daisies was, in essence, a love story. Odelle is a soldier. I don’t think her spirit is as bright. She’s a very, very, very strong woman.”

Watch Friel return to television when Odyssey premieres April 5 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.


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Pushing Daisies

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