Art Imitating Life Imitating Art: An interview with Pushing Daisies writers Chad and Dara Creasey


At first the tale of this up-and-coming Hollywood power couple sounds like the plot to one of the romantic comedies they’ve made their “bread and butter on.”  They met in the Peter Stark producing program at USC, started writing together, fell in love, got married, started writing for television, moved to a house in the Hollywood Hills and lived happily ever after.  Not bad for a couple in their late twenties. How did “a pseudo-intellectual Jew from the Upper East Side,” and a man “from the plains of Colorado” get so lucky?

“Chad and I come from extremely different backgrounds,” said Dara Creasey, nee Resnik.  “We really just couldn’t stop talking when we met each other, just being fascinated by each other’s backgrounds.”

That fascination led to the creation of an award-winning short film, Great Lengths, about a non-Jewish boy who decides to convert when his Jewish girlfriend dumps him – until he realizes he’s not circumcised.  Or, as Chad Creasey puts it, “Big, giant, teenage penis movie.”

As art imitated life, life imitated art, Dara said.  “Over the course of getting the grant, shooting the movie, writing it together, him producing, me directing, we somehow fell in love.”

She makes it sound so easy.  While there is unquestionably a lot of hard work and tenacity involved in their success, it also seems as though they’re hiding a lucky rabbit’s foot, or have a leprechaun tied up in their hall closet.  After Great Lengths they sold their first script, what would eventually become the Amanda Bynes vehicle Sydney White.  With Chad as the screenwriter and Dara producing, they made enough money to buy an engagement ring.  From there, their Hollywood star kept rising.  By the time Sydney White started filming down in Florida, a successful interview with Aaron Sorkin had led to staff positions writing for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

Apparently lightning does strike twice – after Studio 60 met its untimely end, Chad and Dara were snapped up by Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller.  The Writer’s Strike shook things up a bit, and while the future of Pushing Daisies was in doubt in the wake of the strike, it was given a reprieve to return to the airways in 2008.  Which was good, since the Creaseys had just bought their first house.  Chad and Dara returned for the show’s second season as story editors, and following on their successful Season One episode “Bitches,” set in the world of competitive dog breeding, they wrote the December 10th episode, “The Legend of Merle McQuoddy.”

Emerson (Chi McBride) and Olive (Kristin Chenoweth) face off with Merle McQuoddy.

The Pushing Daisies writers’ room tends to work with set pieces, visuals assigned to the writers by Fuller with the task to build stories around them. For “Merle McQuoddy,” the visual the Creaseys had to work with was a lighthouse.

“Chad’s favorite moving growing up was Pete’s Dragon,” said Dara, “when he was really little, so he had the idea to make it sort of a Pete’s Dragon homage.  And Bryan loved that idea, he’s always loved Pete’s Dragon, and of course we have the great Jim Dale as our narrator, who was in the movie as well.”

“And that was really the genesis of the idea,” Chad added.  “And once that was finally improved, to where, ‘Let’s go off and make that the episode,’ that’s when the really hard work started, and it was Dara and myself, and Gretchen and Aaron [co-executive producers Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts], in a room basically for the entire week, just really kind of tinkering out the beats of the story, and then you go off, and you do your outline, and it kind of goes from there.”

Even in conversation you can tell they make a good team, there’s plenty of give and take.  One of the reasons Dara believes they were hired for Pushing Daisies was for their perspective as a couple.

“We really wanted Ned and Chuck to have a fight.  Ned and Chuck most of the time get along really well, but realistically, when you throw a wrench – like bringing her father back to life – into it, there are bound to be disagreements.”

Of course, November 20th brought about the ultimate disagreement – between fans of the show and ABC, who decided not to bring the show back to life again.  Fortunately, no one involved in production seems to have regrets beyond the cancellation.  

“Most writers in Hollywood, it’s a lonely existence,” said Chad. “It’s you in front of a computer screen often, for most writers, alone, in your dark little hole, and I love the community, the camaraderie.” 

Chad and Dara can’t praise their fellow writers and the cast enough, and seem particularly admiring of Chi McBride (Emerson Cod) and Kristin Chenoweth (Olive Snook) who Chad calls, “absolute dreams to work with.”  When it came time to break “Merle McQuoddy,” in an effort to save on production costs, they decided to split up the cast, pairing Emerson and Olive as a crime-fighting duo while Ned and Chuck worked out some of their issues.

“There [was] a huge emotional B-story happening,” said Chad, “between Chuck, and her father, and Ned, and that is huge.  And we simply could not have these two characters – it didn’t feel believable, or right for the show that they would sort of be dragged into the mystery.”

Since the character of Olive had joined the team on previous investigations, Chad and Dara decided it was time for her to earn her Junior Detective badge and sent her off with Emerson to work the lighthouse case.  That simple decision led to some of the best moments of the episode.  Which isn’t surprising considering Dara considers Olive her favorite character to write for, while Chad is partial to Emerson.  Getting to “hone in” on their dynamic was really a dream come true for the writers, but they credit the actors with being “up for anything.”

“We were sort of checking the internet boards, and so many people were like, ‘It’s too bad!  We’d love to see an Emerson/Olive spin-off show,'” said Chad.  

“The thing we really love about TV in general,” said Dara, “not over features because there’s something wonderful, and magical, and larger-than-life about features, but television really allows the writer to stay part of the other episodes in their work in a producer capacity, where you can be part of casting, and costumes, be on set, help talk to the actors, in a way that’s almost non-existent in features.”

Even though the Piemaker has baked his last pie, Chad and Dara are keeping mum on the final three episodes, as well as any plotlines that were planned, but never made it past the writers’ room door.

“We’re not at liberty to say,” Chad answered, when asked if Olive ever learns about the Piemaker’s secret ability to bring the dead back to life with a touch.

He did say that he thought the final episode, currently titled “Kerplunk” and rumored to end with a big cliffhanger, had been very slightly reworked to provide some closure. No additional scenes were filmed or refilmed, but Bryan Fuller was able to rewrite the opening and closing narration, read by Jim Dale.  Which isn’t to say that everything is wrapped up in a nice neat package.  Several storylines will be left open, possibly to be continued in a movie or comic book.

And what’s in store for the Creaseys?  Lightning has struck yet again: they sold a procedural pilot to Warner Brothers called Special Agents based on an English book series of the same name.  

Dara was quick to point out that “it was certainly inspired by the book series, but we’re taking a lot of creative license because we’re taking it out of London and putting it in New York, and probably aging up the characters a little bit.” 

They’re working with Deborah Martin Chase, a feature producer and the producer of the Lifetime series 1-800-Missing.  The project, which Chad describes as “a modern Mod Squad, in terms of ‘young sexy people solving crimes,’” is in the early stages of development for the CW, and though at first it seemed awkward, he said the timing couldn’t have been better.

They hope to see Special Agents on the air next year, though Dara was careful to add that “you never know how those things will work out.”  Hollywood is a fickle place; one moment you’re on top of the world, and the next you’re M. Night Shyamalan.

There are currently no airdates for the remaining three episodes of Pushing Daisies.


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