Anna Friel on how she found herself in Land of the Lost

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Anna Friel, who plays a grown-up Holly in the upcoming live-action Land of the Lost, told SCI FI Wire that she didn't envy director Brad Silberling as he sought to reinvent Sid and Marty Krofft's 1970s sci-fi/adventure TV show. The new film, which also stars Will Ferrell, is at once an adventure movie, a family affair, a genre piece, an homage, a comedy and a romance.

"Thank God it wasn't on my shoulders," Friel said in an exclusive interview. "I did my job, which was the acting-Holly part of it. But I think they wanted a movie that could hit everybody."

In the film, not-so-bright scientist Dr. Rick Marshall (Ferrell) winds up in an alternate universe with his adoring assistant Holly (Friel) and a redneck souvenirist (Danny McBride). And in that alternate universe, the trio encounter dinosaurs galore, the infamous Sleestaks and a friendly primate named Chaka (Jorma Taccone).

Friel, a British actress whose credits include ABC's Pushing Daisies and the sci-fi movie Timeline, spoke about Land of the Lost by telephone last week. The film opens nationwide on June 5. Following are edited excerpts from our exclusive conversation. (Spoilers ahead!)

What interested you about Holly as a character?

Friel: It's hard finding good girls' roles. You're always the support, helping men look good. But I liked Brad's take on the character, and I liked the fact that he said she's strong and ballsy and a Cambridge graduate. He said, "I understand being the girl in a movie can be really hard. We won't just let you do that." And how could I turn down a chance to work with Brad and Will and Danny? It just seemed like the perfect group and a really fun, fun movie to walk on.

And ... ?

Friel: And it was! It was one of the nicest acting experiences I've ever had.

How physical was the shoot?

Friel: We did a lot of our stunts. Obviously, we had stunt people, but we were in the harnesses for a whole week. We were in the desert on dune buggies. We were running [from dinosaurs] all the time and sliding down big sand dunes. It was really quite physical.

This film had to be many things at once: a comedy, a romance, a tribute to the old show, a comedy, etc. What's your take on how Brad Silberling went about striking the right balance?

Friel: ... I think you'd be limiting yourself if you said, "It's just a genre comedy" or "It's just a family movie." Brad set himself a big goal, and hopefully he's achieved it. I haven't seen the whole thing yet, but from what I see from the trailer I think it looks good. The visuals are quite stunning. I think he paid attention to the details and made it look rich and beautiful, and I think he tried to stay true to a show that he's a fan of, as did Will.

If this film is a hit, how ready are you for the inevitable sequel or sequels?

Friel: Well, nowadays they make you sign for sequels anyway. And if I have as nice a time [on a sequel] as I did on the first one I would be thrilled.

Since we have you on the line and a lot of our readers were big Pushing Daisies fans, how do you look back on that whole experience?

Friel: I look back on that experience as being one of the greatest acting lessons I ever had. I learned what it was like to shoot 17 hours a day, to learn dialogue at such a rapid speed, to play the same character repeatedly, to work regularly with brilliantly talented actors. It was fantastic, and a wonderful introduction for me in my career in America.

We'll never get to see what would have happened between Chuck [Friel] and Ned [Lee Pace], but did [creator-writer-producer] Bryan Fuller ever tell you how it would all end?

Friel: We had talked about that at the very, very beginning. I think Bryan had a whole beginning, middle and end in that wonderful mind of his. It was such a beautiful, gorgeous, romantic fairy tale. I don't even want to say what it was, because I think it would be disappointing to the fans who'd be going, "Oh, I'd love to have been able to see that."