Land of the Lost's Anna Friel on playing a grown-up, British Holly

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

English actress Anna Friel, who plays Holly in Land of the Lost, told reporters that her American co-stars' sense of humor was often lost on her. Friel co-stars with Will Ferrell and Danny McBride in the adaptation of the trippy 1970s children's TV show, and their improvisational humor came into play with the film's Sleestaks and dinosaurs.

"There's certain words, you call things different things," Friel said in a group interview last week in Hollywood. "Like, I had to find out what [a] chorizo taco was. I was like, 'What's a chorizo?' And [McBride] was like, 'You don't know chorizo taco?' Then I went and experienced it, and now I know what one is. There were lots of different words like that, but they're pretty easy to understand. Danny just kept making British jokes all the way through, like it was literally the butt of every joke. He'd pretend that he had never met an English person, and he was like, 'Do they really exist? I thought I only met them in history books.' And I'm like, yes, all right, that's enough."

Friel's Holly is now a Cambridge scientist who believes Rick Marshall's (Ferrell) theories about tachyons and time travel when nobody else does—not even Today show anchor Matt Lauer. She ends up in the Land of the Lost along with wannabe theme-park hustler Will (McBride). The following Q&A features edited excerpts of Friel's interview. Land of the Lost opens Friday. (Possible spoilers ahead!)

You had to play American on ABC's Pushing Daisies. Was it a tough sell to use your natural English accent in Land of the Lost?

Friel: Well, they wrote the character as a Brit from the very beginning. [Director] Brad [Silberling] had always seen it like that. I don't know why. Well, a lot of things change, because she was 14 [on the original show], the character that Danny McBride plays was 15 of 16, and they were brother and sister.

I think just to move it on, they thought they needed different relationships. At my audition, both Will and Brad said, "No, no, we want you to speak in the way you do, because we like the sound of it, and it gives you a gruff butchness to it, maybe." So that was nice. It was quite scary, to be honest, speaking in my own accent, because I usually hide. Not hide behind it, but it totally separates you from the character you're playing, because you don't hear yourself. So at first it was quite vulnerable-making, and then I settled into it and found it actually quite liberating and free.

What was your take on Holly?

Friel: It was how to be a girl that had this inexplicable crush on this man. I had to make this reason to go, but why does she love him when she's a really good scientist from Cambridge? Why? My reasoning was always that she thinks that this genius is just hidden with all these mad eccentricities, so although he's doing that, that's a real genius behind that or something. It's really hard not to fall in love with Will. I think he's such a charming and warm guy, as is Danny. Just to play it very literal and to try and be endearing and empathetic but also have surprising balls. Brad had always said she was a secret football hooligan. I met the girl that it was based on, the character at the La Brea Tar Pits, and sat and talked to her a lot about it.

Were you OK with Chaka copping a feel?

Friel: Well, it was kind of introduced a lot more than it was in the original script. I think that when I watched the film, I didn't realize how much that would be in it. It made me laugh, and I thought, "Well, that's OK. If I'm laughing at it, and it's my breast that's being fondled, then it's all right, I give it the OK." But I found that quite funny, because my daughter's going through a stage of kind of grabbing your top when you're out, and you're in the supermarket, and you're like, "No, we don't do that, do we?" So I kind of use those elements and just talk to Chaka like he was a little child, and it's quite a childish thing to do, isn't it?

Did you do a lot of your own stunts, and were there any injuries?

Friel: Yeah, I did hurt my ankle ... one of the days, you know when we're in the vines and we're taken up? That was about a week of being in harnesses, and there was one when we were just yanked so hard. We'd all eaten lunch, and that's really not a good idea to eat lunch before those harnesses. I'll never do it again. Not only did we feel sick, but both Will and I were like, "I can't quite see properly, can you?" He's like, "No." I said, "Are you having problems breathing?" He was like, "Yes." We all thought we were going to have some kind of aneurysm, and we only took, like, a half an hour break, because we couldn't breathe from that, and he had to be in it a lot more.

The sand dunes were good. It has not made it to the movie, but we had one bit when we've just met Chaka, and we're running, and we go down these dunes. We did our own stunts, and we made these things called butt pans that were like a kind of little sleigh and all attached by a wire. We'd be falling down the sand dunes, and you just got sand in every orifice. We did a good joke on Jorma [Taccone, who plays Chaka] and pretended it hurt and was going to pull off all his fur when he was having it done. I think that will be on the extras on the DVD.