When a television show cleverly integrates fairytale characters into our world due to a mysterious and powerful curse, there are answers we are dying to know. ONCE UPON A TIME is not just about the fairytale characters we know and love, it takes us into a world where those characters are trapped in our world, not knowing their true identities or their cursed-fate. In a special press Q&A, creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz shared a few answers to the questions burning in our hearts and minds.
First of all, can you talk about the whole Kathryn (Anastasia Griffith) missing thing? Might she be in a cell next to Belle in Storybrooke?
EDDY: Kathryn? We can talk about it: it’s “the mystery.”
ADAM: It is the mystery and it is one that is resolved this season.
EDDY: It is the arc that we’re kind of going into that’s going to sort of take us into the end-run of the season.
ADAM: Yeah, towards the mid-end season. But it’s one of those things, David (Josh Dallas) and Mary-Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) are really fighting the curse to be together and this is just another element in that.
EDDY: I think this will definitely test them.
You keep having Mary-Margaret and David get together only to break up. I know that you need to sustain a series, but do you have a plan for them?
ADAM: We do have a plan for them. We are building to something this season that we are excited to share with you, just not today. But there is a plan and we have a build up that we’re trying to do and we hope people enjoy where we take them.
EDDY: The thing is, the whole story of the show is that Storybrooke is cursed and therefore what we love is that their love is so strong it keeps pulling them together no matter how hard we try to keep them apart. But, of course, the curse has to keep them apart. One of our favorite things is the fact that the audience is mad that David cheated. But he’s married to Snow White, and in Storybrooke he has all this guilt about cheating on Kathryn, but the truth is that’s the curse.
ADAM: Right, and is he cheating on Snow White by being with Kathryn. So to us there is a level of complexity that we’re trying to build with — with these relationship and making it so that nothing’s easy for our characters, so that when they do achieve what we want them to achieve, it’s all the more satisfying. Hopefully.
Now that Henry’s book is back, will there be changes because the book is back and pages have been returned? And how is that going to change things moving forward?
EDDY: I think when we reveal that episode, which will be later in the season, it will shine and inform who the Stranger is. So those pages are sort of his story, you’d say.
ADAM: I’d say what we saw August doing in that episode with putting the pages in the book is the first step in kind of pulling back the onion on who this guy is and what his agenda in Storybrooke is. That’s coming over the next run of episodes.
As we explore the characters’ backstories, will we learn more of the backstory of Henry’s book?
EDDY: We know that Mary-Margaret gave it to Henry (Jared Gilmore), but I think who wrote it and those questions will probably be something more for Season 2.
Is the relationship between Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) going to change now that she knows that he knows?
EDDY: I’d say that their relationship is definitely going to change. You’ve got two very untrustworthy people. I think the thing that will be interesting over the next arc of the episodes is “what the hell are they both up to?” And really, what’s Mr. Gold up to?
ADAM: And for us, there’s now the fun of playing them off as people who know each other and know their long history together.
EDDY: The question that I think people forget is in Episode 2, is when the Evil Queen was having trouble enacting the curse, she went to the person who made it, which was Mr. Gold. So the question that I would ask is: why would somebody create a curse that they themselves did not employ and for what reason? And that is a question that we are going to answer this year.
We have seen a gentler Rumplestiltskin at points this season. Is he maybe not as bad as we think?
EDDY: I think that he is a complicated man and it depends which side and where you line up with his interests. He has an agenda and it’s whether you are in the way of that agenda or not. I think a lot of these characters have gray areas. There’s some humanity in him and there’s some [evil].
ADAM: There’s more to come with him this season. There’s an exploration of more about him and his son and what happened there that may hopefully shed a little more light.
EDDY: That’s Episode 19, and I think that’s going to give you more insight into Mr. Gold.
What can you say about the return of Belle?
ADAM: It’s awesome! We’re excited for it. We love, love Emilie so much. We love what she’s done with the character and we’re excited to show you so more with her and there’s more this season.
EDDY: Yeah, she’s got a nice little scene in Episode 14. She’s sitting up there with the person that loves her not realizing it and that would not be someone I’d want to piss off.
Do you plan to have her back for multiple episodes for the rest of the year?
EDDY: She’s probably going to be back more toward the end of the season.
Was having Belle end up in the psych ward, was that a little nod to Crazy-Squirrel Baby Claire on LOST?
ADAM: I wouldn’t say so much a nod as we felt really confident that Emilie [de Ravin] could pull it off.
EDDY: It’s funny. We had the idea early in the season to have Belle in the insane asylum and then we were talking about who would be the perfect Belle because this has to be the person who sitting across from Rumplestiltskin and they have to — you know, Belle is a strong character — and we’re like it’s Emilie. Then we debated changing the ending because of the squirrel-baby and we thought, “No, let’s scourge Squirrel-Baby again.”
Talking about LOST, how often does that come up? Like as you’re coming up with ideas, do you worry, “oh that’s a little too close and people are going to reference that,” or do you want people to reference stuff like that?
ADAM: I think that we’re the writers that we are — so we’re going to tell stories the way we do — and sometimes things, like the storytelling that we’ve done, informs the storytelling that we’re doing now. We never want to repeat ourselves. But we do feel like we’ve been trying to grow as storytellers for our entire career and LOST was very informative for us. But we’re doing this show, which is its own thing with its own characters, its own world, and we’re trying to tell stories that are unique to that. We have influences from a lot of things.
Can you say whether Jamie Dornan will be coming back in any capacity this season?
ADAM: To be quite honest with you, I hope so. We would like to have him back. Sometimes it is a scheduling thing that is beyond our control, but right now we are trying to move heaven-and-earth to hopefully make it happen. But I can’t promise you.
Were you surprised at the attachment that the audience had for Sheriff Graham and The Huntsman?
ADAM: I wouldn’t say surprised as much as I’d say gratified. You want the audience to be attached to characters and to see people really feel for him and really feel that loss. As painful as that is, that’s what we were going for, so that was gratifying.
EDDY: The character was designed for this arc. We knew coming into it. We knew that when we were picked up the air schedule was that we’d do seven episodes and then go off for a Christmas break. So we were like, “Let’s kill someone.” Because when Henry said in the beginning, “the final battle begins,” we as writers felt like if there weren’t stakes to this battle — if there weren’t casualties — people would start to think, “well, maybe it’s not that strong of a curse.” So Jamie knew when he took the role that it was only going to be for seven episodes. But when people — the reaction that they had was great for us because the other worry is that no one cares. It’s like the old, “Oh, who cares? They killed someone we don’t like.” It’s like when it’s “a shocking death this week!” and it’s waiter number four, and everyone cries, “Foul!” and goes, “that’s bullshit, that’s not a real death.” So we wanted to give a real death. No one is more upset than us, we love Jamie. Writing the Huntsman was awesome.
Jamie’s character Sheriff Graham was one of the few to show awareness for his other life. Are we going to see other characters start to wake-up and have awareness like that?
EDDY: I’d say I’d be pissed if something didn’t happen.
ADAM: The bleed between worlds is something we’ve played with and continue to play with, and the levels to which we’re going to go, we don’t want to give away right now. But it’s certainly a part of the series going forward.
EDDY: It is a difficult thing. The curse is a strong curse. It can’t just be easy. But I think we’re going to explore those questions going forward.
Should fans be bracing for another character to leave us before the end of the season?
ADAM: We can’t say that!
In the episode coming up, it seemed like August (Eion Bailey) woke something up in Ruby (Meghan Ory), if not memories of the past but all she’s ever known is to work at this shop. Might that be August’s doing in Storybrooke? To help people wake up?
ADAM: August’s goal in Storybrooke is one that is going to be revealed very clearly, very shortly. It’s a very specific goal.
EDDY: But I think the question is — it’s kind of like what Henry said in Episode 2: “it’s magic, people don’t remember.” So when you say to Ruby, “How long have you worked at Granny’s?” She’s like, “Forever.” It is because she has no conception of time. But once someone puts it in her head that, “So why do you?” She’s like, “Why do I?”
ADAM: It’s a snowball-effect. Which is to say that Emma (Jennifer Morrison) arrived in the pilot, the clock started ticking and things started to change. One of the changes was August arriving. There’s a lot of things that have changed in Storybrooke and they have kind of mushroomed-out to what you saw with Ruby at the start of Episode 15, and those effects will continue.
We’ve heard a lot about the terrible thing that Snow did to the Evil Queen. Is that something that will be revealed?
EDDY: That’s its own episode and that will be Episode 18. That one, we’re really excited about. That is the episode in which you’ll find out why the Evil Queen hates Snow White so much.
Might Regina ever change her mind about the curse?
ADAM: I supposed anything is possible.
Is Regina now seeing the backlash, like when she enacted the curse she never thought it would actually be her worst nightmare and she hasn’t quite woken up to that fact yet?
EDDY: I think when she enacted it, she enacted it from such an emotional place that she wasn’t thinking clearly, and then she came here and she probably got a little bit bored — and now that Emma’s here, it’s kind of reawakened her passion of revenge and anger. But she’s protecting her son and I think she doesn’t fully understand what she did and I don’t think she understands the repercussions, and I think she’s beginning to lose sight to even why she did it.
Is there a way to undo it? Is that something that’s going to be explored?
ADAM: Every curse can be broken.
EDDY: It’s just: how?
ADAM: And yes, that is something that will be explored.
One of the things you established in your mythology is that “True Love’s Kiss” will break any curse. Does Emma need to start kissing a bunch of men around Storybrooke?
EDDY: I would say that’s an interesting question. Right now, I think unfortunately this Kathryn thing is going to put her on that — Kathryn’s disappearance is going to take up a lot of her time. Thought I think that she definitely seems to have an interesting friendship with the Stranger.
But could that possibly be the answer to the curse?
EDDY: Would that possibly be the answer to the curse, I don’t know.
ADAM: Well, we do know.
EDDY: But we’re trying not to answer it.
ADAM: I would say, like we said, one of the things we’re exploring in the show, is what is evil and whether it is born or made. Another thing we are exploring is love and how powerful true love is and those things find themselves in opposition quite often, and that will continue.
EDDY: Especially for a character like Emma, which I don’t believe has ever really loved anyone.
Then when Mary-Margaret and David kissed it wasn’t like an “ah ha!” moment for them?
EDDY: I think when David and Mary-Margaret kissed, it wasn’t an “ah ha!” moment for them because the curse hasn’t been broken yet and clearly they are not the keys to breaking it. They were just the keys to making the savior. So that’s why.
About Emma, when we first meet her in the pilot, we see her in the real world doing her job. But now she’s gotten very entrenched in Storybrooke and there doesn’t seem to be any repercussions that she left that life, but does that ever come back into play where she thinks about her life outside of Storybrooke?
ADAM: She definitely thinks about her life outside of Storybrooke, but one of the things about Emma is that a lot of the show for her is about the fact that this is a character who has never had a home, and never really stayed in one place. So that’s something she’s struggling with.
EDDY: What we designed her as is a character looking for home, but since she’s never had one, she doesn’t know what it is when she finds it. So every 2 years she kind of moves and she doesn’t get attached to anything, and she doesn’t get attached to anything because then she can’t be hurt. I think what happens this year is people start to attack that: first, Henry; then Mary-Margaret becomes her first real friend, even though it’s her mom. So I think that she is going to find herself emotionally attached to people and that’s going to freak her out.
With this season as sort of a blueprint, where do you see the show going in Season 2 and what sort of characters do you want to bring in?
ADAM: As far as beyond Season 1, we have big ideas about the show and where we’d like to take it. But right now, we’re really focusing on the season we have and finishing it out.
EDDY: But we think we have some really unexpected and surprising characters that we would like to explore next year, that I don’t think people are even thinking about yet.
Will Henry’s father ever come into play? Is that something you want to do now or somewhere down the line?
ADAM: Further down the line definitely.
EDDY: We could tell you we know who he is.
ADAM: We have a very specific plan for that character.
Is it one of those “ah ha!” moments where he’s been this character all along?
ADAM: If we do it right, it’s an “ah ha!” moment.
EDDY: If not, it’s completely a let-down.
ADAM: We hope it’s an “ah ha!” moment.
Is it a character that we would know from the fairytale world?
ADAM: We really don’t want to say, but we’re excited about what we think it is and we hope it’s an “ah ha!”
What can you share about Barbara Hershey’s character?
EDDY: She awesome!
ADAM: First of all, Barbara Hershey is amazing and we’re just starting to cut that episode right now where she’s introduced and she’s just so much fun and so great.
EDDY: And she’s Regina’s mother.
Is she like her daughter?
ADAM: Her daughter came from somewhere!
EDDY: We have a saying that “evil is not born, it’s made.” And I would say that her mother has a specific viewpoint about the world.
ADAM: And hopefully we get a great insight into Regina and the reason she is the way she is.
Are we ever going to see a change in the relationship between Regina and Henry? He really hasn’t warmed up to her at all.
EDDY: He hasn’t. The interesting thing about that relationship is that Regina really wants to make it work and Henry really wants to kind of be with Emma, which is a very complicated thing.
ADAM: We do delve into a little bit more what kind of mother Regina has been to Henry and what kind of mother she wants to be and can be, and how everyone reacts to that. So there’s more exploration of that to come.
Is Regina’s mother going to make us more sympathetic towards Regina?
ADAM: You’ll have to tell us after! I would say taking away “sympathetic,” it’s more about understanding — and understanding why characters do things. It is one of the themes we explore in the show, which is to us: “evil isn’t born, it’s made.” So it’s really kind of getting into why Regina is the way she is and also why the mother is the way she is and that relationship will hopefully allow the audience to understand the characters on a deeper level.
The first season has had the back-and-forth between the fairytale world and the modern world. Do you see that changing at any point in the near future?
EDDY: Not this season, but we can’t say that Season 3 won’t look different because the thing that we set out to do with the show is we set out to do something that was new and fun and keep going forward and keep leaping off a cliff every week and wondering, “Is this going to ruin the show or make it more interesting?” But for right now, we like going back-and-forth between the worlds because we feel like you’re getting to know these characters and therefore it’s a great way to understand where they came from.
ADAM: But the mode of the storytelling has to evolve, and as the show continues you have to find ways to evolve it and to grow it and change it. It doesn’t mean to do something radically different necessarily, but it means to kind of find hopefully new and surprising ways to tell stories.
Is there any significance to the fact that the comic books are from the 1980’s inside the pharmacy?
EDDY: To be honest, the main comic books shown are Damon Lindelof’s, who is a close friend of ours, and as we have said before, he was really helpful when we launched the show and has really been like a godfather to us, so its our little way of giving him a shout-out, which is the whole Wolverine thing. As far as the other ones, we were just lucky enough to say to Marvel, “Can we get a bunch of comic books?”
ADAM: And as you know, Storybrooke is a town that’s kind of out of town in a weird way and there’s a lot of elements to the design of the town and elements that don’t quite fit.
EDDY: You’ll notice rotary phones and you’ll notice old things. It’s kind of what we think of as these stories are timeless, therefore Storybrooke is timeless. So you can have people checking email, but also have a rotary phone. We just kind of like that aesthetic. That’s why all the cars are a little older, if you noticed. It’s got its own vibe to it, and that was designed right from the beginning because we just like that metaphor.
ADAM: I also do like that in Episode 10, Lana was holding a “Fantastic Four” comic book. That was very choice. I like the idea that the Evil Queen does like to read “Fantastic Four.”
Are we going to be seeing more classic villains in this series from the fairytales?
ADAM: Yes, in the sense of Episode 15, we’ll learn who the Big Bad Wolf is. Then we want to leave the door open for exploring more and more classic villains as we go forward. But that’s one example of something coming up.
How different would the show be if it were on in a different timeslot, like later? Would it be more geared towards adults?
ADAM: I think it would be the same. We’re just telling the show the way we want to tell it and telling the stories we want to tell. Where ABC put us is their choice, but we’re thrilled with the timeslot.
EDDY: When we started out, we wanted to do like a big summer movie and that was what we wanted to do every week — that tone, that kind of access for everyone. It’s interesting, I’ve read that we’re too dark. Like to enact the curse, Regina had to ripe the heart of her father out and then we killed the sheriff. Then I hear other people say that it’s for children. So I think that for us, we’re just doing what we think. Episode 15 is pretty dark. It’s going to get to a dark place when you watch it. But Episode 14, the Grumpy one, is kind of like Pixar. So for us, it was like in LOST — a Sayid episode would be a lot darker than a Hurley episode — and that is our point of view on this. When we’re going to tell you a Rumplestiltskin story, it will probably be a little scarier than when you learn how Grumpy became Grumpy. For us, there’s a difference between dark and unpleasant.
ADAM: Like you can tell really dark stories that engage everyone, and our goal is to tell stories for everyone. What has been really gratifying for us is so far people have been watching and getting very different things from it — and we’re just really trying to tell the stories that really excite us.
Can you share why Episode 15 is so dark?
ADAM: Well, we reveal the Big Bad Wolf.
EDDY: And we’re going to learn some interesting things about Kathryn’s disappearance. So I would say those two things make it kind of dark.
How many episodes is that storyline going to extend?
EDDY: That will go about 4-5 episodes.
When we last saw Snow White in the fairytale world, she erased her memories. Will that storyline be picked up again?
EDDY: That’s Episode 16.
ADAM: That episode really picks that up.
EDDY: Episode 15 takes place right before the Huntsman released [Snow White], so before she’s attained all her banditry skills. So before that, you’ll see where Red teaches her like how to track.
ADAM: This exists in the place between when the Huntsman sets her free and she met Charming.
EDDY: And Episode 16 picks up directly after the Episode 13 where she drank the potion.
ADAM: We’ll send you a flow chart. [Laughter] We have a lot of charts to keep track of, but that’s part of the fun of it.
Are you considering when you release the first season on DVD of including as an extra the fairytale world story in chronological order for people trying to figure it all out?
EDDY: That’s a fun idea!
ADAM: We are now. [Laughter]
EDDY: I think the Snow/Charming one, definitely could be one we could run together. That would be cool.
I know for younger viewers, they get confused because you’re doing that out of sequence.
ADAM: Let’s be honest — and the writers! [Laughter]
EDDY: It is more complicated, but as writers, it’s more fun.
ADAM: We also try to set up the individual stories in the episodes as self-contained. Like for example, in the Red episode, what is happening is we discover in that about the wolf and all that and that stuff is contained completely in the episode. Then for those who are watching the series as a whole, hopefully there is some fun in putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Like, “Oh, Snow was here and here, and this was occurring before and after that, and we’re getting little clues as to what’s coming next.”
EDDY: I think the thing is that we really tried to design the show so that it is self-contained and you really get a sense that you can watch the episode and there’s a beginning, middle and end, and you don’t necessarily have to have seen the other episodes. Of course, but if you have, it does reward the viewer who has seen the other ones because you may remember Snow White saying to Red, “I helped you when no one else would” and what does that mean — and that gets answered. But in the same respect, for my father who trust me cannot follow any of this, he just thinks, “oh, there’s a beginning, middle and end to this episode.”
Can you talk about how you work together and the kinds of storylines you’re drawn to and how you balance each other out?
ADAM: I think one of the reasons we’ve worked together for so long is we have very similar sensibilities and we just kind of get really excited about the same kind of ideas and this is a show — we’ve had this idea for many, many years — and it took a long time to really figure out the right way for us to tell it.
EDDY: The thing we loved most when we wrote for LOST, usually when you write for a TV show — ’cause we started in TV and we’ve been on many shows — if you’re on a cop show, it’s a cop show; and if it’s a doctor show, it’s a doctor show — but what was great about LOST was it was the “everything” show. We could write a cop show one week, and a Hurly lottery story the next week, and a rock star for Charlie the next week. So that’s what we loved about this idea, we literally could write different tones and different things all together and that’s all that it kind of is. So we wrote this Grumpy episode, and it’s a little lighter and a little sweeter, but we also wrote Episode 18 with Regina and that’s probably a little bit more emotionally wrenching and dark.
ADAM: We wanted to do a show where we could kind of stretch all of our writer muscles and do a lot of different things, but kind of find an umbrella under which they would all fit together and hopefully happily coexist.
Can you talk about the Amy Acker role in the Grumpy episode?
EDDY: Yeah, she’s fantastic. She plays a fairy named Nova and she is going to help tell the story of how Grumpy became Grumpy.
So when Grumpy told Snow that he was saving up for a diamond, is that who he was saving up for?
EDDY: Yeah, in fact Episode 10 where he talks about how he was in love and there was a diamond in that, Episode 14 tells the story of how he became so grumpy.
Are we going to see David Anders back?
EDDY: Oh yes. Love Dr. Whale!
ADAM: We have plans. We’re very excited for him.
EDDY: His reveal of who he is will be not be this season.
Can you talk a little bit about Sebastian Stan too?
ADAM: Sebastian is another amazing actor we were very lucky to get who is going to be in Episode 17.
EDDY: It’s one of our favorite episodes. It’s been reported that we go to Wonderland and his role is definitely one of those — I don’t know if it’s been said or not.
ADAM: It’s definitely.
EDDY: Shall we say? Okay, he plays the Mad Hatter. So in that episode we find out how the Mad Hatter became “mad” and we are also excited that the hookah-smoking caterpillar will be voiced by Roger Daltry of The Who. When Roger agreed to do the voice, we geeked out. But Sebastian Stan is so good in this role and really he’s brilliant.
How will this Wonderland be different than what we have seen before?
ADAM: Like anything, we tried to do our “Once” take on it and twist. You’ll see.
EDDY: I think the first thing you’ll notice is who the Mad Hatter was and his backstory. Then what Wonderland is and the changes of it is something we hope to explore also. We were hoping that this tell you the story of the Mad Hatter, but it will leave you with questions about Wonderland and things like that.
What can you tell us about where this season is sort of charging towards? Will it be a big cliff-hanger?
ADAM: What we can say without giving away stuff we don’t want to give away is that a lot of the things that we set up in the pilot and the early episodes are things that kind of come to a boil at the end of this season.
These are not all the answers to the questions are dying to know about, but it definitely leaves us on the edge of our seats to see exactly where the rest of the season is going and whether there may indeed be yet another beloved character caught in the crosshairs of the Evil Queen’s curse. Not to mention, who is the Big Bad Wolf? Will Mr. Gold find Belle in Storybrooke? And what exactly did Snow do to incur the eternal hatred of the Evil Queen? But the only way to find out is we’re going to have to watch and see. On that last teasing and tantalizing note, be sure to watch ONCE UPON A TIME as it airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on ABC.
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