As we head into spring, TV shows on the bubble start to cross their fingers and get superstitious in hopes of renewal. One of the shows still yet to hear their verdict is Once Upon a Time. Created by Lost alums, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (the writing duo who penned Tron Legacy), the modern-day dark twist on fairy tales started out strong, attracting nearly 13 million total viewers but has slumped to the 8.6-10.7 million range in the last 10 episodes. We shall see if it’s enough to earn a second season, but in the meantime, Kitsis and Horowitz continue to push forward as planned and keep audiences guessing as the show progressively gets darker and darker.
How has Once Upon a Time evolved? Has it gone the way you always envisioned or become something you didn’t originally think it would?
Edward Kitsis: Our dream was to tell certain stories like, why Grumpy became grumpy. Why does the Evil Queen hate Snow White? Tonight it’s why the Mad Hatter is mad. What’s great is through those shows you get to know everyone. We get to know Robert Carlyle. We get to know Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, and Lana Parrilla and all the actors. They elevate the material. You start to writing to the things that they elevate. Then they elevate that. What happens is this unique kind of weaving and it takes a life of its own.
Adam Horowitz: A television show is an organic process. It’s made from an entirely talented group of people from the actors to the crew. We’ve been so blessed with everyone that’s involved. Because of that, what happens is you have your plans for things you want to do, but you also allow for the organic nature of the show to develop into what it kind of wants to be, you just try to stay true to what your vision for where you want to take the show but at the same time, allow for all the talented people you’ve got working for you (actors, set designers, costumes etc.) to bring amazing things.
Is there something special about babies or the children on the show?
EK: The rule that was set up was that everyone from the enchanted forest or that land can’t leave Storybrooke. Obviously the only two people are Henry and Emma and then there’s this new guy that came into town, whoever he is.
AH: It was never meant to be a force field that you bounce off of. It’s more along the lines of something that keeps you from going, or draws you back.
EK: Even in the pilot, Red said, “I should have gone to Boston.” Granny said, “I’m sorry my heart attack…” The trigger can be a family emergency. Your car can break down, it could be you giving birth.
AH: The comings and goings of the folks in Storybrooke is something we continue to explore and continues to play a part in the show.
Storybrooke appears to be this small town and often times it looks as if people are constantly meeting each other for the first time.
AH: I would say that the town isn’t as small as it first appears. We’re seeing a slice of the town, but there could always mean there’s much more there than we’re seeing at first.
EK: I spent my first nine years in town called Mankato, Minnesota, which is a small town of 50,000 people. But 50,000 people means you don’t always run into someone when you go to the grocery store or hardware store. We’re showing a small part of Storybrooke, I think and there’s always a sense of, we haven’t seen everybody yet but at the same time there’s a nice community.
Are we going to see more of Storybrooke turn against Regina slowly but surely, as more characters are added to the mix?
EK: One of the interesting things Emma does is get people to stand up to bullies, whether it’s Regina or injustices.
AH: What we’ve already seen is people are giving her a harder time than she ever had in the 28 years of the curse prior to Emma’s arrival. There’s no reason to think that won’t continue.
Having already seen Emile de Ravin (Lost) as Belle, Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) as The Mirror, Emma Caufield (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer) as the Blind Witch, and Amy Acker (Angel) as Astrid all guest-star on the show, what guest-stars can we expect in remainder of the first season?
EK: Tonight we have Sebastian Stan as the Mad Hatter in episode 117 “Hat Trick,” who is fantastic; we have Roger Daltry voicing the hookah-smoking caterpillar.
AH: We have some fun people we’re really thrilled to join the cast and Barbara Hershey (Black Swan) playing Regina’s mother in episode 118, “The Stable Boy” is something we’re very excited about.
Editor’s Note: “The Stable Boy” is where the audience will see where a lot of the pain The Evil Queen has comes from and answers that pivotal question Kitsis posed, why does she hate Snow White so much.
What can you tell us about The Mysterious Stranger / August Wayne Booth?
EK: The next three episodes (counting last week’s episode 116 “Heart of Darkness”) will drop more hints as to why he’s here.
AH: Before the finale you’ll know who he is and why (he’s in Storybrooke).
Are we going to see more of Rumplestilskin’s son?
EK: Yes. And you will understand what happened between them. I would say there is great stuff with Robert and the son, as to where it is–I would say not this season–perhaps.
AH: Or we might this season–perhaps. The character of Baelfire, Rumple’s son, does come back later this season, whether it’s in Storybrooke or in fairy tale land, how that plays out, we want to be a surprise.
EK: In other words, we want you to keep watching. [Laughs]
Other things revealed in the recent Wondercon panel [Warning for Spoilers]:
• With no word on renewal, both remain hopeful but do have an idea of how the story will end. They’ve given themselves the flexibility and freedom to manage that ending given their cloudy future, but don’t want to commit to something specific in the event that they change their minds as the series evolves.
• Disney has been supportive of the show and how Kitsis and Horowitz are using characters and references in the Disney lore such as Belle and the Fantasia apprentice hat. Despite killing off a fairy godmother and one of the eight dwarfs raised some eyebrows, they have not been told anything is off limits.
• The Huntsman will be back in the finale.
• A few of the people we’ve yet to meet in the aforementioned “small town” of Storybrooke are Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, Mulan, and Rapunzel.
• Don’t expect Winnie the Pooh or Pluto showing up in Storybrooke anytime soon.
• Dr. Whale’s alter ego in fairy tale land is… a mystery you’ll have to find out if future seasons are ordered.
• Love, more accurately, the search for love is a predominant theme with all the characters.
• Lost showrunner Damon gave them the idea of the egg-hatching dwarves when he suggested that could be the reason why we never see a female dwarf.
• Look for Lost easter eggs, especially up in the sky in a future episode.
• Gay and/or gender-switched versions of characters is something Kitsis and Horowitz would be open to telling in the future, in wanting to tell stories that are reflective and representative of everyone.
• Comics or graphic novels tie-ins are not in the current plans, but is something they’d like to explore in the future. Hmmm. This was an odd tidbit; as if comparisons with Bill Willingham’s Fables (published by DC’s Vertigo imprint) weren’t bad enough, A Once Upon a Time comic would obviously be published at Marvel (owned by Disney) if they were to materialize.
Make sure you come back to BuzzFocus later today as we’ll have an exclusive interview with the man behind the music on Once Upon a Time, accomplished film composer Mark Isham. Catch new episodes of Once Upon a Time Sundays at 8pm ET/PT on ABC.