“Once Upon a Time” fans experienced quite the roller coaster ride over the course of the past week, and that was even before Sunday’s game-changing Season 6 finale aired.
ABC picked up the fairy-tale drama series for a seventh season on Thursday, but this was quickly followed by the news on Friday that the upcoming run would be without its core cast members, as Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow) and Josh Dallas (Charming) are joining Jennifer Morrison (Emma) out the door at the end of the season.
“OUAT” co-creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz tell TheWrap in an interview that they have known for the better part of a year that these cast members would be leaving, and that the show’s refocus is all about what’s best creatively. However, they are aware that some fans might not exactly be thrilled to say goodbye to their favorite characters — or less euphemistically, that there are viewers who want them to “rot in hell.”
The showrunners also weighed in on which departing cast member still wanted to stay with the show, how soon viewers will meet the mom of Henry’s daughter and why the new season will be similar to the first.
News broke last week that a number of cast members are leaving. How do you feel about fans’ reactions to the shakeup?
Adam Horowitz: To be quite honest, we haven’t looked at a lot of it because we can guess that the reactions [range] from, “I will never watch this show again,” and “Rot in hell.” But these are the same people two weeks ago that were saying, “When are they going to give someone their happy ending?” So if we listened to the internet, there’s too many voices and too many opinions. What we felt was the show always was bold: At the end of Season 1, we broke the premise of the show, and we broke the curse. And I think everybody would agree six seasons later that if Emma still didn’t believe in it, the show would not be on the air. So we felt it was time to end one adventure and begin a new one.
Edward Kitsis: We want the fans to enjoy the show, obviously, but we have to find the way to keep it surprising and keep it fresh and keep it moving forward. If there are questions about what we’re going to do and how they feel about it, I think our hope is that when they see what we’re planning to do, that they’re just as engaged as they’ve always been.
The Season 6 finale felt like it could have been a series finale. At what point were you assured by the network that the show would be coming back?
Kitsis: We have been talking with the network all year, but in a lot of ways, it could have been a series finale, absolutely. As we said, we wanted to end the chapter to that first book. We had gone into the year always wanting to do that. If we didn’t have a Season 7, that would have been exactly how we ended the show. We’ve been putting this new iteration together for a while.
Horowitz: We’ve been talking with the studio and the network about this for a very long time, and if it hadn’t worked out, it would have ended the same way, but we’re just glad everybody wanted to continue.
Josh and Ginnifer told you about a year ago that they were ready to move back to Los Angeles [from Vancouver, where the series shoots]. But when did you know that the other cast members would be leaving? Were any of the casting decisions made in an effort to save money and help ensure that the show gets renewed?
Kitsis: It’s really a case of, it’s an ensemble show, and a lot of people are at different points in their life. And after 134 episodes, some people, they’ve been living away from home for six years, and some people wanted to return, some people had kids. So we started the year kind of knowing who wanted to stay on if we were going to get another year, and who decided it was time, as we said, to retire their jersey after a hall of fame career. Josh and Ginny, we knew they were going to leave this year, so we wrote a year that allowed them to get their happy ending. Everything was amicable — there was [nothing based on] pickups. Everything was made out of a creative decision, which is hard for people to believe, I guess.
Horowitz: It’s funny because the announcements came out last week, so as far as the fans were concerned, it was like, “Wow, all at once.” But this is stuff we’ve been talking about all year, so we’ve designed the whole season to reach this point. It wasn’t like, all of sudden last week we had to do a giant rewrite. It’s just, it kind of is what it is. Shows that are lucky enough to be on as long as we have, have to at certain points change and grow and go in different directions, and I think that’s what’s happened. For us, this is a natural evolution of what the show has always been.
Kitsis: For us, every year felt like a new season of a new show anyway, so we’re willing to do another high-wire act.
It sounds like Rebecca Mader (Zelena) wanted to continue with the show. Was that just a situation where there aren’t more stories to tell with her character?
Kitsis: That was a really hard one because we worked with Rebecca on “Lost.” We literally created the role for her — we called her and said, “We have a role for you — will you come on and do the show?” She’s phenomenal. “Wicked Always Wins” is one of my favorite songs from the [“OUAT”] musical. And it’s like having this great player, but we felt like we’re kind of doing this new thing next year, and unfortunately, creatively there wasn’t a place yet. But that doesn’t mean we won’t see her back because we love Rebecca, we love that role. We don’t think it will be the last we see of her — it just means she’s not going to be a regular in the way she’s carried on for the last few years.
How often might the exiting characters pop up in Season 7 cameos?
Horowitz: I think what we can tell is you can see everybody. Even people who have been dead on our show come back three years later. There’s a difference between, “I want to do a couple [episodes] a year,” and “I want to be there permanently.”
Kitsis: I think if all goes according to plan, you’ll see a lot of people pop in and out. It wasn’t like we did a finale for Season 6 where there was a massacre at the end. These characters are going on, so we would love to have them go in and out as they can and if the story warrants it.
The finale revealed that Henry has a daughter. How soon will we find out who the mom is, and is it someone from the fairy-tale realm?
Horowitz: We will find out who she is in the premiere. It will be somebody from the fairy-tale realm, and what we can tell you is that Henry and that woman will be an epic romance in the tradition of Snow and Charming.
Fans have been trying to guess which new characters will be introduced. What can you tease about that? Can we assume Moana might be on the horizon?
Horowitz: Like always, we will be pulling from the iconic, both the new and the historical. For us, the fun of this is getting to retell origin stories, finding out who people are in the real world without magic.
tvalisononsetI love hanging out with the actor @therealjaredgilmore who is like a big brother and getting a few tips on being #lucymills ??? #whoami #oncer #ouat #tonewbeginnings #thenewbeginning #onceuponatime #jaredgilmore #AlisonFernandez #likeabigbrotherjaredishere and #fatheranddaughter (x)
tvalisononsetl Me and my #OUAT dad @andrewjwest sharing a few jokes at #thefinalbattle screening. #Thenewbeginning #onceuponatime (x)
tvalisononset This was so awesome. I would never have imagined not only standing in the same room but getting to work with, on the same show, with the legendary talented, Infamous #TonyAmendola aka #geppetto and Master #jafar Bra'tac from #stargatesg1 who by the way declared me an honorary Jafar! Yessss! 🤗❤️🎭💋 (x)
tvalisononset Omg! I’m hanging out with the enchanting @lparrilla Lana Parrilla after the cast party and screening of The season final of once upon a time! I still can’t get over having this amazing opportunity to get to work with her. Thank you to all the powers that be, my parents, my agents, my managers, the casting companies, ABC networks, Disney, and all of my friends and fans who are supporting me through this journey. #feelingblessed #thankful #livingthedream #tonewbeginnings #cesdtalent #ImLucy ❤️ (x)
Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season finale of Once Upon a Time. Read at your own risk!
The Final Battle led to a lot of loss during Sunday’s two-hour season finale of Once Upon a Time.
After the curse hit, Henry (Jared Gilmore) found himself in a Black Fairy (Jaime Murray) run Storybrooke where Emma (Jennifer Morrison) was locked up in a mental hospital, unaware she’s the savior and refusing to believe in fairy tales.
It turns out, the Final Battle is not an actual fight, but a battle for Emma’s soul. The Black Fairy hopes to crush Emma’s belief, thus causing all the realms in Fairy Tale Land to crumble and disappear — and she nearly achieves her goal, too. Though Emma initially returned to her old life in Boston, Henry was able to convince his mother to return, saving everyone’s lives.
But it’s Rumple (Robert Carlyle) who actually breaks the curse. Furious that the Black Fairy imprisoned Belle (Emilie de Ravin), Rumple killed his mother, thus ending her spell, returning Emma’s memory and bringing everyone home to Storybrooke. Unfortunately, the Black Fairy had already commanded Gideon (Giles Matthey) to kill Emma. Instead of fighting back, Emma decides to sacrifice herself rather than kill an innocent. But, in a scene echoing the season 1 finale, Henry’s kiss resurrects Emma.
Though the storybook was burned, it reconstitutes and subsequently ends. Yes, it’s the end of this book, but not their story. Everyone gets to keep living happily ever after together. And yet, in a flash to the future that echoes the pilot, a young girl named Lucy (Alison Fernandez) shows up at an adult Henry’s (Andrew J. West) door, exclaiming that his family needs his help. She’s the same little girl whom an adult Henry in the Enchanted Forest employed to protect the storybook when a darkness came for him in what turned out to be a flash forward. What does this mean?! EW turned to executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis to find out.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Many of the cast we’ve known over the last six seasons are not returning. Can you talk about how the story will be changing moving forward? ADAM HOROWITZ: Just on a conceptional level, it’s the same show. We’re trying to tell the same kind of stories and honor the DNA of what Once Upon a Time was from the very start. But I think we — Eddy and I — felt that as we approached season 6, the time had come to close the chapter on a lot of the stories we had been telling, which was the impetus behind this season finale, and open some new chapters. While there are some characters returning and some not returning, it’s still the same universe, and it’s still the same kind of storytelling. It’s just that we’re going to be coming at it from a little bit of a different angle. It’s not going to be necessarily Storybrooke-based. EDWARD KITSIS: Also, what we see is, a new hero is leading us into a new world, which is an adult Henry Mills. We saw that in what we realize are flash forwards, and then at the very end, Henry has grown up and he looks like he left home. He was an Author writing everyone else’s story, so to me it looks like he left home to find his own story and then something happened, and now he’s got to be the hero. HOROWITZ: It’s a little bit of the continuity between the two iterations of the show, which is Henry. Henry has been the heart of the show from the beginning. Jared was amazing, and we couldn’t love him move; watching him grow up has been amazing. Now, we’re going to see what that character becomes in a 10-years-older version. But he’s still going to be that character and still carry that essence of the show and be the center of the family that’s at the heart of the show.
You gave so much closure to so many stories, how do you plan to reconcile that with some people returning next year but not others? Does that change their happy endings? KITSIS: What happened to these people, those are episodes, those are things we will probably want to show. For us, we felt creatively it was time to end a lot of these stories. What we’re really interested in is, as we said, it’s like a new book. So we’re starting with new stories. Although it’s going to have some of the people that we’ve loved for six years at the center of it, we are going to meet new people and new worlds.
Will we see an influx of new characters and other fairy tales? How will you branch out in that sense? HOROWITZ: Hopefully when you see the premiere, that will become super clear, so we don’t want to give too much away right now other than to say we do intend to branch out, we do intend to also stay with some of the characters we’ve been with. It’s about how do you honor everything that’s come before, but also widen the canvas a little bit? KITSIS: Open the world up. HOROWITZ: That’s the goal of season 7. In addition to the people that we’ve already announced who are coming back as regulars, and who are not, there will be more regulars we’re adding to the mix. KITSIS: As we completed one journey, what we want to do next year is take people on another one. The DNA is still the same, which is fairy tale characters in the real world in search of hope. We still have Henry, we still have Regina, we still have Hook and we still have Rumple, and we still have people are that are going to come in and out that we know, but we’re going to meet a whole new universe and a new group of people. So for us as writers, we’re also excited to do that. Probably you’re going to see a world with no magic in it on one side, very similar to the way we did in season 1.
Thematically, what are you hoping to explore that’s different than what the first six seasons were? KITSIS: We always say that Emma was a character looking for her family and finding hope. I would say that Henry was the heart of the truest believer, and what we saw at the very end is he no longer believes. Henry’s loss in faith and the idea of belief is the jumping off point. The DNA of the show remains, and always will be, of hope. Each character was always looking for their happy ending, and that is no different than anyone in the real world. HOROWITZ: One of the hardest times to have hope in anyone’s life is when you’ve lost belief or faith in something. That is a jumping off point for where we are for the next season, which is, how do you deal with questioning faith and belief and finding hope again?
This scene with adult Henry echoes the pilot, even down to Henry saying he doesn’t have a kid. Has something happened to him in terms of his memories or has he just become cynical somehow seemingly being separated from his family? HOROWTIZ: These are excellent questions that might be better answered— KITSIS: —in the teaser of next year. HOROWITZ: But they’re excellent and insightful questions.
Is the storybook that Henry charged his daughter with protecting in the Enchanted Forest the book we’ve always known, or a book with brand new stories within? HOROWITZ: It’s another excellent question, and without getting too specific about what that book we saw in the teaser is really about, what we can say is that Henry has grown up, he has remained true to what we’ve established and he is an Author.
Let’s talk about Lucy. Who is her mother? Is it Violet? HOROWITZ: Violet is in the montage at the end. When Henry goes to school, she’s waiting for him at the school. KITSIS: But that being said, unfortunately like a lot of us, your first love in high school ends up not being the person you marry. You end up leaving home and moving on. It is not Violet. Who the mother is, and who Henry fell in love with, is one of the things we’re really excited about next year. In the tradition of Snow and Charming, Henry and his wife are a very much Once epic romance.
Is there a Savior in this story? KITSIS: There could be. HOROWITZ: There very well could be.
Can you talk at all about this new darkness coming after adult Henry that we saw in the Enchanted Forest? Is this the introduction of the new antagonist for next season? HOROWITZ: It is. It looked pretty scary, so I don’t think it’s a new friend-tagonist. What we see in the season finale in those little snippets is, it’s a darkness that grown-up Henry has to deal with and has a big impact on what’s going on in season 7. We’re still at that we need to be slightly infuriatingly vague stage.
Since the show is going to be centered partially around Regina next year, what can you say about her drive or her story going into next season? KITSIS: I’d say she’s fighting for the people, just like a queen does.
The Evil Queen seems to be marrying Robin Hood. Will she play a role next season since Lana is sticking around? HOROWITZ: I would say, never say never.
Rumple seemed to get his happy ending with his family, but what do you plan to explore with him next season? The darkness is still inside and he’s just killed his own mother, so how has that changed him? KITSIS: We saw his happy ending with Belle, and they worked really hard to get it. What’s happening next in his life and what he’s going through is obviously what the story is. That one I don’t want to just fully tease yet. All this stuff is literally just being worked on. HOROWITZ: We really would love for the audience to be able to spend the summer living with the happiness that we’ve seen these characters get, because it’s real, and it’s meant to be real. It’s not meant to be something that we’re doing that we want to destroy and make all horrible, or whatever. We want these characters to have really earned this place of happiness they’ve found. But because we’re telling stories, we’re going to have issues to overcome in the future, and Rumple is no exception to that rule. To tell you now what it is would give away so much, so we’d rather have the audience really sit with what we’ve left them with for now.
Because you see Emma get her happy ending, and we know that Jennifer is only returning for one episode, a lot of fans are worried Emma is going to die. Do you want to say anything to the audience? KITSIS: Not really. There’s nothing to say. That is correct, she is coming back for an episode. Their happiness is real, and people should enjoy that. The thing is this: Right now, we’re not trying to take away the show we’ve done for six years, and we’re not trying to destroy people’s happiness right now, but we’re going to be telling a new version. But until they see that, they won’t understand what it is. So for us, we’d rather not whip people into a frenzy. HOROWITZ: I’d like to underscore that for a second: Really we wanted the audience to not think about what we’re doing as throwing away what came before, but building on and expanding from it, so that what happened and what they’ve lived with and what they’ve invested in all these years still really matters; it matters to us as writers and we know it matters to so much of the audience. We want them to know that we do really respect that and we really do approach the story from that level. We’re not just clearing a playing field and starting over willy-nilly. We’re trying to tell these new stories and expand our canvas, but also honor what’s come before.
Hook’s always walked a fine line of giving into his darker instincts over the years. Is that something you might delve into again moving forward? KITSIS: That’s definitely a part of his DNA, but we’re hoping to tell new avenues of story for the characters. The lessons they’ve learned on the show, like we don’t want another year of Regina wondering whether or not she should be evil; that’s been settled. When the dwarves bow to her, they bow to her as the queen. She’s no longer the Evil Queen. So we want our characters to move forward. But like any of us, once you get a hold of one issue, there’s always three others.
Can you talk about how you’ll be handling flashbacks next year? HOROWITZ: We do intend to keep a flashback component to the show and we hope that how we do it is fun for the audience.
Now that you have this new direction, do you have a better sense of your endgame? HOROWITZ: Our goal with the show remains the same, is the simplest way to put it. It’s that question you always get asked, which is, “Do you know exactly what the end is going to be?” KITSIS: We knew for this chapter, we have ideas and we are creating a new chapter. We’ll see how that goes. We’re excited about the new journey. We think it’s very much Once Upon a Time. At the same respect, we are excited that we got to see those happy moments from our characters in the finale and really build to that.
Wedding bells are officially ringing in Storybrooke!
Once Upon a Time’s highly anticipated musical episode is almost here, which means that we’re just a few days away from witnessing Emma Swan and Killian Jones say “I do” in a breathtaking wedding ceremony. (Trust us. It’s perfect.)
ET had the pleasure of visiting Once Upon a Time’s set in Vancouver, Canada, last month during filming of the musical matrimony, and we sat down with stars Jennifer Morrison and Colin O'Donoghue for an intimate and in-depth interview that focused on each and every aspect of their on-screen wedding.
From their “honest” vows, to Emma’s “timeless” wedding gown, and their dream honeymoon – only ET has all the inside scoop straight from the stars of the series! Plus, we’ve got additional details from executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, as well as Once Upon a Time’s head costume designer Eduardo Castro.
So, shall we get started? Or, as O'Donoghue cleverly put it: who’s ready for some “music and dance and some mighty fine romance” at Captain Swan’s wedding?
Just a warning that this is the biggest Once Upon a Time article we’ve ever written, so grab a comfy seat, put your cellphone on silent and get ready to go on an emotional roller coaster of feels. And, as always, please remember to breathe!
1. The Venue: The Once showrunners confessed that they had considered a number of “other places” for Emma and Killian to tie the knot – yes, even Granny’s! – but in the end, they settled on a brand new Storybrooke location for the ceremony. “Without wanting to spoil the episode, there’s a story reason for why it’s on the roof,” Horowitz revealed. “But there’s also something to us that was super romantic about having Storybrooke as the backdrop.”
Emma and Killian will tie the knot in front of a dream-worthy sunset and surrounded by their closest friends and family. “It’s the place where they’ve kind of come together,” Horowitz continued. “Where their love has grown and where both of them as characters have grown, so seeing the whole town kind of beneath and surrounding them felt like a really cool way to do it.”
“I thought it was perfect,” Morrison dished. “We just felt, like, what better way to make it feel extra special than to have [the wedding] also be the musical episode?”