Fans of Once Upon A Time got a special treat at Wondercon Sunday when the creators, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, stopped by for a panel and a early screening of episode 16 “Heart of Darkness.” For those not caught up: Once Upon a Time is a show where the fairytale characters that we all know and love have been cursed by the Evil Queen to live in our world with no idea of who they really are. The story switches back and forth between the two worlds, with part of each episode taking place in “fairytale land” in the past with characters such and Snow White and Prince Charming, and the other half dealing with the lives of their counterparts in our world. The story itself centers around Emma Swan, and outsider to the town of “Storybrooke,” who is brought to the town to save it by the son whom she had given up for adoption when he was a baby. And guess what, his adopted mother is the Mayor of Storybrooke, who also just happened to be the Evil Queen. Congratulations, you are now 10 minutes into the first episode.
With all the layers and facets to the story, it’s not hard to believe that the creators spent more then a little time working on Lost. To be honest, when I first heard of Once Upon A Time, I didn’t know what to expect. At first glance it looks to be rather light and campy, but as you delve deeper into the stories it proves itself to have a much more serious and darker tone as well. It’s very character driven in the same way Lost was, but the addition of telling the story in two entirely different worlds gives it a interesting depth and mode of exploration for the characters and who they are. Before the panel I sat down with Kitsis and Horowitz and discussed some of what goes into writing the show and what we can expect from the rest of the season.
Here’s a few of the highlights from the interview:
-In Episode 16 we get to see a little bit of Snow White’s dark side and what happens when you create a void in your heart. They introduce the concept in the show that “Evil isn’t born, it’s made.”
-The Queen is a character with a lot of pain and we are going to see where a lot of that pain comes from. In Episode 18 they are going to delve more into the Evil Queen’s past, revealing the reason why she hates Snow White as well as introduce the Queen’s mother, who will be played by Barbara Hershey.
-We are going to see Emma be more proactive both in her more investigative role as well as the emotional role she has with the characters. For the first time in her life she’s let people bring her walls down and that affects how she looks at things but also how she reacts to things that happen around her. She’s the type of character that when she is pushed she pushes back.
-Nothing on Season 2 yet, but they are very hopeful, they have ideas for what they want to do in Season 2.
-They have an idea of how the story is going to end, but they want to give themselves the freedom to see where the show takes them. An idea they have now may not necessarily be relevant three or more years down the line. They have a general idea of where they are going, but how they are going to get to that destination is still being mapped out as the show progresses.
-In crafting the story in two realms they use a bit of the techniques they used on Lost, stepping back every so often and looking at the bigger picture. They develop a sort of road map, assigning stories to characters as they go, starting an arc and then putting the pieces together. They usually break one story first, then thematically break the second one and then weave them together, but at the same time crafting the larger overarching story and breaking it down to incorporate where it needs to fit in the episodes.
- They talked about their relationship to Disney and how they like referencing them in the stories; Disney has been very supportive overall of the show.
-As writers they are excited to be able to write the types of stories that they can add an element of darkness to; they have fun balancing the light and dark aspects of the worlds and stories, yet still have them fall under they umbrella of the same tone.
At the panel the creators of the show came out to do a quick Q & A after they premiered the episode. After a few questions from the moderator they opened the floor to fans, and here is what they answered:
-They first came up with Once Upon a Time right after they came off of Felicity. They were thinking up ideas for a pilot and they thought about the Evil Queen and how horrible it must be to be her and be trapped in this world where everyone was living happily ever after but her. Where would she have to take all these characters in order to win? Our world. The problem then was that they had no clue how to actually do the show.
-The huntsman will be back in the finale.
-We will find out more about “the book.”
-By the end of the season we will know more about August: who he is, why he’s in Storybrooke, and basically everything you’ve ever wanted to know about him (and “two things you didn’t.”)
-It will be revealed who Dr. Whale’s counterpart is in fairytale land, just not this season.
-They have a few stories they would like to incorporate into the show: Peter Pan, the Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, and Mulan, to name a few. There a definitely a lot of people we have yet to meet in fairytale land and Storybrooke.
-There are a few characters that will never turn up though, Winnie the Pooh and Pluto being two of them (though they don’t officially want to close any doors).
-ABC Disney is a great fit for the show since it makes a lot of use of the iconic Disney characters. ABC has been very supportive of the show from the beginning even though they’ve done some bold moves such as killing off not only a fairy godmother, but also a dwarf (even if he was the little known eighth one). So far nothing has been off limits.
-All the characters of Storybrooke have memories of growing up in the real world, but they are all implanted memories, and because of this they can be hazy and indistinct at times.
-They would love to have more Lost alums on the show. They would love to have Jorge Garcia on the show.
-They have been having fun dropping Lost Easter Eggs into the episodes. They started out being shameless self references — the pilot had the clock stuck at 8:15, Geronimo Jackson sticker, and 108 for Regina’s address — but also adding things along the way like MacCutcheon Whiskey and the Apollo Bar. They also hinted at another one coming up: in an upcoming episode, look up in the air.
-They would be open to doing queer and/or gender-switched versions of some of the fairytales; they’d like to be able to tell stories that reflect everyone.
-While there are no plans right now for graphic novels or tie-in novels, they are interested in doing that in the future.
-They are going to continue to explore the concept of the power of love and what it means; all the characters are looking for love for different reasons.
-They came up with the idea of the dwarves hatching out of eggs at a lunch with Damon Lindelof when they were discussing how come they’ve never seen a female dwarf, and they thought of eggs and it just stuck.