At its core, the ABC drama series Once Upon A Time is a story of hope, but now in its seventh season, it’s also in a new town (Hyperion Heights) run by a new villain (Gabrielle Anwar as Victoria Belfrey), and there’s a new curse that’s taken the memories of the former residents of the Enchanted Forest. And to overcome it all, a young girl named Lucy (Alison Fernandez) has to convince a grown-up Henry Mills (Andrew J. West) that his true love, aka her mother, is actually Cinderella (Dania Ramirez).
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Colin O’Donoghue (who plays Captain Hook, aka Killian Jones, aka Officer Rogers) talked about reinventing Hook, working with all of the new cast members, how bittersweet it was to say goodbye to so many of his fellow co-stars this season, whether he ever considered leaving, what kind of cop Rogers is, what life is like in Hyperion Heights, how he feels about where Hook and Emma’s (Jennifer Morrison) story was left, and what it’s meant to him to be a part of this show, for so many seasons. He also talked about juggling the series with making movies and what drew him to What Still Remains.
Collider: It’s great to talk to you, but kind of surreal to talk to you about the seventh season of a show that also sort of feels like the first season again.
COLIN O’DONOGHUE: It’s been great trying to reinvent Hook and figure out who he is, in this realm.
What’s it like to be in Season 7, but to look around and see different cast members on set than the ones you’ve shared scenes with for the last six seasons?
O’DONOGHUE: It’s been great, to be honest. Obviously, we miss all of the old cast members. Nobody can play the characters the way that they played them. But it’s been nice to get to work with new people, as well. One thing that I’ve actually always enjoyed doing on this show is getting to work with so many different people.
When you got the news about the cast departures and the big changes for this season, what was your reaction to that?
O’DONOGHUE: I was happy for the people who wanted to try new things, and I was happy that they got the opportunity to do that. I knew that I would miss working with all of them. It’s a catch-22, to be honest with you. The show needed to go the way that it’s gone for it to continue. It needed a change. It needed to mix things up. Plus, you can’t go back and repeat the first season, for Season 7. You have to change direction, move along and try to progress the stories, or try to make new ones. It was bittersweet.
When they told you that this shift would be happening, did they also tell you what the shift would actually be?
O’DONOGHUE: I had a good idea, as to the general direction that we were going to go in, so that was good.
Had you ever considered leaving the show, yourself, or were you always game and on board for what’s next?
O’DONOGHUE: To be honest with you, I still had time left on my contract, anyway. I’ve loved playing Hook and I’ve loved working on this show, and it’s an amazing opportunity to get to play a character and investigate a character for so long. I’m just happy to be able to have the opportunity to continue to explore him a little more and see how that goes. He’s a great character and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to get to play him.
Has this season felt like the biggest reinterpretation that you’ve had to go through with him?
O’DONOGHUE: Yes and no. Over the seasons, I’ve managed to play four or five different incarnations of Hook. I’ve been lucky to be able to have to many interpretations of this character, but it’s definitely a different take, this season.
Are you approaching your performance any differently, this season, because he is the most different version of the character, even in name, or does he still feel like the same person, at the core?
O’DONOGHUE: At the core, he kind of feels the same. He feels similar to some parts of previous Hooks that I’ve played. But I am approaching it differently because the world and where he is, is very, very different, so you have to come at it slightly different.
He’s gone by Hook, Killian and now Rogers. When you’re playing the character, what name do you think of him as?
O’DONOGHUE: This season, I think of him as Rogers. In the first episode, you saw that he’s a cop and he tries to be the best person that he can be, within the confines of what his personality allows him to be. So, I think of him as Rogers, but he still has elements of Hook.
Could you ever have imagined, when you started playing Hook, that you’d be here now, with him as a cop, of all professions?
O’DONOGHUE: No, I would not have pictured that. To be honest with you, I’m not sure I could have pictured people relating to the character as much as they did. The fact that I’m even on the show is amazing to me.
Did you ever think that he might turn out a little bit more evil and sinister, instead of being the relatively good guy that he actually seems to be?
O’DONOGHUE: Definitely the first season, he was a villain. What I liked about the way that the writers have pitched him, and it’s what I think they do really well with the villains on the show, full-stop, is that they make them far more complex than a black-and-white villain. He was more tormented and conflicted. In Season 2, when I came on, I wanted people to feel sorry for him more than hate him for what he was doing. That was the impetus behind that. But, I didn’t expect him to become quite the hero that he became.
How is he, as a cop? He seems to want to help and to do good, but he also seems like maybe he’s willing to make some compromises to further himself. Will some of his old ways start to filter through?
O’DONOGHUE: That’s always been the fun thing about Hook. It’s difficult for him not to fall back, a little bit, into whatever pirate ways he had. As Rogers, he wants to be the best cop that he can be and the best person that he can be. He has a very definite agenda and case that he wants to try to follow. Even though he doesn’t want it to be the case, lines can get blurred sometimes when he’s investigating stuff.
How would you describe life in Hyperion Heights compared to Storybrooke? What’s it like to live in a town run by Victoria Belfrey, as opposed to living in a town run by Mr. Gold?
O’DONOGHUE: The main thing is that it’s a far more urban environment. It’s gritty. It’s everything that you would expect from city life. The things that a cop sees and does are definitely more relatable to being in a big city.
We pick up the story this season, in a way that very closely mirrors what happened when Henry showed up on Emma’s doorstep and tried to convince her that fairy tales are real, and now we get to see Lucy try to convince Henry of that. Even though they don’t know that they have a past, Killian and Henry have a history. How would you describe the relationship that Rogers has with adult Henry?
O’DONOGHUE: It’s difficult to say, at this stage. Obviously, they don’t know who they are, essentially. They definitely interact, but they don’t know that Hook is Hook, or any of that stuff. It’s more complicated than them just falling back into their previous relationships. This version of Hook that we see in the fairytale past has quite a different relationship with Henry than we’ve seen before.