The popular ABC fantasy drama Once Upon a Time has been so successful and well-received in its first two seasons that creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz are spinning off a new series: Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. While some of the characters and story mechanics will be familiar to fans of the original, the spinoff will be accessible to new viewers while also rewarding fans of both shows. Kitsis and Horowitz were on hand, along with the new cast of Wonderland, to premiere 19 minutes from the first episode of the new show, along with a special introduction of a surprise guest. The panel also fielded moderator questions and participated in a Q&A from the very enthusiastic fanbase. Hit the jump for my recap of the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland panel from Comic-Con.
In the midst of an earthquake/attack on Storybrooke, the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) strolls into a coffee shop and pours himself a cup. During a particularly strong quake, the White Rabbit (voiced by John Lithgow) appears and says that Alice needs his help. We’re then transported to London where Alice (Sophie Lowe) resides in Bethlem Asylum. When we meet her, she’s in the process of being interrogated to see if she’s ready to confess to making up the stories about Wonderland. A series of flashbacks show that she returned to Wonderland in order to get proof for her father, who believes her to be insane. There, she runs afoul of some guards of the Queen of Hearts and stumbles into a genie’s bottle, where she meets the bottle’s inhabitant, Cyrus (Peter Gadiot).
Alice frees Cyrus and the two go on a series of grand adventures across many different worlds. One such adventure features Cyrus proposing with a glowing heart pendant, which ends in tragedy as the soldiers of the Queen of Hearts (Emma Rigby) overcome them and the Queen flicks Cyrus over a ledge into the boiling sea.
Back at the asylum, Alice has signed up for shock treatment to escape her haunting dreams, but the Knave attempts to save her (against her will at first). After telling her that Cyrus is alive and that the White Rabbit has seen him, Alice takes out the majority of the guards in a strong show of force that won over the audience; Alice is no damsel in distress. The White Rabbit then shows Alice the pendant that survived the boiling sea, meaning Cyrus also managed to survive against all odds. The White Rabbit creates a portal and Alice and Knave jump through the rabbit hole back to Wonderland in an attempt to find Alice’s lost love
The panelists then took to the stage, including Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, executive producer Zach Estrin, Sophie Lowe, Peter Gadiot, Michael Socha and Emma Rigby. A special guest then joined them, the reason for which follows below:
Kitsis/Horowitz on casting:
- Wanted to find people who could really embody the fairy tale roles and they found them in England and Australia, people who inspired them.
- They’re adding one more villain, a “very, very evil villain.” Going deeper into the genie mythology, they plan to bring in Jafar. Though they teased that no one had been cast yet, Naveen Andrews (Lost) joined the panel and confirmed that he would be playing Jafar.
More on Jafar:
- Kitsis/Horowitz knew they wanted Andrews to play Jafar; he said yes and they decided to save the surprise for comic-con.
- Jafar will appear in the season premiere.
- Andrews: Jafar will be something like you’ve never seen before. Kitsis: It will be very frightening.
Kitsis/Horowitz on the show’s format:
- Want to complete and close a story within season one, the story of Alice/Cyrus and Jafar.
- Story is who Alice’s father is, how/why she got to Wonderland, why is Jafar in Wonderland and how did Cyrus get stuck in the bottle?
- Kitsis/Horowitz: Differences in the two shows – Once Upon a Time is “ a sprawling tale that encompasses many, many different characters, this show will go on to tell a complete tale and go on next season to tell another complete tale.”
On the other new characters:
- Lowe: Excited to be part of the show and to play such a strong woman.
- Kitsis: Fans will find out that the Knave’s backstory leads to the Enchanted Forest and will get to that in the series
- Kitsis/Horowitz: Will also explore the backstory of the Queen of Hearts/Red Queen and will slowly reveal more about her; Kitsis teases that the Red Queen may have spent some time with the Queen of Hearts in Wonderland.
Any LGBTQ characters planned for either series?
- Kitsis/Horowitz: Very supportive, but only on episode 2 of “Wonderland” so they’re still figuring out the season; “There will be a gay character at one point.” Want to do it because it’s about love and respect and because they believe in it and not to just check off a box.
Any characters from other genres/dimensions, like sci-fi Frankenstein?
- Kitsis/Horowitz: No, but you will see mash-ups of other characters.
Any mention of Jefferson and Cora?
- Kitsis/Horowitz: Focusing on Alice/Cyrus, but teases the Queen of Hearts appearing. The door is open for Sebastian Stan (Jefferson) to appear on the show but he’s rather busy fighting Captain America.
Challenges of bringing classic characters into modern roles?
- Kitsis/Horowitz: Challenge is soul-crushing. Want to honor the legacy of the classic characters.
(For Socha) How does it feel to work in the US market?
- Socha – Happy to be here and thanks fans of Being Human for the warm welcome.
How and when did you decide to do the spinoff?
- Kitsis/Horowitz: A long time gestating. Initially approached to do the spin-off after the first season but didn’t have a fully-realized idea. Loved going to Wonderland and felt there was a big story for Alice, but not enough room in Once for her. For fans of Once or newcomers to either show. Alice in Wonderland is one of their favorite fairy tales.
Will they ever meet the March Hare or the Door Mouse?
- Kitsis/Horowitz: Teases that both characters will appear or at least be mentioned. They’ve just started scratching the surface of the fairytale. Will also see the hookah-smoking caterpillar (voiced Roger Daltrey) and the Cheshire Cat
Will the format be the same with magical transition between worlds?
- Kitsis/Horowitz: Yes but the worlds will be different. Present day world will be a post-curse Wonderland rather than a modern-day Storybrooke.