Season 3 of the hit ABC fantasy series Once Upon A Time sees Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin), David (Josh Dallas), Regina (Lana Parrilla), Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) and Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) in Neverland, on a mission to find Henry (Jared Gilmore) and bring him back to Storybrooke. Unfortunately, the very naughty Peter Pan and his Lost Boys have different plans for Henry.
During this recent interview to promote the show’s return, co-creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz talked about why they wanted to take the story to Neverland, whether they’ll ever get to Camelot, Rumplestiltskin’s daddy issues, how far the Emma and Hook relationship will go, how soon viewers will get to see what’s happening in Storybrooke, where things are headed with Neal (Michael Raymond-James), when Ariel will make an appearance, how Robin Hood will develop, just what type of Tinkerbell will appear, splitting Season 3 into two 11-episode story arcs, and the theme of the first half of the season. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
EDWARD KITSIS: We’ve always wanted to go to Neverland, but we really wanted to focus on the core characters. Because Neverland is a place where you don’t grow up, then you have to confront your past. Our inspiration was the idea that these characters would have to return to who they were before the curse, in order to achieve that. At the same time, we wanted to have them dig deeper into what everything means. Last year was such a bullet, so we wanted to have time to reflect on what’s happened and what it means. Emma looks at Mary Margaret as her mom, but does she really actually think of her as her mom?
ADAM HOROWITZ: In these first two episodes, we were really trying to use Neverland as a prism through which we can see these characters, hopefully more clearly and more deeply, and we continue to do that as the season progresses. Hopefully you saw, in these first two episodes, layers starting to peel back on all of them, and that’s what we’re trying to continue, as we move forward.
With the mention of Camelot and the sword, do you plan on going there, at all?
KITSIS: No. For us, that was just a fun way for Charming to deceive Snow.
HOROWITZ: We’ve had hints of that world before. We’ve had Lancelot. It’s a world that’s part of the Once Upon A Time universe, but there are no immediate plans to delve deep into it.
KITSIS: We could go there. By Episode 15, don’t shoot us if, all of a sudden, you see Arthur.
HOROWITZ: It’s not a world that we see as off-limits. We have Merlin in our closet.
HOROWITZ: In the premiere, Emma says, “I can’t be a mother,” and then we show a woman who is now fighting to be a mother.
KITSIS: In a lot of ways, for us, it just showed her growth, it showed how far she came, and it showed what a hard decision it was for her.
HOROWITZ: Seeing baby Henry, at the start, is so important to what we’re doing in this first 11 episodes. It was exciting for us, but it’s also not the last we’re going to see of baby Henry.
KITSIS: I’ve always wanted to see how he got adopted, so I hope we’ll tell that. If I were betting, it would be around Episode 9.
What can you say about Rumplestiltskin’s daddy issues?
KITSIS: Well, he definitely seems to have them. We’ve hinted, in the past, that his father was a coward and his father’s name was something that haunted him. His father left him.
HOROWITZ: Those issues have played themselves out in his relationship with his son. Whatever happened to Rumplestiltskin in his past is really creating a lot of the problems he’s dealing with today.
KITSIS: It is something we’re going to see this season. For us, there’s the understanding that this is a man who wants to break the cycle of his past. He wants to be a good father. It’s like that quote, “I can resist everything but temptation.”
HOROWITZ: He’s getting drawn into doing terrible things.
KITSIS: He’s a difficult man to love. Just when you begin to love him, he does something so awful that you go, “Oh, man!”
HOROWITZ: That’s the thing with Rumple. As much as he may love his son or his grandson, he’s terrible to someone else.
KITSIS: Episode 4 is called “Nasty Habits,” and that will be his first backstory that we see this season.
HOROWITZ: The whole ‘ship thing is an awesome thing that fans bring to the experience of watching this show, but the story we’re telling encompasses the relationships between all of the characters and potential romances or not, and the bigger story, as well.
KITSIS: Obviously, they think Neal is dead, and Hook is a man who likes ladies. As we saw last year, when they climbed the beanstalk, Emma has probably captured his heart a little bit. But in the same respect, we see that Neal is fighting like hell to get a second chance with her. Right now, I think that Emma is focused on getting Henry. She’s not somebody who likes to let her walls down. Her heart has been broken too many times for her to be worried about dating right now. But, we’ll see. She falls for handsome guys.
Will our only exposure to the Storybrooke characters be through flashbacks and hallucinations?
KITSIS: No, but we’re not going to see it for awhile.
HOROWITZ: It’s going to be a little while before we’re actually in Storybrooke. In this first half of the season, it will not be limited to flashbacks or hallucinations.
What can you say about where things are headed with Neal?
KITSIS: Episode 3 will show where that story is going. Come hell or high water, Neal is going to get back to Neverland. There are heroes that will support him. Robin Hood feels in debt to him.
HOROWITZ: There’s a little bit more of a wrinkle to their story that we’ll delve into in Episode 3.
Why did you decide to make the mermaids darker than we’ve normally seen?
KITSIS: In the Peter Pan book, they were only nice to Peter. They were saucy, and we like our mermaids saucy. When we were coming up with it, we just loved the idea that that’s who they were attacked by. It was symbolic of Neverland. It’s not what you think it is. Most people think of Ariel when they think of mermaids. What they don’t know is that she’s surrounded by really hot-tempered mermaids.
HOROWITZ: To be fair, they were swimming peacefully when a pirate ship disrupted their world.
HOROWITZ: We’ll be seeing Ariel in Episode 6, which is called “Ariel.” It’s our spin on Ariel. She’s going to be different from what you saw of the mermaids in the premiere.
KITSIS: You’ll see that Joanna Garcia plays the spirit of Ariel very well. It’s the spirit of somebody who wants to see the world and who wants to experience things outside of what they know. We have our own little take on it, but the thing that makes Ariel such a great character and the spirit within her is definitely in our Ariel.
HOROWITZ: And there is a fork in the episode.
How does Prince Eric compare to Prince Charming?
HOROWITZ: Our take on Prince Eric is slightly different than what you saw in the movie, but hopefully it’s also honoring what many people adore about that movie. As far as his relation to Charming, they’re both princes and they both have honor. But unlike Charming, he’s not a prince who comes from separated twins who were forced to impersonate royalty.
KITSIS: Our Ariel really focuses much more on her and her journey, and she also has a connection to one of our characters that you’ll see in her story.
Will Ursula also be a part of Ariel’s story?
KITSIS: Absolutely! And there will be a fork. We mentioned the fork, right? When you see the episode, you’ll go, “That’s why they kept talking about the fork!”
How are the Charmings dealing with not really being a family, at this point?
HOROWITZ: It’s complicated, and hopefully in a good way. They’re an unusual family because there’s this odd age thing going on between them. They’re the same age, and they’ve also been separated for many, many years. Now, they’re thrown together for a mission, really for the first time, in an enclosed space. They’re starting to deal with and sort out many of these issues that they haven’t really had a chance to address yet.
KITSIS: Snow and Charming realize that their daughter doesn’t really look to them for parental guidance, and that’s something hard to get. They realize that they need to earn it. When they see Emma thinking, “If I took that bean last year, threw it on the ground and just took Henry when we had the chance, none of this would have happened. Maybe being good doesn’t work. Maybe it works in the Enchanted Forest, but it didn’t work in Portland and it certainly didn’t work when I grew up.” What’s hard for the Charmings is that they realize their daughter grew up with hope and they have to instill it back in her. And how do you do that when her son is kidnapped and you’re in a place that is making you confront your past? She has more in common with the Lost Boys than she does Snow and Charming.
HOROWITZ: We tried to crystallize it, at the start of the premiere, in that scene from Emma’s point of view where she says, “Since I’ve been back, your lives have sucked.” But from Mary Margaret and David’s point of view, it’s been great because they’re back and they’re a family. They now have these challenges to overcome, in order to be together and be a family, and not have life suck.
KITSIS: And to be fair, David now has to deal with impending death.