Once Upon A Time, the fairy-tale meets soap opera, has one of the most vast and eclectic casts on television, intermingling character actors (Robert Carlyle), television stalwarts (House’s Jennifer Morrison) and relative unknowns (Colin O’Donoghue). The list of series regulars totals at eleven and the number of recurring players/guest stars far exceeds even that number. At the end of the second season most of the cast (minus Emilie de Ravin’s Belle) were casting off on Captain Hook’s boat on a mission to save lead Emma’s (Morrison) son Henry from the nefarious clutches of Peter Pan.
In the following round table interview, the cast (Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Colin O’Donoghue, Emilie De Ravin and Michael Raymond-James) preview the upcoming third season, discuss the difficulties in working with green screen and confide how they keep their characters ‘fresh’ after playing them for two-plus seasons. For the full interview, hit the jump.
Of note: the following Q&A has been edited together from various individual conversations with the talent at the roundtables.
Robert Carlyle (Rumplestiltskin): Nothing would be more dull than playing the same thing for twenty-two episodes. The show keeps me on my toes by changing things around. The wonderful thing for me about Rumplestiltskin is there’s not just one character but five. There’s the early [version], The Dark One who’s just discovering his powers, The evil Dark One, the guy who’s a bit more fun towards the end of it and then you’ve got the different versions of Mr. Gold as well. So there’s something different for me every episode… I [prefer] the one who’s just become The Dark One. I like that guy because he’s still struggling with himself. He doesn’t really know where he is or what he can actually do. I think that’s the guy who I get the most mileage from. And in this new season, I actually think you go back to him in episode four.
Jennifer Morrison (Emma): As an actor what you’re always looking for is a character that is going to grow and change especially on television. I feel incredibly lucky to be working on a television show where the writing is always geared towards us growing and changing.
What is it like to play a character so entrenched in literature, with so many different other interpretations on top of that?
Colin O’ Donoghue (Captain Hook): I think the most important thing is to go back to the source material, which is the book and the play. I wanted to bring an element slightly different than the Hook we would know. He’s described as being a very dark character in J.M Barrie’s book. There was no way I was ever going to be able to do Captain Hook the way Dustin Hoffman or Jason Isaacs did. There’s no way that I could ever pull that off. It’s important to try to put your own slant on things and I think for Eddie and Adam they wanted that as well. They wanted to make him a very different Hook than what people know him for.
Jennifer Morrison: It just depends on what you’re doing with a green screen. Sometimes it’s really hard [like] when you’re in a room where you don’t have walls and you’re trying to remember where furniture is. You want to be detailed as an actor. You want to interact with your environment so when you don’t have your environment, there is a frustration in trying to figure out those details in your mind. You keep running back to the monitor and looking at the temporary plates they put in and go ‘Oh – there is a table there. Oh – I can touch the wall here.’ I find that the hardest stuff to do – trying to find a relationship to an environment that doesn’t exist. The stuff that isn’t so hard – when I was trying to slay the dragon, the camera was on a giant crane and it almost felt like the camera was the dragon. When there are reference points that make it so that you can imagine that world as it’s happening, it’s definitely beneficial. It’s really when you’ve lost all sense of your environment that it’s harder to feel as detailed and present as you would want to be.
How far in advance do you know where your character is headed?
Jennifer Morrison: There’s certainly things that [E.P. & Showruuners Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz] have talked to us about. The very first time I met with them before they even offered me the job, there was a clear outline of the journey for Emma. There are certainly things that have been filled in over time based on who’s playing who and the way people interact and the way the story develops. I think Eddie and Adam have a very good balance of the overall vision that they’ve stayed true to with a leniency to write towards people’s strengths.
Michael Raymond-James (Neal/Baelfire): When I got the part I was very aware of Neal’s backstory. I went into [Adam and Eddie’s] offices and they pitched me what they had in mind. The complexity of it. No character on the show has a simple straightforward background. It’s intense. It’s crazy. That’s one of the things that drew me to it. There’s a lot of different avenues you can go down in terms of trying to figure out why he would make a particular move or not.
Are you aware of what your character’s arc will be in the future?
Michael Raymond-James: See that’s the thing I don’t know. I was aware of the arc for season two but where we’re at now, I really don’t. What’s interesting about this show is as a viewer it’s important to keep in mind that the future will further define the meaning of the past and present. So in other words something is going to come up. And you’ll be like “what?” and then three episodes, maybe ten episodes later there will be clarity for that moment you were confused about before. It’s the same thing for us [actors] at this point. There’s things that come up and [I’ll think] ‘Oh that’s what was going on…”
What can we expect in Season Three?
Jennifer Morrison: We start the season with everyone looking for Henry and as far as we know he could be in a really dire situation. These people have just killed Neal as far as I know. No matter what Emma and Regina have been through in the past, the reality is Emma knows Regina will do anything to save Henry. As much as there are other grievances to be settled at some point, right now those grievances are going to be [pushed aside] in order to do everything they can do in their power, all of them together, to get Henry back.
Robert Carlyle: As season two ends, [Ruplestiltskin] thinks Baelfire is dead. What can he do to honor the memory of his son? What can he do other than try to find Baelfire’s son even if that means his eventual undoing? So at the beginning of season three, Rumple’s in the most dangerous place he’s been in so far. He’s on a suicide mission. I think he expects to die and he may well.
Emile de Ravin (Belle): Neverland is the focus of the first episode as you’ve probably gathered. We haven’t shot [Belle] in Storybrooke yet but yes she’s there. It’s a very difficult decision for her because she could be selfish, regardless of what [Rumple] says, just jump on the boat. He’s basically going on a suicide mission and he doesn’t want me to be around. I’m the only one who’s been given the cloaking spell so it would be very selfish of me to go when I’m the only one who can hopefully protect Storybrooke… [Protecting Storybrooke] is a big part of [my arc]. The questions are: Can she? Does this cloaking spell actually do what it’s supposed to do? Does it last? Can it be intercepted by someone else? Is Neverland going to go on for a long time? Are they going to come back quickly or does everyone not come back?
Colin O’ Donoghue (Hook): Hook goes off to Neverland. It’s nearly exactly from the point where we left off. You get to see Neverland but a different type of Neverland than you would’ve expected or read about before. Eddie [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz] always twist and slant those things. So you’ll see all the characters you’d expect to see in Neverland but slightly askew.
Jennifer Morrison: What I’m excited about for this season is that, at least what Eddie and Adam have been talking about, is the idea of really fleshing out all the relationships. Going deeper into the storytelling about what does it mean that Snow and Charming are Emma’s parents, that they’re the same age and that they gave her up. What does it mean that she does have a connection to Captain Hook? Maybe Neal is dead and then once she finds out he’s not dead what does that mean? Now that he’s back in her life, can she handle that level of vulnerability? Where in season two, we introduced a lot of new characters and it was a very big sprawling season, it feels like this season is going to be very intimate and it’s going to have a real intensity and depth to the relationships.
Once Upon A Time returns to ABC this Fall.