Michael Raymond-James Talks ONCE UPON A TIME, How He Approaches a Fantastical Character, and Favorite Moments of the Season

     May 5, 2013

michael raymond james once upon a time

With the final two episodes of Season 2 entitled “Second Star to the Right” and “And Straight on Till Morning,” it’s clear that the ABC fantasy series Once Upon A Time will be exploring the world of Neverland.  While Emma (Jennifer Morrison) believes that Neal’s (Michael Raymond-James) fiancée Tamara (Sonequa Martin-Green) had something to do with Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) disappearance, a young Bae (Dylan Schmid) finds himself in Old London and is taken in by the Darling family when he befriends their daughter, Wendy (Freya Tingley).

During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Michael Raymond-James (True Blood, Terriers) talked about how Neal/Baelfire will have to address his unfinished business with both Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and his father (Robert Carlyle), just how much he knew about his character when he signed on to play him, how he approaches such a fantastical character, and his favorite moments this season.  Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.

MICHAEL RAYMOND-JAMES once upon a timeCollider:  When you made your initial appearance on the show, did you know that you’d eventually be returning and just how connected you’d be to some of the characters?

MICHAEL RAYMOND-JAMES:  Yeah.  At the first meeting I had with Adam [Horowitz] and Eddy [Kitsis], they had it mapped out.  At the very first meeting, they really described to me what they had in mind and where the character was going and where he had come from.  So, I knew right off the bat what I was getting involved with.  The story that they spun was so intoxicating, and they did it so enthusiastically, that I was really excited to jump on board, and I’m really glad I did.  It’s been so much fun!  My 10-year-old self is doing back flips. 

As an actor, when you’re figuring out how to approach a character and finding out who he is, how do you wrap your head around not just playing the son of Rumplestiltskin, but also knowing that your son’s grandparents are Snow White and Prince Charming?  Do you just have to focus on the human side of him?

RAYMOND-JAMES:  Well, I had pages and pages of a notebook full of notes.  As an actor, the character that I’m playing lives in a world of fairy tales and magic, and things like that, but to him, that’s his reality.  This isn’t a land of make-believe.  This is a land of absolutes.  All of it is grounded in reality, so as an actor, I try to approach it from that reality and try to plant my feet in this world.  It doesn’t matter if I’m talking about magic.  It all has to be grounded in reality. 

What have been the biggest surprises, for you, in your story arc?

MICHAEL RAYMOND-JAMES, SONEQUA MARTIN-GREEN once upon a timeRAYMOND-JAMES:  The length of the arc, and how long or how short an amount of time it takes to get somewhere, is something that I was totally unaware of.  Beyond that, I knew what to expect and how to prepare.  When I was just walking around New York, listening to Lou Reed, I knew who he was and what was happening.  I think it’s important, as an actor, to always be aware of where the story is going, so that you can leave yourself someplace to go to.  But that being said, it isn’t to say that there aren’t some things that make you go, “Oh, that’s interesting.  Where is this coming from, and how does that connect to some of the other things?”  As an actor and an audience member, it’s important to remember that the future will further define the meaning of the present, with a show like Once Upon A Time.  Sometimes we’re just collecting dots, and other times we’re connecting them, but you know that the dots that are collected will eventually get connected. 

Without giving anything away, what can you say to tease what’s coming for your character in the last two episodes?

RAYMOND-JAMES:  A lot of things are coming up.  We’re going to begin to address a lot of the unfinished business that he has with both Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and his father (Robert Carlyle).  That isn’t to say that things get completely figured out because there’s a lot of baggage in both relationships.  But, it’s certainly something that we begin to scratch the surface of.  The last two episodes are just fucking terrific!  I’m stoked for you to see them. 

MICHAEL RAYMOND-JAMES once upon a timeHave you been jealous, at all, about the fact that the flashbacks for your character have only been of him as a child, and you haven’t gotten to spend any time in Fairytale Land or Neverland yourself?

RAYMOND-JAMES:  I think that Dylan [Schmid] does a fantastic job as young Bae.  It doesn’t matter if I’m playing it or Dylan is playing it.  It’s the same character.  What he’s doing in those flashbacks informs where I am in Storybrooke and in New York, or wherever.  First of all, I’m not the jealous type. 

Have you had a favorite moment on the show, for your character?  When you think about the experience of Season 2, what stands out for you, as far as what you got to do with him?

RAYMOND-JAMES:  Well, I really love the Manhattan episode.  I come in to protect Emma, and suck it up and deal with my dad.  So, I see him for the first time in hundreds of years, and also find out that I have a son that I didn’t know about.  Bobby [Carlyle] put it pretty great, that day when we were shooting.  He said, “It’s like you’re waiting for a bus to show up at the bus stop and, all of a sudden, four come at the same time and you’re trying to board all the busses.”  That was incredibly fun to try to sift through and make real and find out how that’s going to work out.  It was daunting, when you looked at it on the page.

Once Upon A Time airs on Sunday nights on ABC, and you can find out more about the show at www.abc.com/shows/once-upon-a-time.