Comic-Con: ONCE UPON A TIME Showrunners Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz Talk Season 3, Introducing New Characters, and Crafting Peter Pan As a Villain

     July 25, 2013


Once Upon A Time remains one of the biggest television show attractions at the Con. The line for the show’s morning panel extended blocks upon blocks. I’ve seen fans stop in the middle of the street and scream/sigh at the sight of Robert Carlyle (Rumpelstiltskin on the show). In the wake of Lost, Once Upon a Time is one of the show’s lone successors in terms of crafting a heavily serialized and increasingly labyrinthine mythology. Season Two introduced multiple alternate/parallel dimensions (Neverland, The World Without Color) and new characters both familiar (Captain Hook) & familial (Rumple’s abandoned son Neal/Baelfire). Hell – the season concluded in ‘Lost’ian fashion with lead Emma’s son Walt… err… Henry kidnapped by Peter Pan, leaving our fateful heroine and her fairy tale compatriots on a mission to journey back to Neverland and get her kid back.

At Comic Con this past weekend, creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz were on hand to discuss the past season and the upcoming third season as well. Topics ranged from what new characters will be introduced in the forthcoming season to crafting Peter Pan into a horror movie villain to whether or not the series has an end date in sight. For the full interview, hit the jump. 

once-upon-a-time-castQuestion: What can we expect from Season Three?

Adam Horowitz: Now that all our characters have grown into this very intense situation, there’s going to be a laser-like focus as they are intent on getting Henry back [while] dealing with all the conflict amongst themselves.

Will any new characters be introduced?

Edward Kitsis: Yes, there will be new characters. We’re probably going to meet Tinker Bell. The last we teased there was going to be mermaids. We obviously haven’t met Peter Pan yet and we can’t wait until people meet him. 

Adam Horowitz: We’re really focusing mostly though on the core characters on the show: Snow, Charming, Emma, Rumple, Belle. Yes, we may meet some new people along the way but it’s in the spirit of this larger story we’ve been telling two seasons now.

One of the most interesting aspects of Season Two was the depiction of Peter Pan. He’s almost a horror movie villain on the show. How did you come up with such an interpretation?

Adam Horowitz: It felt like, as with anything, we didn’t want to do the standard interpretation.

Edward Kitsis: And for us it was just more interesting. The thing with Peter Pan is it’s been done so well so many times. For us to put our own spin on it and Henry to be taken – well of course he can’t be the world’s nicest person. 

Why not do a spin-off set in Neverland as opposed to Wonderland?

Edward Kitsis: Because we’re doing Neverland on Once Upon A Time so there’s only so much story to go around. Alice was a character we didn’t have room to explore on Once Upon A Time but we had an idea [for her]. So that’s what made that show (the spinoff Once Upon A Time in Wonderland) grow into what it is. But for Once it was very organically leading us into Neverland. It’s been a part of the show’s DNA for a really long time. 

With Meghan Ory now a series regular on the upcoming CBS drama Intelligence, will she be able to come back on Once Upon A Time as Red Riding Hood/Ruby?

Edward Kitsis: Ruby’s not a regular on Once but we fully intend to have her back. Intelligence is a mid-season show and I think they’re doing thirteen. We do twenty-two so we plan to see Ruby again. 

Adam Horowitz: Megan said the other day she wants to be back and plans to be. And we plan to have her back as long as we can work it out. But we’re very optimistic about those chances.

once-upon-a-time-robert-carlyleWith such a large cast on the show, do you ever feel like you short-change certain characters?

Edward Kitsis: You do. The goal for us this season is to try to incorporate all [the characters] into the main narrative. I think that’s why you see everyone headed on a boat to Neverland at the end of the season. Episode Two is going to be a Snow/Charming flashback and Episode Three will be Regina [centric] and episode four will be Rumpelstiltskin [centric] but the main story will be all the characters trying to save Henry. 

Adam Horowitz: The key is to tell a story in a way that when you’re focusing on one character in particular, it’s still bouncing off the others in an engaging way. That way [those characters] have something to react and play to. When the focus shifts [back] to them, we feel like we’ve been with them and growing with them as well. That’s one of the big goals of season three.

Structurally what will season three look like? Will the show switch back and forth between Neverland and Storybrooke?

Adam Horowitz: Structurally we want it to be a little bit of a surprise. We have not forgotten about the folks back at Storybrooke and how that story ties into Neverland.

Edward Kitsis: We can tell you that we’re really going to be focusing on Neverland in the beginning. That is what we’re going to be seeing. 

How far ahead do you plan each season and arc of the show?

Adam Horowitz: In between each season we meet for what we call ‘mini camp’ for a few weeks where we plan out the big arcs for the next season. That way we have big signposts for where we want the whole season to go. Then we get into the nitty gritty of breaking the stories, writing the stories… Things change and you have to be flexible but you try to stay focused and know where the road trip is going to end. 

Edward Kitsis: Yeah – Damon [Lindlelof] and Carlton [Cuse] used to call Lost – a road trip. We all know we’re going from LA to New York but you always want to be able to say ‘Wait a minute – world’s largest potato, pull off… pull off the road. So for us [storytelling is] allowing us the freedom to see a potato that looks like Abe Lincoln. 

once-upon-a-time-colin-odonoghueABC has scheduled Once Upon a Time into two separate continuous eleven-episode blocks, half the season airing in the fall, the other half in the spring. How did you go about convincing ABC to adopt this particular schedule?

Adam Horowitz: It didn’t take a lot of convincing. It was mutual on both sides. Both the network and us realized a show like Once, which is serialized in nature, is a better viewing experience for the audience [when it’s] watched without being interrupted. So we all put our heads together to figure out the best way to get an uninterrupted run of episodes so we can get real story traction.

Edward Kitsis: Yeah – and I think that you saw that in the first half of the season when we ran together as opposed to the second half where we’re in and out and in and out. For us as writers, we want people to stay with us and watch the whole thing. 

How heavily does fan suggestions influence the direction of the show?

Edward Kitsis: It’s hard because by the time we get fan input, the things your commenting about we did three months ago. Where fan input comes in – you start to hear certain similar comments, things that they want and that they don’t want. We are writing entertainment. We’re writing to entertain them. And we’re so lucky to have such a dedicated group of fans. Our goal, every day, is to figure out ways to please them. How do we entertain them? And if you’re lucky, you give them what they want. If you’re luckier, you give them something they didn’t realize they wanted. 

How long do you see Once Upon a Time running for? Is there an end date in sight?

Adam Horowitz: We have ideas about ultimately where we would like the show to go but we take it one season at a time. It’s funny – you try to think of it in terms of where do you want to see the show ultimately conclude? What is the satisfying conclusion for the characters? And then you’ve got to take it year by year. For this year we took the characters where they were and we said here’s where they’re starting and here’s the goal post for where we want them to be. That’s our goal for season three. Should we meet that and get a Season Four, then we move the ball down the field a little more. 

Once Upon a Time returns this fall on ABC.