‘Once Upon a Time’ Creators Tease Season 7: It’s The ‘Same Show’ in ‘New Worlds’

Kelly Woo
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Ginnifer Goodwin in ABC’s Once Upon a Time. (Photo: Jack Rowand/ABC)

With its season 6 finale, Once Upon a Time is closing the book on Snow White, Prince Charming, and Emma Swan. And when ABC’s fairy tale drama returns this fall, it’ll start a new chapter, featuring an adult Henry Mills and his daughter, Lucy.

Six series regulars are departing OUAT, including stars Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Josh Dallas. Going forward, the show will focus on Henry (Andrew J. West), Lucy (Alison Fernandez), Regina (Lana Parrilla), Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), and Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle).

It’s a major reset for the series after six seasons. Creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz talked to Yahoo TV about where OUAT is headed…

You guys had said previously that this could’ve worked as a series finale, if ABC didn’t renew the show for season 7. But do you mean the ending with adult Henry opening the door to Lucy, or that last montage of Snow, Charming, Emma, etc.?
Horowitz: This ending, whether we were renewed or not, was always the ending, up until the end at the door and all that. We obviously hoped to be renewed and but it was a plan that had been in the works for a while and we had been building to all season. We’re very glad we got to continue, but we took the characters to the place where we wanted to finish them at the end of this season and then open that door, literally and figuratively, at the end.

If it had been the series finale, that would’ve been some cliffhanger. Is that what you envisioned as the ending way back when you first started the show?
Kitsis: It’s something we thought of in the beginning. Whether or not we were canceled, we would have kept the Henry thing. You know, what we liked about it was what Snow White says — that the story continues, living our life, it’s the journey not the destination. Since we’re picked up, it doesn’t matter. If we weren’t , we might’ve done something different. But we were feeling pretty confident in talking to the networks since around Thanksgiving of last year. So we just moved forward with this plan.

The ending echoes how the series began. But adult Henry and Lucy are different people from young Henry and Emma. So, how will the story be different this time around?
Kitsis: It’s the idea that it shares the same DNA. We’re not trying to parallel everything that we get exactly before you know it. It’s the same show but it’s going into new worlds in with some new characters and with some old characters. What we hope the fans take away from the end of the season is that Once Upon a Time is coming back and it’s going to be surprising and hopefully really exciting and intriguing next year.

Horowitz: For us, season 1, the premise was there was a curse on the town and no one knew who they were and we ended the season breaking it, which everyone thought that would be what the show is. So, every year we feel like we’ve reinvented it, whether we go to Neverland or Wonderland. So, for us, it was time to complete this book, so to speak, and begin a new chapter.

The finale really drove home the themes of believing and hope. Will you continue exploring those themes going forward?
Kitsis: I think we want to explore new themes but at its core, Once Upon a Time is about hope. It’s about people needing hope in the real world. And of course, as the show went on and on, it became about the characters and their rich histories. But the central premise of people in the real world, in a world without magic in need of hope, that’s what the show will remain to be. We will hopefully tell new themes and things that are relevant for today.

You said earlier that it won’t be a complete parallel, but when the show started, Henry was the believer and Emma was the skeptic. Is Henry now the skeptic, with Lucy the true believer?
Horowitz: I mean it certainly looked like Lucy was a believer at the end of the episode, and that’s the jumping off point. I will say we really really hope that the directions we go are surprising and exciting. We’re really not trying to retread and do the same thing exactly. But there will be echoes and there are themes that are at the heart of Once Upon a Time, and belief-versus-cynicism is one of them that we’ve dealt with that throughout the show and probably will continue to.

We recently made this family tree infographic of the show, and it’s crazy how the characters are tied together, beyond blood. With so many characters leaving, how will you fill those holes?
Kitsis: That tree remains that tree, and what we’re going to do is something new. We always said that the original first six seasons were Henry’s goal of reuniting his family, which he did. As we saw in the beginning, he went to get his mom, but what he really wanted was to reunite this crazy family. And the very last image last night, we see them all having their dinner together. And so I would say that this is this is this is a new adventure.

Horowitz: And I think also this is kind of one of those things that it’s easy to kind of overlook because Andrew West is coming on the show now, but that’s still Henry. And you still have Regina as mother. So the family is still at the center of the show. It’s just grown and evolved as all families do.

Lana Parrilla as the Evil Queen in ‘Once Upon a Time’ (Credit: ABC/Jack Rowand)

So, there will be explanations for where Emma is, where Belle is?
Kitsis: Oh yeah. I mean, the first thing to say is that the situations we’ve left the characters in — I don’t want to call them happy endings, because they’re not ending — those situations remain. So when the show continues, the idea is that those characters are out there and that’s all been happening. Just because not everyone is a regular doesn’t mean that their stories haven’t continued and that we might not hear about them. We might see some people pop in and out. It’s just going to be in a slightly different configuration.

How much of the universe you’ve built over six seasons will play a part in the new story? Will we see familiar faces like Ariel or Tinker Bell or Peter Pan again?
Kitsis: We’ll see some old faces. That’s the thing we love about the show — that it’s never one show all the time. So you know people that died two years ago, we’ll see for an entire hour. So, we want to see old faces and we’re really excited to see new ones.

Horowitz: What we’re really excited about in how we’re going forward is, because we’re closing the book on this chapter of the story of these characters, we can start a new story without having six years of back story from the previous stories, so audiences come in and start fresh with these characters and learn. Yeah, so you can have whatever the familiar faces we bring back pop in and out. But you’ll be tracking a whole new adventure and a whole new story.

Who are some of these faces we’re going to see? I imagine one of them will be Lucy’s mother.
Kitsis: We’re not fully ready to say who we’re going to see or who are not. We just ended the season yesterday, so we want to enjoy that and let the fans enjoy that final montage. But I will say who Lucy’s mom is and Henry’s relationship to her is going to be an epic romance in the Once tradition of Snow and Charming. And who she is and what character she is will be revealed probably this summer.

Will you continue plumbing the depths of Disney’s archive? Or go in completely new directions?
Kitsis: We’re kind of a show that has always had a mash-up. I mean, this is a show that has had a running One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest reference for six seasons. We also had Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the Mad Hatter and Tinkerbell. We want to pull from everybody, as well as newer characters that we haven’t got to yet in the Disney universe.

What will be the balance between seeing the real world and the magical realms?
Horowitz: There’s going to be a real world component, that we saw Henry in last night in Seattle. And we’re going to flash back to the Enchanted Forest because we realize that all those scenes we saw in the opening of the episode were actually flashforwards. So the show will remain the same it’s just going to have new settings new worlds and new adventures.

The musical episode came off really well. Any thoughts on doing another one?
Kitsis: I think we should do the stage show. I think that should be the next step should be the next one. It was a lot of work, so I don’t think we’ll do one next year.

Once Upon a Time on Broadway!
Kitsis: Yes, Once Upon a Time on Broadway sounds good to me!

Once Upon a Time returns to ABC next fall. Watch clips and full episodes of OUAT for free on Yahoo View.

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