'Once Upon a Time' postmortem: Showrunners talk chilly villainess and the future of Storybrooke

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Image Credit: ABC

EW was desperate for more information about Sunday night’s Once Upon a Time season closer — and happily, showrunners Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz didn’t give us the cold shoulder. Read on to learn all about why things shook out as they did — and how the pair decided to bring in the show’s newest Big Bad. (Or, to be more accurate, its new Big Misunderstood. Caution: Spoilers ahead!)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Take me through the decision to add Elsa to Once.
Eddy Kitsis: We saw the movie, and collectively, the whole entire writers’ room just loved it. It was our favorite film. What we loved so much about Elsa was she was perceived to be a villain, but of course we understood she was misunderstood. And the only one who understood that was her sister. That was a very thematic thing for us, which is a misunderstood character who everyone perceives to be bad.

Evil isn’t born, it’s made — that sort of thing?
Kitsis: Yeah. And we literally just said “there’s a toy on the shelf that we want to play with, and we want to play with it now.” In the buzz of last night or whatever, there was lots of “oh, they’re cashing in.” In fact, I think what the audience really needs to understand is how hard it is to take beloved Disney characters and put them into our show. And it is based on our passion, not on a corporate synergy project.
Adam Horowitz: Yeah, you know, it’s funny; we watched that movie, we fell in love with it, we fell in love with the characters. And then an idea started to take hold, and it grew and grew and grew until we pitched it. And we were really fortunate to be told we could take a crack at it.

Does Elsa’s appearance mean other Frozen characters are on the horizon?
Horowitz: Yeah — we’d be disappointed if Elsa was the only one we saw, but we’re not quite ready yet to tell you who else we may encounter.

I want to see Olaf hanging out with the dwarfs.
Horowitz: We do enjoy Olaf.

You mentioned how Elsa is misunderstood, rather than evil — she was being held in Rumpelstiltskin’s vault?
Horowitz: Yes.

And we’ll find out how she got to be there?
Horowitz: Yes. You know, there’s a backstory to how she appeared in Rumpel’s vault, and what she’s up to now when she’s walking out of that farmhouse that we’ll get into very quickly, most likely in the premiere. And in doing so, we very much want to honor what came in the movie. We’re not trying to redefine the character; what we’re trying to do is take this beloved character and fit her into our world.

Do you think Adele Dazeem may get to play Elsa?
Horowitz: We have an offer out to Adele Dazeem to play Elsa.
Kitsis: Listen, we handed in the cut on Friday, and Adam and I get two weeks off. So we haven’t thought about casting yet or anything. We’ll get into it. You know, I think the article that your colleague wrote last night, the 39 questions

Oh, you guys read that?
Kitsis: Yeah. That pretty much is exactly, if he was in the brains of the writers’ room, that’s — all those questions were all the things we do.
Horowitz: Those were great questions.
Kitsis: We understand. We have children. We put a lot of consideration into everything we do.
Horowitz: Yeah — my two daughters are very excited, and they have a very high standard. So we’re going to do our best to meet that.

Going back to the other big thing that happened at the end of last night’s episode — Regina finds out that her happy ending is not meant to be, at least not yet. Does Marian’s return mean the return of Evil Regina?
Kitsis: Last night was the 66th episode [of Once], and we’ve seen a different Regina. She literally has grown. So the idea was never to revert her immediately back to the way she was, or she would have tried to rip Emma’s heart out in that moment. For us, it is, “how do this new Regina and this new Emma deal with something like this?” How does she deal with this crisis, and how does she deal with it with all the things she’s learned? Because we know that Snow White always felt haunted by the whole Daniel situation. So for us, that messiness is what we’re more interested in, instead of Regina just immediately going to her vault and figuring out a way to kill Emma.
Horowitz: Yeah — these characters have evolved for us over the course of three seasons, and now what we’re interested in seeing is how the evolved versions of these characters react to these new challenges.

I also had a question about Marian — I remember from an earlier episode Robin Hood said she had died of an illness.
Kitsis: I saw that — what episode are you referring to?

I remember that from “Lacey.” [Note: After our chat, I realized I had actually been thinking of “Quite a Common Fairy,” in which Robin refers to losing Marian thusly: “I lost my wife a while back. And before that we almost never had Roland — she was so sick… now she’s gone and all I have… I can’t lose him.” That explains the confusion; because of the wording, it’s easy to interpret Robin as saying Marian died of a sickness, though it doesn’t actually confirm that’s what killed her.]
Horowitz: Here’s what happened in “Lacey”: She was dying of an illness, and he was trying to steal the wand from Rumpel to cure her. And ultimately, he succeeded. At the end of Lacey, Marian is cured. He [later] says that he lost her eventually–

But he doesn’t say how?
Horowitz: Right. So what we’re hoping is that next year we can say how.

I was also wondering why you decided to have Snow and Charming name their baby “Neal” instead of “Baelfire.”
Horowitz: Honestly, because they’re in Storybrooke. We realize that Prince Baelfire sounds better, but I just felt like if he’s going to go to kindergarten, “Neal” might be easier to swallow. But it is Storybrooke; he could always be Baelfire in the Enchanted Forest.

Speaking of that: People seem pretty settled and happy in Storybrooke. Does this mean that the characters are content to stay there — that nobody’s going to be trying to get back to the Enchanted Forest anymore?
Horowitz: With the second half of the season, because we were doing the Wicked Witch, we wanted to tell the theme of “there’s no place like home.” The season started with Emma in Neverland, saying to her mother, “I feel like an orphan.” And at the end, she called them “Mom” and “Dad” for the very first time — she’s only done it before when she thought she was about to die. This was the first time she did it voluntarily. And it took 66 episodes to do that. So for us, Storybrooke is really the heart and center of the show. I think that is their home, and it’s about making that their home. Whether or not they want to try and go back — I think everyone seems pretty content right now. But “content” does not make for good TV. We’ll see what happens in season 4.

Do you see more world-jumping coming?
Kitsis: Right now what we would say is, for the first half of the season, we’re in Storybrooke — and we’ll see where the show goes. I don’t want to say anything definitive, but we are not looking to in, like, episode 3, go, “Oh my God, we’re now on Mars.”

Oh yeah, that great fantasy world Mars.
Kitsis: Yes, the great fantasy world — the Disney Mars.

So John Carter?
Kitsis: Yeah. No, we’re not planning on doing world-jumping in the first thing. But as always on the show, we like to show you different worlds. I would be let down if we don’t get to see Arendelle.

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