Edward Kitsis and Adamy Horowitz have been writing partners since they met at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After working on TV’s Popular and Felicity, they joined the writing staff on Lost during its first season, where they rose to executive producers for the final two seasons.
Their new fantasy series Once Upon a Time follows 28-year-old Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) who was abandoned as a baby. When Henry (Jared Gilmore), the son she gave up for adoption ten years before, finds her he has quite a crazy story to tell. He believes she comes from an alternate world, and that she is, in fact, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming’s (Josh Dallas) missing daughter. According to the book of fairy tales, she was sent away to protect her from the Evil Queen’s (Lana Parrilla) curse, which trapped the characters of the fairy tale world forever, frozen in time, and brought them into our modern world, to live in Storybrooke, Maine.
Although Emma doesn’t believe a world of Henry’s tale, she accompanies back to Storybrooke, where the Evil Queen is now Regina, the mayor of the city… and also Henry’s foster mother.
How did this unique idea for a series come about?
Adam: The idea for the show really started over eight years ago. Eddie and I had just come off working on Felicity. We had been talking about why we were writers, and what were the kinds of stories we’d like to tell? And fairy tales were really formative things for us. And then we sat down to write it, and we didn’t know what the hell we were doing.
Edward: Yeah, we really didn’t, which is why it probably didn’t sell eight years ago. We kind of had a writers’ block for eight years. But I think after our time on Lost, we started to see it differently and that it’s just been in our heads for eight years, and this is what came out.
Nine years ago was when the Fables comic book debuted. At some point you had to become aware of it. How does this differ from that?
Edward: We were aware of it, and we read a couple issues. I think that you have to say fairy tales is a genre. And even though we are in the same playground, we think that we are telling a different story, and we think we have different characters, and we have a different take on it because it’s our take.
But we have a lot of admiration for that. And if we got a tenth of the people that like that, we would be happy.
Adam: We only know how to tell the kinds of stories we know how to tell, and we are going to do our best to tell those stories. Hopefully, we will have people respond to them.
Your old boss on Lost, Damon Lindeloff was an advisor on this. Going forward will you go back to him for advice?
Edward: Damon has been a godfather to us. He is one of our closest friends, and when we first sold this show to ABC and they were like, ‘Great, do an outline,’ we were like, ‘What do we do?’ We immediately went to his couch –
Adam: – and started crying.
Edward: Yeah. His name is not on the show, but he is in the DNA of it, and we speak to him all the time. So he’s really been like a godfather, helping us realize our vision of the show, but he very much wants it to be our show. So he helps when he can, and sometimes he gives us tough love.
And are there any nods to Lost in it?
Adam: Yeah, we can’t help ourselves. There are actually two Lost references in the pilot.
What are they?
Edward: One is the Geronimo Jackson sticker on the back of Emma’s car, and the other is the close of the eye.
Adam: And there’s another. The door number is 108.
How often will we be going back and forth between the fairy tale world and Storybrooke?
Adam: Every week.
Would you consider having the worlds merge or choose one universe so that you don’t continue having to have the duality throughout the series? Is that a game plan down the line?
Edward: You never know. I will say that, right now they’ve given us 12 episodes, and that’s what we are working on, but that sounds like a great Season 2 idea.
I love the fairy tale world. The other world seems a little more familiar to me. Couldn’t the fairytale world serve as a series in itself without the other element?
Adam: Writing for both worlds exercise different muscles.
Edward: And for us, the show at its core is a character show. We are much more interested in the character than the mythology. We are much more interested in why does the Evil Queen hate Snow White? Why is Grumpy grumpy?
Why does Geppetto want a boy so badly he made one out of wood? We love the idea of going back and forth and kind of informing what the character is missing in their life, and that’s what going back and forth does for us.
Are you going to be able to keep up the great production values?
Edward: We are going to try. ABC has given us a lot of support, and what’s great is technology has changed so much that we feel like we can’t show this pilot and then have the cheap show after it. So it’s our goal to maintain this level of production value throughout.