And they lived happily ever after – or did they? That’s the scenario that is spotlighted in ABC’s new series Once Upon a Time. Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) marry and have a beautiful baby girl. But according to a book of fairy tales, owned by 10-year-old Henry (Jared Gilmore), they sent the child away to protect her from the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla), who has cursed everyone in the kingdom, freezing them in time, and transporting them into our modern world, to a town named Storybrooke, where Snow White is now a teacher named Mary Margaret.
But to Henry, this is not just a fantasy. He is the son of Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), who gave him up for adoption ten years before. Emma is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. Can Henry make Emma believe his outrageous story, because for the curse to be broken Emma will have to accept the truth and fight the malevolence that’s been created by the Evil Queen, who is in Storybrooke living her life as Regina, the mayor of the town, and the foster mother to Henry.
You are basically playing two characters in the same show even though they are the same person, what’s that like?
Ginnifer Goodwin: It’s incredibly challenging and inspiring and certainly contributed to my wanting to be a part of it. What was really exciting in creating the character of Mary Margaret was that it is based on what we assume are the characteristics the Evil Queen would have wanted to put upon this woman.
That was an unusual and exciting process, to take other characters’ motivations into consideration in how you express a character.
Lana Parrilla: I think anytime an actor is handed a script where you get to play two roles is pretty awesome. I play the Evil Queen, and I also play Regina. And I’ve worked pretty hard at showing the contrast between the two characters.
The queen is very powerful and puts everything out there, where Regina masks everything. I think she’s a much more complex character, but I have a blast working on both roles. I love them both. It’s a lot of fun.
Can you talk about playing the role of the skeptic? How long do you think it might be before Emma starts to actually believe what Henry is telling her?
Jennifer Morrison: I think that it’s been fun to have that perspective on things, because I feel like someone has to comment on how ridiculous it all seems. If I were faced with this just as me, I would think it was ridiculous. So it’s been fun to be able to have the freedom to have those reactions as Emma.
In terms of how long, obviously that’s up to the writers. But from my perspective, she’s had such a tough life in terms of being abandoned as a child and raised in the foster system, and going through a lot of horrible things that we’ll come to find out over time, that I think she has a really tough exterior.
I think that for her to open herself to the idea of something is out there and really embrace it is going to take some time.
Robert, you play both Rumpelstiltskin in the fairy tale and Mr Gold in Storybrooke. You seem to play ambiguous characters a lot.
Robert Carlyle: I don’t see them necessarily as that complicated when they’re given to me. I suppose it’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, [and I] try to piece it all together. I think most actors would say the same thing.
These are more interesting parts to play when you’re playing someone who’s bouncing off the plot; it’s not quite as exciting when you’re pushing the plot through.
Can you compare and contrast the differences between Rumpelstiltskin and Mr. Gold, what you know of them so far?
Robert: Rumpelstiltskin and Mr. Gold are obviously intrinsically linked. In some way, they are pretty much the same person. What interested me about the change between the fairy tale world and the real world was that there wasn’t such a massive jump in actual fact.
It wasn’t as if it’s fantasy fairy tale jumped into social realism. I don’t think that would necessarily work.
I think Storybrooke is slightly off balance. Everything’s off kilter. So Gold and Rumpelstiltskin, though physically different, in their head there’s an awful lot of similarities there. And I think through the episodes that the guys’ write, we’ll begin to discover that.
What it is like to play Jennifer’s mom? Is there a maternal thing going on subconsciously on the set?
Ginnifer: Because Mary Margaret is unaware that she’s even had a child, I think her maternal instincts are more subconscious than anything. I think that she honestly is drawn to her daughter as almost a peer, and I think she admires characteristics in her daughter that she unknowingly doesn’t understand.
We are exploring this idea that there is a familiarity and that there is inherent trust and they don’t really know why that is. But that’s not really an outlandish concept to me. We all meet people all the time that we inherently feel are familiar. But I don’t think that it’s so much about that maternal instinct at this point.
Jennifer: From Emma’s perspective, Mary Margaret is very disarming for her, because she’s actually kind and she seems to truly have no ulterior motives. All of her life, I think Emma’s encountered people that are only nice if they want something from her.
It’s the same way I feel about my own parents when I go home, it’s like you suddenly feel 14 again. No matter how old you are, you’re like, ‘Oh God, I’m right back to feeling like I’m borrowing the keys to the car.’ And there’s a feeling of that in Emma whenever she’s around Mary Margaret, not that she understands it.