There are only three episodes remaining in the first season of "Once Upon a Time," and the war between Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Regina (Lana Parrilla) is escalating.
Worse still, the forces of good and evil may not simply be fighting over who gains custody of a child, but potentially the fate of two worlds. This next episode, titled "The Stranger" (Sun., Apr. 29, 8 p.m. ET on ABC), will see Emma and Regina's rivalry intensify in Storybrooke. Meanwhile in the fairytale land that was, we'll delve deeper into the story of Geppetto and Pinocchio -- and in the process, perhaps we'll learn a little more about the mysterious August W. Booth (Eion Bailey) who is desperate to break the curse before he succumbs to a mystery ailment that only magic can cure.
In preparation for this week's episode, HuffPost TV caught up with star Raphael Sbarge, who plays Jiminy Cricket and his Storybrooke alter-ego, therapist Archie Hopper. We know that Jiminy plays a fairly major role in Pinocchio's story, and Sbarge was happy to oblige with a few teases for the next few episodes, including a finale that will "blow people's minds."
Tread lightly, there are spoilers ahead!
We know that this week's episode involves Geppetto and Pinocchio in a fairly major way -- do you have much involvement in the fairytale side of the story?
I do. When I heard that Pinocchio was on the horizon, I was attracted to what possibilities lay ahead. It’s a beautiful story about Geppetto and Pinocchio, with Jiminy factoring into it and kind of what he goes through in terms of his ... Gosh, some things I can tell you and some things I can’t. It’s a beautiful story. It tells the tale of how he came to be within our story.
What they have done, Adam [Horowitz] and Eddy [Kitsis] -- the easiest comparison that I have is what was done with the novel "Wicked" or the musical, where you take a story that we know so well and so cleverly and so intelligently retold it, so that if you go back to "Wizard of Oz," you can’t ever go back exactly the same way. There’s just no spark. Suddenly, certain connections are made and you marvel at ideas and thoughts that you never had. When the Jiminy Cricket episode aired, so many people came up to me and said, “My gosh, I never knew that was Jiminy Cricket’s backstory.” And of course, they'd made all that up. They did it so well that it seemed suddenly like an instant classic. Frankly, I marvel at it because it’s just so seamless.
What I can tease to you directly is that what will happen this week is not too dissimilar to what’s happened a few other times, where suddenly there’s going to be a story that’s told that sets it all in motion in a way. And, in their inimitable way, both answer questions and then create art. But it will give a view of a world that’s really just wonderful, moving and quite dynamic.
Since Jiminy Cricket's origin episode a couple of months ago, we haven't really seen much progression in your storylines -- you're just woven in and out of other characters' arcs. Are we going to see more flashbacks that fill in the time between your fairytale backstory and Storybrooke's present?
There’s two answers to that. First thing is that they’re releasing the DVDs of the episodes and it will include some footage from episodes that was cut. These storylines, when we get them, are so ambitious for the directors, they're kind of overwhelming when we see how much they’re trying to tell. They were, in some cases, way over [the traditional length of an episode]. So there were some storylines that we lost earlier in the season that will come back in the DVD set. This specific episode that we’re talking about for this Sunday really, really focuses on Pinocchio and then his relationship with Geppetto. I’m a part of some major decisions that get made in the episode, but it really is primarily a Pinocchio episode.
What can you reveal about your Storybrooke arc this week?
I think I can say there’s some battles raging over Henry. Obviously, being that he has two mothers and that Archie obviously is in one sense, at least currently, Henry’s father figure and the person who has his best interests in mind, trying to find what’s best for him. There are some battles for Henry’s well-being that Archie comes into the middle of.
Can you share anything else about next week's episode, "An Apple Red as Blood"?
Well, because we’re obviously in the crescendo to the end ... what we’re seeing is sort of a consortium of folks challenging the queen/mayor. She’s losing some control. There’s a series of forces coming up against her from all sides. What I can tease, I guess, is that the whole roof gets blown off by the finale. I won’t tell you which way it goes. Operation Cobra has been in full force, so needless to say there’s a very dynamic ending that will, I think, blow people’s minds.
It was a fairly big deal for Mr. Gold to visit Archie’s couch last week. Will we have any other unexpected patients in the last few episodes, or is he focused on Henry?
You know, there’s some interaction with Archie and Emma. But not necessarily on the couch.
Regardless of what the producers may or may not have told you about next season, do you have any of your own predictions or ideas that you'd love to see realized next season?
There was a tremendous response to the whole concept of Archie working with Mr. Gold. I ran into a writer the other day and he said there’s a lot of people online who are saying they would love to have an episode of Mr. Gold on the couch, which would be fascinating.
And based on what's going to occur and where we’re going to be left, that is going to create a fair amount of excitement and/or confusion as well. I would say there’s real job security for Archie going forward. There’s going to be a lot of people that are going to be need-to-know, I would imagine. In addition to that, with Pinocchio, kind of how that unravels and unrolls is going to be really fascinating as it relates to Jiminy’s involvement with him.
Even though these characters are so familiar to generations, the premise of the show still confused some people in the beginning ...
Early on before the show aired, when I tried to explain the show, I always felt like a knucklehead. [Laughs.] I said, "There’s Snow White and then there’s the Evil Queen and there’s a Prince Charming ... I play Jiminy Cricket, but then there’s this real world and the fantasy" -- people’s eyes would glaze over like, "What the heck is he talking about?" The show ... I’ve said this before, but I really believe in lesser hands it could have been done so terribly. It’s sort of funny at this point to be saying what’s going to happen with Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket; when I hear myself saying that, I can’t help but giggle that I’m actually talking about that. And yet they’ve been able to create kind of an involvement and an emotional attachment and reaction to these characters in a way that is no small thing.
I think that by the end of the year, with the so-called good guys and bad guys, the line in the sand will be pretty well-delineated. And the battle and who knows what it’s about will be very dynamically different after the end of the year. In addition to that, obviously, they’ve spent this first year pulling from the "Lost" handbook where they get characters and have done these kind of deep dives about their backstory, sort of going back and forward at the same time. We’ll have now covered most of them, so it’ll be interesting to see where they start to have shows where we all get to come together and interact in a more group-like fashion. A few episodes back, I got a bunch of calls and people said, “God, I love that we all got together in this episode.” Everyone kind of got to ring the bell. So, I believe and/or hope that that will be the case as they go forward.
Can you take us behind the process of filming your scenes for Jiminy? Do you stand in for the CGI cricket, or do you deliver your lines from off camera and the other actors just use a tennis ball for the eyeline?
We’ve done combinations of things -- I think we’re also in the process of trying to figure out what the process is. There was a scene with the dwarves a couple weeks ago where Jiminy’s in the scene trying to convince Snow White not to go kill the queen. That scene, I was on stage, basically off camera. They had an eyeline but I was offstage reading the lines. Everyone was appreciative because it’s so much easier when you actually have an actor as opposed to the script supervisor reading the lines, because it just helps the playing of the scene. The seven dwarves very sweetly all sent me flowers for being there -- it was so dear.
Invariably I go into the looping room [during post-production] and then, with a temporary CGI version of the character, do another pass at it. We tweak it and add some things and put in noises and burrs and burps and whatever. But it’s a really interesting and different process. I love that they were able to establish Jiminy Cricket as a man who became a cricket ... that’s an interesting backstory. It’ll be interesting to see if they ever go back around and figure out how he became a man again. Obviously, he’s a man in Storybrooke. They have yet to explain ... there’s a little thing around Jiminy’s neck, a translator around the cricket’s neck, so he can speak from cricket to English. They’ve been thoughtful about that.
Are you excited to see "The Stranger" and finally learn who August really is? (If you haven't already guessed!) How do you think the finale will play out on May 13? Share your predictions below!
"Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.