"Once Upon a Time" Season 3 will see some of fans' favorite fairytale characters venturing to the dangerous world of Neverland in search of kidnapped Henry (Jared Gilmore), and creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis were on hand at the recent ATX Television Festival to preview a little about what we can expect when "Once" returns in the fall.
On the "Once Upon a Time" panel at the ATX Festival this past weekend, Horowitz and Kitsis discussed how the show's core characters will relate to each other while trapped in close quarters on The Jolly Roger; whether Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) will romance Emma; what's in store for Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) and Belle (Emilie de Ravin); and much more.
On how Season 3 will begin:
Horowitz: It's pretty much a direct pickup ... What you saw at the end of the finale is a jumping off point: Some characters are on the boat, some characters are in Storybrooke. [The beginning of Season 3 focuses on] what they're facing and how they're going to deal with new challenges, particularly having a lot of our hero characters and our villain characters forced to work together.
Kitsis: The major difference is that there are characters who are separated, but for us, what's interesting is that you see this motley crew on this ship and you wonder how they're going to work together. You've got that core dysfunctional family on the ship heading to Neverland to get back Henry -- so they're separated in a different way.
Horowitz: We have characters left behind in Storybrooke, like Belle and those folks, and what they're going through, so we've hopefully created a situation where the dramatic stakes are heightened, but they allow us to delve deeper into each of the characters and use the next season to really go into how they're going to react to these new situations.
On the different plot and scheduling formats for next season:
Kitsis: One of the things that we're most excited about is that this year, we're going to do 11 episodes in fall, and 11 in spring, and we're approaching it like two seasons. The first 11 is a very focused, contained beginning, middle and end journey for these characters.
Horowitz: The plan currently is that it will run sometime starting in the fall through December, then come off and come back in the spring for 11 [episodes] straight.
On a potential romance between Hook and Emma (Jennifer Morrison):
Kitsis: The thing I liked about Captain Hook in the finale is, he started to look back on his life and was like, "Maybe I've wasted it?" So here you've got a guy that wants a new chance. And I think being surrounded by all these characters last year, and even seeing his nemesis happy with someone else made him realize that, "Maybe after all these 100 years, I need to get over Milah." So who knows? They're on the ship together and Emma thinks Neal's dead ...
On whether Rumplestiltskin can (or wants to be) redeemed:
Kitsis: We said it in Season 1 when he said, "I'm a difficult man to love," and that is his character. The minute you love him, he just does something horrible. I think for all these characters, Emma was supposed to break the curse and return their happy endings -- I think she broke the curse, but the happy endings we're still searching for, and that's the journey of the show ... Right now, unfortunately for him, he's on a path where the prophecy said he'll die, so we'll see if he survives that.
Horowitz: That's what's cool about him to us as writers: He's torn between competing impulses -- what he knows he should be doing, and what his various agendas are, and they oftentimes conflict.
Kitsis: At first, he wants to do the easy thing and the dark thing and [in the finale,] he realized that once again, he messed up and he lost his son so he says he's going to go back and hang out with Lacey and they're gonna die. But he then needed someone to share those emotions with in those last moments. And so, when he sees that ship come back, he realizes this is a sign that's telling him it's time to do the right thing. So even though this may lead to his death, he knows he needs to honor his son by going and getting his grandson back.
On the future of Rumple and Belle:
Horowitz: It's going to be another challenge for their relationship, since they're separated. He left her behind to protect her and to protect her from many things.
Kitsis: He went there with a very focused attitude of saving Henry and all these things will be [explored] in Season 3.
On whether Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) can heal her dark heart:
Kitsis: Her journey in Season 3 is interesting. At the end, when she said, "Let's do the hard path," [that] was the moment she realized it's time to start doing the right thing and "I'm the one who has to heal this heart," and I think that with Henry being gone and what we'll see in Season 3, what's required on this mission is Snow White -- but the bandit Snow. It's time for her to rise to the hero that she was to save her grandson. This whole Neverland experience is going to force all the characters to become who they truly are.
On the show's examination of good versus evil:
Kitsis: It seems black and white, but life isn't black and white -- people are always faced with difficult circumstances where sometimes, it's easier to do the wrong thing than it is the right thing ... As writers, it would be boring if the evil queen was just evil because she was evil. We want to see the pain behind it and the torture and what we love so much about the Evil Queen is, she's a person who's trying to find her own happy ending. She just goes about it in a really disastrous way.
On whether we'll ever see an LGBT character on the show:
Kitsis: We are absolutely open to that, and for us, it's a matter of the right time and the right story. It's something we discuss and we're open to, it's just not something we've done yet.
Horowitz: And it's the same as with any love story -- we'd have to do it right and give it its due.
On how much they plan out each season and how much they leave room for things to develop as they write:
Horowitz: It's a complicated process -- we try to have end points and big signposts of where we want to go, but we have to leave room for flexibility, to discover things along the way, characters and places we want to explore.
Kitsis: We never want to be so rigid that we don't leave room for creativity, because that's the whole point.
What do you most want to see in "Once Upon a Time" Season 3?