Once Upon a Time returns Sunday for the second half of Season 5 with a big episode — a very big episode, its 100th. That’s a major milestone for any television show, and OUAT got there by casting a spell over millions of fans around the world with tales about Snow White, Prince Charming, Captain Hook, and Rumplestiltskin.
To celebrate, we invited creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz to participate in our Ask the Fans series. They gave us seven questions they’ve always wanted to pose to devoted viewers, and we combed through hundreds of emailed responses to report the most popular and insightful answers back to them — and get their take.
Now, let’s start the conversation.
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ ASK: Tell us about what gets you excited to watch a new season or episode of television — is it new plot developments or character introductions, anticipated storylines for characters you love, community with friends? What brings you to the tube?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: For OUAT fans, it’s all about the core characters that were introduced in the pilot — Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla), Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), and the rest. As Mae wrote, “It’s simply the fact that I love [those] characters and as you watch a show, you grow to care about their well-being.”
Many fans also like how strong women are the focus of the show. Rosemary said, “Being the mother of two daughters, one of the things that drew me to Once was the strong female angle. I want my daughters to know that they are strong all on their own as women and that when life gets messy (because it always does) how to stand strong through the hard times.”
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ RESPOND: “We were the first show ever to put a sword in Snow White’s hand,” Kitsis says. “The very first image of the pilot, after the iconic wakeup, was the Evil Queen breaking into the wedding, and then you see Snow White grab her husband’s sword and stand in front of him. That’s in the DNA of the show — strong females overcoming adversity is exactly what the show does. I think there’s no more perfect example of that than the Evil Queen, who has, over 100 episodes, found herself now friends with the very heroes she cursed. We see her constantly get knocked down but for us, it’s how she gets back up that’s most interesting to write about.”
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ ASK: Which Once character would you like to meet in real life?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: With so many characters on the show, answers to this really ran the gamut. But without a doubt, Regina and Emma were at the top.
Eva wrote, “Regina. She is such an interesting character with so many layers and personas. I think she could give me the best advice in how to handle and how not to handle things in my life. Also I think it would be nice to have a drink with her.”
Sonia said, “I would love to meet Emma in real life because she is such a strong woman who has gone through so much during her life that she could have easily given up, but no, she always stands strong and continues to fight for her happy ending. She is such a strong role model that I would love to meet her.”
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ RESPOND: “It’s wonderful to hear the breadth of response to that question, and that there are so many different characters that our audience would like to get to know,” Horowitz says. “I hope that is in part due to the way we portrayed them as multi-dimensional and with so many different layers. And I think that what the actors have all brought to those characters makes them really interesting people to get to know.”
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ ASK: Of all the villains to visit Storybrooke, who would you like to see return the most?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Again, over the course of 100 episodes, OUAT has introduced many memorable villains. Fans love Cora, Maleficent, and Zelena, but the villain who really captured their imaginations was Peter Pan. “He was such an interesting twist on the character,” wrote Rosie.
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ RESPOND: “Good news, fans! Tune in Sunday and you will see Peter Pan,” Kitsis says. “We loved Robbie Kay’s performance and how he created such a unique Pan character, and we were thrilled to get him back for this half of the season for an appearance or two… we don’t want to give away too much. With the villains, and really all the characters when they’re based on iconic characters from storytelling, we always try to find a unique spin on them. With Pan, we found in the DNA a sense of a heroic character that could go a different way than the way we’ve always known.”
Adds Horowitz, “For us, as writers, who would want to live the rest of their life as a 14-year-old, which is not the world’s greatest age?”
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ ASK: What inspires you to tweet about a show you’re watching? How often would you say you watch live so that you can participate in the conversation on Twitter?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: Once Upon a Time isn’t just the story of a family of fairy tale characters — it’s a family off-screen, too. Many fans live-tweet and engage with each other as the show airs. “I literally joined Twitter because of Once Upon a Time,” Michelle said.
And OUAT’s fans aren’t all in the U.S. — they’re all around the world. “I live in Germany and here Once is coming up at 2 a.m. And 5 hours later I have to go to school but it’s totally worth it,” Laureen wrote.
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ RESPOND: “We love getting the real-time response from fans on Twitter and reading them react to the show as it airs,” Kitsis says. But it goes beyond that. “We love that there is a community, and we love that there are international fans,” Horowitz says. “It’s great to see fans from Brazil talking to fans from America and fans from Italy, and they’re all coming together over one thing. For us, you want your show to entertain people, but when you actually see a community forming and becoming friends through that, it’s really amazing. Sometimes I’ll see the tweets in languages I don’t understand, and it makes me smile because I think it’s fantastic — like, wow, here we are in Russia! Here we are in Argentina! And that they all interact, that’s what’s so great about Twitter.”
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ ASK: Which new fairy tale character or world that we have not explored would you like to see on Once Upon a Time?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: The creators should consider hiring some fans for their writing staff, because the responses were so varied and interesting. Some were very thought-out (writing fanfiction, you guys?). Popular Disney characters topped the list, like Aladdin, Pocahontas, and Rapunzel. And fans would really like to see the creators find a way to work in The Lion King, in human form. Kirsten wrote, “I would love it if the Lion King could be on the show too, but that may be difficult. Perhaps certain elements from the story could be introduced somehow, for instance the Circle of Life.” (Fans also wanted crossovers with other major franchises, like Star Wars, though they wondered if that’s allowed.
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ RESPOND: “I think we’d love to see some of those characters as well. Every season, we talk about which ones might come in and out of our orbit that would best tell the story,” Kitsis says. “For instance, we did Neverland because we knew that Henry was going to be kidnapped, so we loved the idea of Peter Pan trying to make him a Lost Boy. We love to go to different lands and worlds. It’s kind of like Star Trek, there’s always a brave new frontier. It’s cool to see the breadth of the responses there!”
As far as what’s allowed, Horowitz says, “It’s never been a case of being told, ‘Oh no, you’re not allowed to do that.’ It’s really been about having the right idea. If we have an idea that excites us, Disney has always been incredibly receptive and helpful in that way. Things that are restricted are, like, you’re never going to see Harry Potter on our show.”
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ ASK: If you could move to Storybrooke, who would you want to be your next door neighbor?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: The fans would really like to share a bottle of wine with Regina and Emma (and really, anybody else). Eva wrote, “If I could move to Storybrooke, I would want to live next to Regina, Maleficent and Granny. I mean Granny’s food is amazing, and Regina and Mal seem such cool drinking buddies to me.”
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ RESPOND: “I think our characters would be a lot of fun to hang out with or live next door to,” Kitsis says. “I think Regina would be great — she’s the mayor, and so that would be very secure.”
Horowitz has a different idea: “I would want to live next door to Mr. Gold, because I have a feeling there’s no crime on his street.”
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ ASK: What was the most heartbreaking moment of the past 100 episodes?
ANALYZING THE ANSWERS: “All of it,” was basically the answer, but several moments stood out to the fans. One was very recent, Captain Hook’s death in the winter finale. As Athena wrote, “Emma killing Hook to save everyone from the darkness. I cried. A lot. Jennifer and Colin O'Donoghue are amazing actors, and the reaction that the rest of the ensemble had to that moment just made it even more powerful. You better fix this, Adam and Eddy.”
Another scene that slayed the fans took place in Season 3, Episode 11. Michelle wrote, “Without a doubt the most heartbreaking scene for me was when Emma and Henry have to leave Storybrooke in ‘Going Home.’ It makes me cry every time. Not so much because they are leaving but because of the gift that Regina gives Emma before they part. ‘My gift to you is good memories, a good life for you and Henry, you’ll have never given him up. You’ll have always been together.’ That scene gets me EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.”
KITSIS AND HOROWITZ RESPOND: “It’s amazing to hear all these things,” Kitsis says. “There are so many moments on this show that are heartbreaking. For me, one of the first heartbreaking moments was when Emma broke the curse by kissing Henry. We really loved the idea that true love’s kiss that could break the curse would be between a mother and a son. But it was so heartbreaking because we spent all year watching Emma deny it, not believe, and to see her become a believer and have faith. The pilot started with Henry saying, ‘Did you have a kid?’ and her denying it. So then ending with her loving this child so much it could break the curse, for me that was heartbreaking.”
Once Upon a Time airs its 100th episode Sunday, March 6 at 8 p.m. on ABC.