Forget Storybrooke -- at least for now. Once Upon a Time introduces a darker, more sinister world when season three opens: Neverland.
With the motley crew of Snow White, Prince Charming, Rumpelstiltskin, Captain Hook, Emma and Regina all on the Jolly Roger as they desperately search for Emma's son Henry in an unfamiliar land (with unpleasant mermaids), things are bound to get tense.
Co-creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz have vowed that season three will return its focus to the core group of Once Upon a Time regulars, a welcome shift for star Ginnifer Goodwin, who previews the upcoming third season with The Hollywood Reporter.
How drastic of a change was it for you to start off the season in another world that's not Storybrooke?
I thought that I was going to miss [Storybrooke]. I mean, we still have flashbacks to fairy tale land but I thought I was going to miss this world we already created. The second season was the only time that I had, thus far, gotten to play these newly reconciled characters, but truly being in Neverland -- though it's a completely different realm -- it does have the tone of fairy tale land [because] it is magical. Getting to be there a lot is actually so much fun.
Do you prefer filming in a land that's much darker than Storybrooke?
Absolutely! We know from the end of last season that Peter Pan is a villain, of which even Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) is afraid, which means he is probably one of the greater villains of any realm. So his land, one could assume, is more sinister and one could also assume that a more sinister land is going to bring out qualities in our beloved characters that are a little on the darker side and that's so much to say.
Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz have said that season three will return the focus on the core characters and explore their identities. Was this a significant — and welcome — change for you?
I signed on to the pilot because I loved the pilot. When you sign on to a series all you have is the pilot and being together like this — even in a new land, even as these new amalgam of characters that we didn't expect — is a lot more like the experience of being on the pilot so I'm ecstatic about it. For all of the sort of annoying qualities, for instance Snow White forgiving the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) again and again and again, I love being stuck on a boat with her because under all of that layer of hate, there is clearly a layer of love. Or else they would have killed each other by this point. To really analyze and investigate the dynamics between these core characters is so satisfying.
You brought up the fact that Snow is stuck with people she doesn't fully like or respect. How is that going to affect the group?
It's going to be incredibly combative! (Laughs.) Ultimately you have two characters on this ship, Rumpelstiltskin and Regina, who have given themselves the title of dictator. They're going to put their egos aside and we're going to come together if we're ever going to save Henry (Jared S. Gilmore). So chaos must ensue. But, because we do have this common goal, because that goal is sincerely all of our first priority, we are also going to have to change. And that I think is going to be satisfying for people to watch.
It also seems like family will be a big theme this season, and Emma and Snow have a very complicated past they have yet to fully explore ...
They do! We were begging for an opportunity to concentrate on that dynamic because Jennifer Morrison and I both felt like — and we talked to the boys [Kitsis and Horowitz] about it — we loved where the story went, we loved our adventures. Everything was so exciting but every time we went to have a conversation about our relationship, we were interrupted and there was always some obstacle getting in the way of us really healing and growing together. And because we are stuck together without distraction, we can really analyze that dynamic and face ourselves and deal with our guilt and deal with our abandonment issues and see if we can move on from there.
How far does Snow go to earn back her title of "mother" to Emma?
She's clearly someone who tries again and again and again with everyone, so one can assume she will treat this relationship the same way -- but with more passion.
What sort of hurdles will Snow and Charming be facing this season?
I think that another big theme this season is when is it OK to compromise? When is it OK to maybe do something that we wouldn't necessarily define as having that much integrity but you know you ultimately have to do it for the greater good? Our relationship is really going to ask that question and what goes on between us based on what happens to Charming (Josh Dallas) is really going to exemplify that theme.
Which new characters are you most excited see viewers' reactions to?
I begged not to be involved in the Ariel [played by JoAnna Garcia] storyline because I hate being wet. I assumed correctly that anyone involved in the story with Little Mermaid would in fact be. But I can tell you that Snow White and Little Mermaid do cross paths and I ended up finding it to be one of my favorite Once Upon a Time experiences because what the writers write is pretty spectacular. I love all these new characters coming in, and it doesn't feel arbitrary in any way. Every time we've introduced new characters this season, it feels like what they have to offer is really necessary for us to achieve our goal.
Can you tease a scene that we should keep an eye out for?
I will say that one of the things I love about this season is that the answers to these questions and these themes are not going to addressed in just one scene. The growing process for these characters is going to be ongoing but satisfying.
Once Upon a Time premieres Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. on ABC.