On the Set: Once Upon a Time Finds Magic in the Real Storybrooke
Jennifer Morrison | Photo Credits: Jack Rowand/ABC
On Once Upon a Time's main street in Storybrooke, resident evil queen Regina sits in her car, peering into her side mirror with tears streaming down her face. The mirror's reflection shows Emma breaking bad news to Henry — someone has been murdered in Storybrooke, and all signs point to Regina as the culprit. As Regina realizes she's likely lost Henry forever and more tears fall, the director yells, "Cut!" With only a minute or two to spare before the scene resets, Lana Parrilla dries her face, peers up in the air in an attempt to stop crying before reapplying more makeup. It's time to do the scene again, and this time, it draws even more local looky-loos. That's because the Storybrooke set of ABC's fairy tale drama isn't closed to the public, but a real working street in Steveston, a town just south of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada.
Filming in Steveston is both a blessing and a, ahem, curse. On the one hand, "All the world's a stage" takes on new meaning as the cast is literally acting live in front of adoring fans. On the other hand, those same fans are quick to snap a spoilery photo that will surely wind up on the internet. On this late October day, cast members Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas are filming this Sunday's midseason return (airing 8/7c on ABC), picking up shortly after the Charming family reunion, a major spoiler fans didn't learn about until the Dec. 2 winter finale.
"That does bum me out because I just feel like for me, as an audience member when I'm watching other shows, I don't want to know those things ahead of time. I enjoy the surprise of it," Morrison laments, noting that there's a different level of acting when in Storybrooke. "You're always on display. It's an interesting thing as an actor. What you aim for is to not be self-conscious and what it creates is a tremendous self-consciousness. It's a new challenge to find a way to do the best work you possibly can under those circumstances."
On the flip side, Goodwin says, "It's a good problem to have," since the attention means the fans are passionate about the series. "When we first came back in the summer, when school was out, we'd come up and literally there'd be 200 or 300 people here coming throughout the day just standing around watching." Dallas adds. "It became street theater. It's great and it just means, obviously, we're onto a good thing. I'm just glad that people are interested and want to come and watch."
No one is more sensitive about spoilers than Parrilla, who's had several spoilery scenes on the streets of Steveston this season. "I had that moment with Daniel [Noah Bean], when he stepped out in his fairy tale land clothes for that scene when he's on the corner," Parrilla says. "I stepped out and I went, 'Oh my God! What are you doing? You need to put a jacket on! We need to put a hood on him!' I freaked the f--- out. Everyone was like, 'Lana, calm down. Maybe it's a nightmare.' Oh right, that makes sense. But I panicked. I really do hate spoilers and I try to protect it as much as possible. It's not necessarily a bad thing. People aren't going to stop watching. They're going to tune in just as much because they'll want to see it."