“Once Upon a Time” is kicking off season four with a dose of “Frozen,” adding characters from the blockbuster Disney movie to the town of Storybrooke. Ahead of the Sept. 28 premiere, Variety talked to showrunners Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis to preview Anna (Elizabeth Lail) and Elsa’s (Georgina Haig) “Once” debut and find out what’s ahead for the rest of the fantasy show’s beloved characters.
How will Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) adjust to a second chance at raising a child? Will Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) be able to maintain a relationship? How will Belle (Emilie de Ravin) react when she realizes that Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) is keeping another secret from her? What will Regina (Lana Parrilla) do now that Robin Hood’s (Sean Maguire) lost love Marian (Christie Laing) has returned? Read on to find out.
Switching focus to Regina and Robin Hood and their tumultuous relationship: There have been some preview photos from the premiere that show Marion looking less than pleased with Robin — is it less of a happy reunion than people might expect?
Kitsis: It’s a difficult reunion because, obviously for Regina… what we loved about the finale is that before this happened and she was walking into that party, you saw her the happiest she had ever been on the show, even before when she was a teenage girl. So we have three years of evolution for this character. Now she’s faced with her first real emotional setback. Not a plot setback but an emotional one. So for us it was a question of, “how does she deal with it?” The old Regina would immediately rip everyone’s heart out. What will this one do? And Marion is a stranger in a strange land, and it’s one thing that you find out you’ve traveled through time and your husband has moved on, but it’s another thing to find out he moved on with the person who killed you. So it’s going to be uncomfortable over there in the Sherwood Forest part of Storybrooke. [Laughs.]
As you said, this is a huge setback for Regina — how do you balance the central conflict of her dark impulses warring with her journey towards redemption without undoing the last three years of character development?
Horowitz: That’s what’s interesting to us about it. This is not about Regina reverting to be being The Evil Queen from season one. She can’t; she’s come too far, but that Evil Queen is a huge part of who she is. So we have a challenge before her that is huge, that is going to require her to wrestle all the different aspects of her personality. Her dark impulses and her light ones.
Kitsis: And another thing that we’re really excited about is, Regina’s story is not just Robin Hood. We have seen Henry in the past with Operation Cobra with Emma, but he is going to be in a new operation with Regina this year that is actually going to [last] the whole year.
You noted that Marion is a stranger in a strange land and obviously, Elsa is too — will we see their paths cross or are they on different story arcs
Kitsis: They’re kind of on separate story arcs, I would say. They will have some interaction, but they are also on separate story tracks.
Emma bringing back Marion in the finale obviously threw another wrench in her relationship with Regina, but as you said, Regina has also evolved. What can you preview for their dynamic this season?
Kitsis: I think the relationship is tough because Emma decided to save a life, and that life kind of destroyed Regina’s happiness, and so they may have been at it at the top, but one of the things we’re excited to explore is, you know, what does Emma think about Regina? How does she look at her now, and how does Regina look at Emma now? And there’s going to be an entire episode devoted to just that relationship and how they feel about each other.