D23: 'Once Upon a Time' Looks Ahead to Dark Swan, Merida and Camelot

With the Season 5 premiere of “Once Upon a Time” little more than a month away, the producers and stars of ABC’s fairy-tale drama appeared at Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, to thank fans for their support and tease a few secrets.

The presentation began with a screening of a seven-and-a-half minute featurette from the Season 4 Blu-ray and DVD, which went on sale this week. Titled “Behind the Magic,” the video is a mockumentary-style look at what happens on the series off-camera.

Executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis then came on stage to address some of the questions raised by the Season 4 finale.

Will Henry regret snapping the Author’s quill? “There will be events in the premiere that will make him wish he could rewrite things,” Horowitz explained. “There’s a lot of power in that quill. Perhaps he was a little hasty.”

What about Zelena, the Wicked Witch of the West (played by Rebecca Mader), who was last seen pregnant and in jail? “It’s hard to keep a good wicked witch down,” Kitsis teased.

“I would say she is sort of the Hannibal Lecter character of the show,” Horowitz added. “She lives up to her wicked name this season.”

Perhaps the biggest cliffhanger involved Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), last shown picking up the dagger and being turned into the new “Dark One” – now dubbed “Dark Swan.” The producers teased that Emma’s “Dark One” will stand in contrast to Rumplestiltskin’s.

“Being the ‘Dark One’ is like putting a magnifying glass up to who you really are and then twisting it a bit,” Horowitz said. “Emma will definitely be different from Rumple.”

“Having the dagger and the power that comes with it tricks you into believing that there is a freedom to lose your fears,” Kitsis elaborated. “We [the viewers] know who Emma is and what her fears are, so there is a different take on the ‘Dark One’ with her.”

Revealing an image of Emma as the Dark One standing in a wooded area, with Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) posed a few feet behind her, the producers teased it would make more sense following the season premiere.

The moderator then shifted to a game of “Yes/No/Maybe”: Because the upcoming season will include the 100th episode, he explained he’d read off a list of characters who have come and gone over the years, and have the producers answer yes, no or maybe, as to whether we’ll see them again this season.

As he read off the names -- Mulan, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, Ariel, Baelfire, Ursula and Cora -- Horowitz and Kitsis alternated their responses, but the answer was the same for every character mentioned: “maybe,” which elicited groans and giggles from the audience.

They did reveal that Merida from Pixar's “Brave” will be introduced this year. “We will meet her in the premiere, and how we meet her I don’t want to spoil,” Kitsis said.

“Amy Manson, who plays her, is fantastic,” Horowitz added.

They promised a lot of Disney “Easter eggs” this season, including teases for Belle and Camelot. “We always throw in some Disney surprises,” Kitsis said. “This year will be no different.”

Following a screening of the Season 4 blooper reel, “Once Upon a Time” stars Ginnifer Goodwin (Mary Margaret/Snow White) and Lana Parrilla (Regina/the Evil Queen) joined the producers.

Parrilla addressed her numerous one-liners, saying her favorite is still the one in the pilot: “I shall destroy your happiness if it’s the last thing I do.”

Discussing Regina’s relationship with Emma over the course of the series, Parilla said her character feels “responsible” for saving Emma – and that upsets her. “I don’t think anyone has ever made a sacrifice like that for Regina,” she said.

Kitsis added, “It’s not what she wants to do. She hates owing people things. Now she feels like she really has to band together with everyone to save Emma.”


Goodwin said Emma as the Dark One will directly affect Snow White. “The darker Emma goes, the more to Snow/Mary Margaret she is herself a failure,” she said.

An audience member dressed as Boba Fett stood to ask a question, only to remove the mask to reveal “Once Upon a Time” co-star Josh Dallas (Prince Charming), who joined the others on stage.

Kitsis said said several of the show’s main characters, and a handful of secondary ones, are heading to Camelot, and Dallas hinted there’s going to be a Charming/King Arthur bromance.

As the panel wound down, attendees were shown the opening scene from the season premiere. Kitsis concluded by saying that the first half of Season 5 will have two dread-inducing themes: “The first is ‘sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be,’ and the other is ‘love is a very dangerous weapon.’”

“Once Upon a Time” returns Sunday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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