The producer and stars of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland journeyed down the rabbit hole and into Comic-Con International to discuss the upcoming spinoff of ABC’s hit fairy-tale drama.
Executive producer Jack Estrin (No Ordinary Family) was joined by cast members Naveen Andrews (Lost), Michael Socha (Being Human), Peter Gadiot, Emma Rigby (Hollyoaks and Sophie Lowe to pull back on the curtain on the new twist on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Lowe, who plays Alice, explained to a gathering of reporters that her character has grown up and fallen in love with Cyrus (Gadiot), an escaped and displaced genie. Alice is in a tough spot when the series opens, as the crazy stories of Wonderland she’s been telling since childhood have landed her in a psychiatric institution.
Gadiot explained that the show “is an adventure love story, with a hint of darkness,” alluding to scenes of torture and imprisonment for Alice, his character and others.
On a lighter note, the costumes the two wear are a big part of their characters. “I love wearing them,” Lowe said. “They help me get into character.”
Gadiot described his character’s clothes as “very contemporary” and “swashbuckling.” Instead of a turban or sash, his genie wears “leather pants with studs on them.”
Socha said he loves playing the Knave of Hearts, describing him as a real heartbreaker. The theme of hearts – be they broken, lost or found -- was further hinted as being a big part of the show’s arc.
For Lowe, the major attraction to portraying the Red Queen is simple: “Who wouldn’t want to play a queen?” She went on to say she enjoys the theatrical side of the character, but also joked that she also likes the wardrobe.
On numerous occasions the actors described the tone of the series as dark, but Estrin went into detail when asked why choose Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, out of all the fairy tales, as the spinoff of Once Upon a Time. Explaining that everyone knows the story of Alice as a little girl who went on a wild adventure, he asked, “But what happened afterwards?”
Estrin elaborated that if she went around telling people about a talking rabbit and a smoking caterpillar, she’d likely be labeled as crazy. Alice’s life didn’t have a happy ending following the events of the story, and the TV series begins with the character in a dark place.
There’s potential for a crossover with its parent show Once Upon a Time, and it will eventually happen. However, Estrin explained, “It’s important to not have baggage from another show, but the gift of it.” Wonderland is for new viewers, and not just fans of the original; he characterized the relationship as “ a cousin, maybe a different accent … a little sexier.”
One surprising detail revealed about the show is that not everyone was born in Wonderland. The series will explore who characters were before they came to live there, and Estrin specifically asked, “Who was Red Queen before she came there?”
Andrews was recently announced as Jafar, the antagonist from Disney’s Aladdin. But while the actor will be playing the classic villain, he’ll bring a more modern approach to the character, and not treat him as a one--note bad guy.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is planned for just one season, with a specific ending in mind, but Estrin said they’re open to continuing the series if the demand is there. He even said the show could go on in other incarnations like, “Once Upon a Time in Oz.”
Asked whether the other versions might feature the same actors and characters, Estrin replied, “Who knows?”
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland premieres Thursday, Oct. 10 on ABC.