Wind whips through sails as I step foot onto a pirate ship for the San Diego Comic-Con 2015 Marked Men party. There are many costumed partygoers in attendance, mermaids and a plethora of pirates among them. There are also fair maidens dressed as princesses, though not of the Disney variety. Or are they?
As I make my way downstairs to the third level, there are microphones in place and band members standing at the ready. The lights change as a familiar-looking pirate steps out from a back area and makes his way to the stage. He approaches a mic, then moves to a second. waving his hooked hand. Looking up at the audience above him, he smiles. “‘Ello, mates! Welcome to the Marked Men party, on board my Jolly Roger. Just one second, please.” He stops and takes a swig from his jug, shouting spiritedly after he finishes. “Normally you won’t find this on ABC, but we’re not on ABC, are we?” he asks the crowd.
No. This is not ABC, nor is this an episode of the network’s series Once Upon A Time. This is Once Upon A Time: The Rock Opera.
Once Upon A Fan Editor Gareth Hughes spoke with author Wendy Toliver about the challenges of bringing the world of Once Upon A Time to the written page with the first original OUAT Novel, 'Red's Untold Tale'.
How did the opportunity to write an original novel for Once Upon A Time come about?
My literary agent asked if I was a fan of OUAT, and when I told her I was a huge fan, she asked if I’d like her to “put my name in the hat” for an opportunity to write a novel that would give greater insight into the popular and beloved character, Red (Ruby). Many emails and phone calls later, I was informed that the involved parties from Disney, ABC-TV, and OUAT liked my ideas about what Red was like as a teenager. They placed a crown upon my head and told me I was the chosen one. I’m just kidding about the crown, but I was so excited and honored; it felt like that!
When it comes to the central plot of the novel, were you given free rein on the story or were specific guidelines given from the producers that had to be followed?
I had creative freedom for the story, with a deep curtsey to the character and world created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. At the very beginning, I submitted an outline so there’d be no big surprises. Naturally, everything had to work cohesively and be in step with the character of Red, the plotlines that had already been aired on the show, and the overall themes and feel of OUAT. It was nice knowing that I could ask questions and get input whenever needed. Truly, working with everyone who’s been involved with this project has been a magical experience, right from the get-go.
Teresa: When did you first become a fan of Once Upon a Time?
Tom: The Season One was good, but I really became a fan when the character of Captain Hook came on. I loved to discover a new story about this character and the interpretation by Colin O’Donoghue is just perfect. I think that he worked a lot to propose a Hook version that we had never seen before.
Teresa: When did you realize you looked like Hook?
Tom: I didn’t realize I looked like him, but my friends told me that we looked a lot alike.
Teresa: How did you first start cosplaying as Hook?
Tom: After my friends told me I looked like Hook, I decided to try to do the makeup and did my first photoshoot. It started that way. I put my first picture on your website. Xivents saw it and contacted me for the Fairy Tales 2. All began thanks to you.
By Zach Van Norman
Jane Espenson has just arrived for our interview at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. She looks very much like a modern Cinderella, wearing a metallic blue dress that shimmers in the light as she makes her way down the stairs in the small screening room set aside for us. I hand her a bag of popcorn and compliment her on her dress. “Thank you,” she says as she prepares to sit. “It doesn’t allow for much popcorn but I’m going to eat some anyway.” It’s a humble moment from a television writer whose work is comprised of pop culture staples like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica and Torchwood.
Having cultivated such an impressive portfolio of writing credits, it’s arguable that Jane Espenson can be referred to as an icon. Her aforementioned humility continues as we begin speaking and Jane proves herself oblivious to her status. “I didn’t know I was an icon,” she replies when asked about the topic. “That’s even more disorienting. I’m not primarily a creator. I haven’t really created a lot of things. I co-created, where I co-created Husbands with Brad Bell, but mostly I have been someone who steps into a show and… I get to play in the sandbox that someone else has created, which is the thing I always wanted to do. It’s the best job in the world.”
While it’s true that she hasn’t created many of the characters she’s written for, Jane’s work has shepherded characters through many varying story arcs, filling in the outlines of their humanity with colors of her own choosing and showcasing how life isn’t always black and white. Jane’s stories are a journey to emotional truth, and they have been of such quality and such impact that she is being recognized with the Inspiration Award at Etheria Film Night 2015. Etheria Film Night is an annual event recognizing women for their contributions to the entertainment industry, and includes a showcase of genre films created by women filmmakers. Receiving the Inspiration Award is an honor that Jane describes as “thrilling, overwhelming, really nauseating, because it’s a lot of attention, you know? It feels gratifying, let’s go with that. That’s better than ‘nauseating.’”
Gratifying is the best way to describe Jane’s ascension in the world of television. She grew up in Ames, Iowa and submitted scripts for M*A*S*H* and Star Trek: The Next Generation as a teenager. She went on to join the Disney ABC Writing Program and spent a few years writing on comedy shows including Dinosaurs and Ellen; during this time her desire to write a Star Trek script was fulfilled when she penned an episode for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Interview by Zach Van Norman - @TheZachVan
Zach: First of all, thank you for giving me your time again. I appreciate it. You were on our podcast once with Michael.
Faustino: I remember that. That was a lot of fun actually.
Zach: Thank you for that. Yesterday was fun, too.
Faustino: I should be thanking you guys. That was a really special day. I only had the opportunity to go to Disneyland when I was in my teens. I’ll be honest with you; I can barely remember the trip. It looked so different this time. It was a really special day and it only happened because of you guys, so thank you.
Zach: No problem. It was fun. It’s been a crazy season for Once Upon A Time. What do you think about the storyline so far and where it’s gone?
Faustino: I think it’s interesting, I love it. It’s showing so many different layers to the characters and how everything isn’t so cut and dry. Just when you think it’s this, it’s that. And just when you think it’s that, it’s this. I think it’s wonderful. It’s life. It represents life.
Zach: It’s nice that it’s not so black and white, evil and good. Everyone is kind of mixing it up. What has been your favorite moment of the show so far?
Faustino: Oh my goodness. There are so many. You know, they’re all special moments. There’s just times when we think of little things. We don’t want it to end, ever. The last episode that we worked on we had a really good time. Lee gets into his little character moments sometimes. He had us in stitches between takes while we’re waiting to get set up for the next shot. Just those fun moments when you’re laughing and you’re thinking “I don’t want this to end.” There was that time when we set up on a river on the creek, and it was all rustic. This is where we set up camp . . . I can’t remember which episode this was in particular. I think it was season three.
Zach: I think it was “Lost Girl”.
Faustino: We were all sitting there around the table with Snow, Charming and all the dwarfs and we’re just talking, and then a deer just pops out of nowhere and starts walking into our scene. We’re all just doing our stuff and this beautiful creature just pops out, just starts walking, and wasn’t even startled or anything. It was so natural. We happened to get it into the shot afterwards which is really cool and amazing. Things like that, little special moments that were created throughout. It even started as early on as the Pilot. I think probably one of our last days that we filmed was ours, at the time we didn’t even know whether it’d get picked up. There was that moment doing the casket scene. We were in the forest. We show up that day. We just had a beautiful March, it was actually quite warm. And then April 2nd comes around, and it’s snowing. This is supposed to be spring. That scene, I don’t think it would have had the same flavor to it had there not been snow on the ground.
Zach: It felt so appropriate since it was Snow White.
In both Storybrooke and the Enchanted Forest, there is a woman so tough, anyone would think twice about messing with her. The Evil Queen? Nope! We are talking about the crossbow carrying, family defending, sassy strong Granny played to perfection by Beverley Elliott. At Regal Con, Zach Van Norman had the opportunity to talk to Beverley about all things Once and more.
Zach: Hi Bev. I’m Zach Van Norman from OnceUponAFans.com, the number one fansite for the show. I think you met my colleague Ashley, who cosplays as Granny.
Beverley: Oh yeah, yeah. She came as Granny at Dragon Con, it was great.
Zach I wanted to start off talking about Season One where we had a little more of Granny’s presence than later seasons. The episode “Red Handed” which had that huge reveal that Red was actually the wolf and Granny was just trying to protect her the whole time. When you first got that script and saw that twist, what did you think about that?
Beverley: (Laughs) Well up until that point my character, Granny, had had a few lines here, maybe a line there. I got the script right before Christmas and it’s funny because my sister and brother in law were visiting. And with all actors, you sort of read through going “ok crap crap crap, ok my line” …So I was going through and it was all “my line, my line, my monologue my monologue…OH MY GOD this is a BIG episode!” There were just big chunks of dialogue like when I spoke to the town’s people in the tavern and told them the story of what had happened. That was three minutes and 26 seconds of straight dialogue. I know because I believe it was Helga who was in charge of continuity at the time and we went through that piece 8 times. It was great, it was great. To reveal in that piece what had happened, I thought it was brilliant writing. It was a great example of what the writers do, how they take a fairytale we know and turn it on its head. And we’re not thinking “oh my God that’s not what happened”, it just takes us deeper into the story to where we didn’t think that would be possible. And I love that about the writing on this show. They turn it just enough, or even completely around, but it never feels like its in a land where it is not complementary and integral to what the story already is. And I love the fact that I am part wolf, I love that. The heightened senses, I kind of married into it you know?
ZACH: I’m Zach Van Norman with Once Upon a Fan. Thank you very much for giving us your time again today.
GIL: Happy to be here.
ZACH: So, I guess my first question is going to be last time I saw you was for Enchantacon about a year and a half ago, how has life changed for you since then?
GIL: (Laughs) Tremendously, as far as these conventions go. Enchantacon was my first convention. You're right. I think it was a year and a half ago, and right after that I got contacted by Creation Entertainment to be a part of Supernatural conventions which has been a lot of fun. So I think I've probably done, I don't know, eight or ten of those for Supernatural since I saw you last. And it's been a blast, like getting to hang out with those actors and meet those fans, so it's been really great. This is fun too. The Once Upon a Time fans are as awesome, but they're different, you know. There's definitely some crossover I think between the two shows, but Once Upon a Time fans are definitely more Disneyesque I would say!
ZACH: I would agree with that! Lots of cosplay going on today. I was going to ask you too, because you did pick up a big following from Supernatural, how do you compare your role on Supernatural to Eric on Once Upon a Time?
GIL: You know it's interesting because they're both, I guess, kind of important roles to the show but I only did basically two episodes of each show. I was in three episodes of Once Upon a Time, but the third episode was just a fleeting glace of me on the beach kissing Ariel. But they're kind of important roles so I feel like the fans embraced not only the character but me as well. Supernatural I feel has been a little bit different because my two episodes of Supernatural were spread out over at least a year and like I said I've done eight or ten of those conventions so far and I think I'm scheduled to do eight more of those this year. I feel like I've gotten closer with that fan base than the Once Upon a Time fan base, but that's totally understandable since I haven't been on Once Upon a Time since I did it two years ago or over two years ago now. But they're both great fan bases and as far as the roles go,on Supernatural getting to be a Winchester is pretty cool thing, but also getting to play a Disney prince is awesome as well. I'll be honest with you guys. I just hope that at some point Once Upon a Time will have me back because I feel we've barely scratched the surface of Prince Eric and Ariel. There's just so many great characters on the show. I'm hopeful that at some point they'll have me back. Not holding my breath at this point.