The Dark Swan in Camelot: Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis discuss Once Upon A Time's fifth season with Zach Van Norman
Photo courtesy ABC Studios
The Dark Swan. Camelot. Merida. Apart, these phrases have their own meaning, but when combined, it means that season five of ABC’s hit series Once Upon A Time has finally arrived! Series creators Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz chatted with Once Upon A Fan’s Zach Van Norman for our annual premiere interview, where they dished on the quest to save the Savior, the journey to Camelot, and what we can expect to see from primetime's first-ever LGBT fairy tale storyline.
My first question is about Emma, since she’s the focus of Season 5. She’s always had a special magic since she is the Savior and sort of the embodiment of true love. So I was curious, now that she’s the Dark One, and the embodiment of Dark magic, how are those two things going to coexist within her? What kind of struggle is she going to face with this?
Horowitz: I think that, you know, Emma’s going to struggle with the darkness in that it’s not like flipping a switch where she’s changed who she is; it’s more about how the Dark One accentuates who you already are, and then kind of pushes you towards maybe making not-great choices that you wouldn’t normally make.
When Rumple was the Dark One, his mission was first to find his son, and then that transitioned into keeping ahold his power. Emma's goal is obviously gonna be to rid herself of the darkness, but I’m curious about you guys can tell us as far as the Dark Swan and what her goal would be?
Kitsis: I think that what you’re gonna see is that Emma is trying her hardest to resist the Darkness. She’s on a path to find Merlin as the Apprentice told her, and trying to get it out of her. But as we saw with Rumplestiltskin, the darkness itself is like the apple, you know? Once you take a bite it’s hard to get rid of the taste. I think in a lot of ways having the dagger and being the Dark One allows you the freedom to be selfish. It allows you the freedom to make the wrong choice and not feel bad about it, and that is going to be something Emma’s dealing with. And what her motives are, what she wants to do, what is happening, is the mystery of the first half of the season.
Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan. Photo courtesy ABC Studios
We did hear recently this week that Hook and Henry are going to be teaming up to save Emma, so I was curious what we can expect to see with those two as they build a stepfather/stepson relationship.
Kitsis: I think they got it going last year during "Operation Mongoose part 1 and 2". I think Hook, he saw that Henry was a capable young hero on the rise, and I think we’re going to see that this year. I think this is a year where we’re going to see Henry go from being a kid to being a young man. I think he’s really grown up and the stories that we’re telling about him this year reflect that.
One of the things that you guys said is that Henry’s going to be getting a love interest this season and her name is Violet, and we’re finding out more about her in episode 2. We’re very excited about that, he’s finally stepping into his own love story. He does still have his role as the Author to contend with though, so my question is, did Henry’s power as the Author break when he broke the quill, or does he still have magic that he has yet to discover?
Horowitz: I think that Henry broke the quill making a very difficult decision at the end of last season, and I think in this season we’re going to see the ramifications of that decision pretty early on.
Jared Gilmore as Henry Mills. Photo courtesy ABC Studios
A follow-up on that one: where are the stories going to be recorded now? Is it going to be the same book or is that going to change?
Kitsis: (joking) On ABC. I would say that is something that is, um… we’ll have to wait and see. But I would think that… we saw a lot of empty books in the Sorcerer’s [house] so if he runs out of room, he has lots of empty notebooks.
I had mentioned Henry and Hook a moment ago, but they’re not the only ones. Regina and Henry, it seems like they would team up as well to save Emma especially after they started getting close during Operation Mongoose, and their mother-son bond deepened. How is their relationship going to be affected as they try to save Emma?
Kitsis: I think that, you know, they’re in a pretty strong place and they have been. Henry really believed in his mom, even though she was the Evil Queen. I think he’s really proud of her, and I think he’s really proud of how far she’s come and I think they’re very close, and they have a very similar mission here which is to save Emma. You know, Emma took on the darkness at the end of last year to save Regina’s life and if there’s one thing I can tell you about Regina, it’s that she doesn’t like owing anyone.
Yeah, I would imagine so. Glad to expect some fireworks there. I want to turn to Zelena for a second because a lot has been teased about her pregnancy and the effect it’s going to have on Regina and Robin. But she’s a pretty power-hungry person and it seems like she may not take kindly to a new Dark One, especially since it’s Emma, so I’m curious how Zelena is going to play into the quest to save the Savior.
Horowitz: I think that Zelena is a character who has her own agendas and always has her own agendas, so that’s going to really color how she does or doesn’t help with the efforts to assist Emma.
Kitsis: yeah, there may be a main plot going on, but as far as Zelena is concerned, she’s in her own show and she’s going to deal with her own story and her own agenda on her own time, and she’s not… she’s to be feared, I can tell you that much.
Good to know. And now turning to a good buddy of Zelena’s: Mr. Gold. Gold was a coward without his magic, but he did the brave thing in season 4 and reached out to the Queens of Darkness and putting his fate in their hands. Now that he’s been freed from the dagger and lost his magic, is he going to see the light or is he going to face an unexpected darkness within himself and maybe want his powers back?
Kitsis: I think that… we have a really interesting story for him in the new arc that is going to be thematically resonant with things in his past, but he’s also going to be facing new challenges. But I think that the truth is that the darkness is within everybody, and some people can resist it a lot easier than others and so I would say that he still has some struggles within him during this first half of the season.
Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin. Photo courtesy ABC Studios
OK. And a quick one with him too, it’s something that we all wonder about but it hasn’t been clearly defined: does Mr. Gold have a first name and will we ever find out what it is?
Horowitz: No comment.
Kitsis: No comment.
There’s been a lot of media promotion of the show, and one of the photos for Camelot shows a lot of characters and the enchanted rose from Beauty and the Beast. It also appears to show a book or something leaning up against the rock. I was wondering if you could shed any light on what that is, if it’s even a book or not, if you can even say.
Horowitz: I don’t know what that photo is, so I’m not sure I can comment.
Kitsis: Yeah, I don’t know. My guess is that, you know, if they’re going in search of Merlin then Merlin will probably have his own spell book, so I would put my money on that.
Elliott Knight as Merlin. Photo courtesy ABC Studios
We’ve heard a lot about Camelot but not a lot about Merlin besides the fact that everyone is looking for him and he’s going to be played by Elliott Knight. What more can you tell us about Merlin?
Kitsis: We’re going to explore Merlin and his backstory and his origin story, so what I can tell you is that, like Camelot, things aren’t always what they appear to be. So with Merlin, we’re going to really understand his story and his origin story and how that ties into the Dark One. Because in a lot of ways, we know him as the Sorcerer, and he seems to be the opposite of the Dark One and we’re going to dive into why that is.
Merida is coming, which obviously means the themes of Brave are coming with her, so I’m curious how the theme of bravery is going to factor into the Camelot story and the broader arcs of Season 5.
Kitsis: It’s going to tie in, um… [laughs] It will tie in… Adam, what’s the way to say it?
Horowitz: I would say that, you know, the addition of Merida to the show is in a way that we think is organic to what our characters are going through. And that is not like, “We’re going the ‘Brave’ story, we’re doing the Camelot story’ or we’re doing all these separate stories. We’re telling a story that’s starting with Emma’s journey as she’s taken on this darkness, and it’s going to encompass many places, people and things. And Merida fits in in a way that we’re really excited to see, and we think that, you know, in the tradition of our Once Upon A Time strong female characters who can also kick butt, she fits right in, and we’re excited for the audience to see how she does.
Amy Manson as Merida. Photo courtesy ABC Studios
I’m glad you mentioned that, because since its premiere, Once has been known for breaking stereotypes with its depiction of female heroines from Snow White to Mulan (PS by the way, very excited that Jamie Chung is coming back), and last week Entertainment Weekly announced that you’ll be continuing to break the mold with what is essentially the first mainstream LGBT fairy tale character. This is obviously a major change for pop culture, it’s going to allow people from teens to grandparents to see themselves reflected in this genre for the first time. Given the significance of this, I have to ask if this story is going to play out in a way that's more than lip service.
Horowitz: I don’t know what you mean by "lip service" but what I can say is that we want the story to be awesome and well-done and a surprise.
Kitsis: I would say this: we’re going to tell you a love story that happens to be not between a man and a woman. We are going to tell it no different than [how] we told Snow and Charming, Regina and Robin Hood, or Emma and Captain Hook, because love is very important on our show, and that’s what the show is about. And as far as "lip service," I’m not sure what that means, but what I can tell you is that we’re going to set it up in the first half of the season, and the story’s going to play out in the second half of the season, and we are treating it no different than any other love story. Even though, as you say, this may be the first time for this and that, for us, we’ve always respected love, and that’s how we’re dealing with it.
Horowitz: And I would say this: who it’s going to be involving, which characters, whether they’re already on the show, new characters, old characters that no one’s even thought of, we’re not going to comment on because we want to keep some surprise and some sense of mystery to what we’re doing. But it’s important enough, it’s important to us to reflect the world as it is, and to tell a love story. Love is love to us on the show, and as far as lip service stuff and talking about something, we’re talking about doing something, so that’s our plan.
Cool. You guys have done a really good job of incorporating both the source material as well as the Disney version of the stories that you've explored so far, especially with the Frozen storyline and having the Snow Queen involved as well, it was both of them running at the same time. Can we expect to see the same balancing act for the Camelot story and references to The Sword in the Stone? Any Madame Mim in there? What can you tell us about that?
Horowitz: I think that we certainly are cognizant of the Disney history with relation to some of these stories, and as we did with Frozen where we both acknowledged the Disney movie as well as the source of the story. I think you’ll see a lot of that. We draw on many influences as we put the show together and we try to create our own original Once Upon A Time spin.
Once Upon A Time's fifth season premieres tonight, September 27, at 8pm on ABC. Check your local listings.