Once upon a time, two producers named Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz worked on a spectacular epic tale called Lost for ABC. Well, believe it or not, those guys have moved on to the world of classic fairytales with their new ABC series, Once Upon a Time, which features Snow White, Prince Charming and Rumpelstiltskin. Only it's not your average fairytale.
"For me and Adam ... Lost was such an amazing experience for us. We learned so much, and it was such a rewarding creative experience that if we're going to do our own show and do TV and work this hard, it has to be something that we feel really passionate about and something unique and something original," said Kitsis during an exclusive interview with Horowitz. "We weren't interested in just doing 'she's a young D.A. balancing her life and trying criminal cases.' We don't know if this show will go past 13 episodes. So for us, our operating principle is 'Let's make it 13 that we love, and even if it doesn't work out we walk away happy with everything we did.'"
Their unique tale explores what happens when the modern world and the world of fairy tales collide. In Once Upon a Time, a 28-year-old bail bonds collector named Emma Swan finds herself returning young runaway Henry, a 10-year-old boy she gave up for adoption, to the town of Storybrooke. Henry believes that Emma and everyone in the town comes from an alternate world, a fairytale land that, thanks to a curse by the Evil Queen, is now trapped forever in time. The characters have been brought into our world with no knowledge of who they really are. The series, which premieres Sunday, Oct. 23, at 8 p.m., stars Jennifer Morrison as Emma, Jared Gilmore as Henry, Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White, Lana Parrilla as the Evil Queen and Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin.
"What really [Lost's showrunners] Damon [Lindelof] and Carlton [Cuse] taught us was it's character first, mythology second. And we took that really to heart, and it's that lesson that led us to this, how to tell this story," said Kitsis. "Because we've had this idea for eight years, and it wasn't until we were on Lost that we really figured out how to tell it, because we didn't want to do a pilot where every episode was about the first five minutes of the pilot. ... For us, it had to be about the characters and emotion. If Lost was about redemption, Once Upon A Time is about hope."
"The stories are amazingly difficult," said Horowitz. "We try to set an incredibly high bar for ourselves, and we always want to try to top ourselves and to push the limits of what's possible on a network television schedule and budget, and for us it's really about 'How do we keep telling the stories that excite us and that we really love, and how do we keep finding new things about these characters to explore and reveal to the audience?'"
Once Upon a Time will feature both the modern world of Storybrooke and the lavish fairytale land in every episode.
"Every week is going to kind of be exactly like the pilot," said Kitsis. "We are going to go back and forth between the two worlds, and we're going to focus on a character and ... highlight what that character had going on in fairytale land, and in Storybrooke you're going to see the void that the cursed replaced it with."
Upcoming episodes will feature the Evil Queen and how Snow White met Prince Charming, said Horowitz.
According to Kitsis, their challenge is to "make sure that one world informs the other, and you want to continue to peel back the layers of their story, and you want to progress things, but you don't want to progress them so, so fast. One thing we've really also realized is there's a large mythology to this show, but what we realized is ... the [episodes] themselves are actually quite self-contained."
Here's the first nine minutes of Once Upon a Time:
Are you ready for fairytales a la Lost?