The Wonderland of ABC’s new Once Upon a Time spinoff is a perilous place filled with fire-breathing dragonflies, gooey “mallow marsh” swamps, bloodthirsty CGI beasts, and at least one murderous, well-coiffed queen. (It wouldn’t be a Once spinoff without one of those.)
Luckily, the show’s grown-up Alice doesn’t have to navigate these treacherous environs alone. When she returns to the fantasy land in tonight’s series premiere, she’s joined by a trusty sidekick: The Knave of Hearts, a witty rogue with a mysterious past. Together, they’ll fight the wicked forces of the Red Queen and Jafar — yes, that Jafar — as they search for Cyrus, a genie from Agrabah who happens to be Alice’s one true love.
Alice and the Knave — a.k.a. Will — make a great team. So do English-Australian actress Sophie Lowe and English actor Michael Socha, who respectively bring both characters to life. Seriously, just look at these two in action:
We caught up with Lowe and Socha during their whirlwind New York City press tour to talk what’s coming up on Wonderland, which classic characters they’re hoping to see cameo, and which pair they definitely aren’t shipping.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It’s so refreshing to watch a show where a girl is the one doing the rescuing, and a guy is the damsel in distress.
Sophie Lowe: She’s so powerful. Usually I play roles that are kind of weak. She’s a bit weak at the beginning, she’s a bit brokenhearted — but we find out that she’s not actually like that. [After the big fight scene], we’re like, “Oh, this is the real Alice.” She’s so much fun to play, and such an inspiring role.
One of the best things about the pilot is the relationship between your characters.
Lowe: Yeah, we’re just besties.
Socha: Besties forever.
How did you bond during filming?
Socha: I didn’ t like her. [Lowe laughs.] We had to work on her personality. But you’re better now, aren’t you? And we can move forward.
Lowe: You’re better too!
Socha: We got on from the start of it. Straight away, we became mates. [mimicking a girl’s voice] SoLo is my best friend on the set. We do everything together. Sometimes we eat lunch in the trailers with each other and go on Twitter. We’ll have a Twitter conversation.
Lowe: But we have a lot of scenes together, so I think we’ve bonded.
Socha: It’s good that we get on, really. Otherwise, it would be torture.
Lowe: I think it’s cool for a show to have two lead actors be a boy and a girl and just be friends.
Although there will definitely be fans who are rooting for your characters to get together.
[Socha makes a face and groans.]
Socha: I don’t want it to happen. I don’t want the Knave to get with Alice, because it would be like kissing your best friend. We can never be like, best friends again!
Lowe: It would be so weird. It would be like incest. I hope they don’t write that — it would be weird. Should we tell them?
Will viewers learn more about Alice and the Knave’s history together?
Socha: Well, we want to learn more, actually, don’t we?
What questions do you guys still have?
Socha: I want to know how we met, how I owe you a favor. How I’ve got this loyalty toward you.
Lowe: Well, I got you back your heart.
Socha: I want to know how!
Lowe: Yeah, I don’t know how exactly I did it.
[SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT!] And we also don’t know much about the Knave’s backstory yet. It doesn’t seem like he’s from Wonderland.
Socha: No, he’s not. He’s from Robin Hood’s gang of merry men. [Sophie gives him a horrified look] I’ve said that from day 1!
Lowe: I’m scared! Can we say that?
Socha: I’ve been saying it in every interview! Even before we started filming.
Lowe: Well then, keep going. Sorry!
Are there any other fairy tale characters you’re hoping to see pop up on Wonderland?
Lowe: I want Emilie de Ravin, because she’s Australian. [de Ravin plays Belle on Once Upon a Time.]
Socha: What about a fresh one?
Lowe: A fresh one? They’ve all been taken now! [pause] What about like, the new Disney films? The girl from Brave. That’d be cool.
Socha: I’m happy with all the ones that are already there, thank you. Don’t need any more.
Have you guys seen that Wonderland promo that aired during Once and went viral?
Socha: Yeah. I didn’t see it at the time, but I heard about it. I thought it would be a lot worse, to be honest with you. It’s an odd thing to happen, innit?
Lowe: It was bad timing, wasn’t it. [They laugh] I think it was straight after a break, and it came on — they just didn’t know she was standing right in the middle of the screen.
On the plus side, a lot more people are talking about Wonderland now.
Socha: Yeah — any publicity’s good publicity!
Would you say that Wonderland is meant for new viewers or people who watch Once already?
Lowe: I don’t think you have to be a fan of Once to enjoy the show. I think if you like fairy tales, or like adventures and love stories, which I feel like most people do…
Socha: Yeah, you don’t have to be a fan — but I suppose if you are a fan, it’d be another great show to watch.
Lowe: Yeah. Just jump on in!
Socha: Jump on board!
Lowe: Jump down the rabbit hole! [They laugh]
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland premieres tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.