After four long seasons, Once Upon a Time finally introduced the Author of the storybook—well, the most current one, anyway.
It turns out that the Author is a title, rather than a person—a job that’s been held by many different people throughout the ages, including a man named Walt. (Hint hint, wink wink.) In this case, the Author—well, he actually seems to be kind of a jerk. As portrayed by Mad Men alum Patrick Fischler, the Author first appeared during last Sunday’s episode after finally being released from the storybook that was acting as his prison.
See, the Author was locked up by the Sorcerer and his Apprentice for manipulating the fairy tale character’s stories as opposed to recording them. For example, he basically pointed Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) in the direction of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, who then offered them a way to rid their future child’s darkness. It came at the price of putting it into Maleficent’s (Kristin Bauer Van Straten) child—which was not a monster, but a perfectly healthy baby that was then ejected to the real world. See, he’s a jerk!
“He has reasons for doing all of that,” Fischler tells EW. “I don’t really think he’s a dick. I just think he wants certain things from life that maybe he didn’t get. There’s more to him than meets the eye. He’s got many layers.”
The OUAT bosses concur. Just because the Author made a speedy getaway after being set free from the storybook does not mean he’s a bad guy. “He has some attitude,” executive producer Edward Kitsis says. “Naturally, if you were trapped inside a book for an unknown period of time, you might come out grumpy. Whether he’s a villain or not, the audience will have to see, but he has his reasons and he believes in them.”
“Don’t let anything jump to your mind quite yet about him,” Fischler adds. “You have a while to decide what you think. It’s so hard when I play characters, I just never ever want them to just be dicks or think they are, for lack of a better word. I really think everybody ultimately is coming from a place of hurt.”
As the series explores the Author’s motivations, viewers will learn much more about the Author mythology and how exactly one ends up in this job—and how this Author in particular found his way to the book. However, the OUAT bosses are coy on whether the Author really can change the past, as the villains hope. “The issues of fate vs. free will are tied into what the Author does and can and can’t do,” executive producer Adam Horowitz says, noting that the Dark Curse predates this Author—so he wasn’t involved with how that went down.
“We’re not going to go too much into what he manipulated [in the past], because it’s going to stay very much on the present of who’s going to find him first: The heroes or the villains?” Fischler says. “The search for him is a big deal. Everybody is just looking for him. I can’t tell you who finds him, what happens and who gets their happy endings, but it’s really, really good.”
Since it appears that the Author likes pulling the strings, he may be more inclined to join the quest of the Queens of Darkness over the good guys—though Kitsis cautions not to jump to conclusions. “If he’s able to do that to Snow and Prince Charming, he’s probably on Team Evil,” he says.
“He likes to go most where he can be served,” Fischler adds. “He’s definitely interested in who can serve his needs. There will be a struggle at some point. Besides his backstory, he will be involved in someone else’s backstory as well. That is my favorite episode I’ve done. It’s such a good one. You learn where he’s coming from.”
Aside from the Author knowing pretty much all of these characters from the book, “someone knows him and is lying about it,” Kitsis teases. Could that be the Dark One (Robert Carlyle), who is pictured with the Author above?
“That is not the one,” Kitsis reveals. “You’re used to all these backstories having Robert show up and offer them a deal, but we’re changing it up.” However, the photo is at least evidence that the Dark One and the Author will soon cross paths. “He and the Author have a lot of goals in common,” Fischler teases.
“As we realize, Rumplestiltskin’s plan is to steal Regina’s [Lana Parrilla] plan, which is to get to the Author,” Kitsis says. “If those two are together, my guess is he’s either offering him or forcing him to come with him. They may not know each other, but Rumplestiltskin’s never been afraid of working with strangers.”
Though, Fischler himself is no stranger. The actor previously worked with Kitsis and Horowitz on Lost—he played Dharma Initiative security guard Phil—so he was quick to jump at the offer to do multiple episodes of Once. “My daughter is about to turn 6 and loves the show, so I was super excited,” Fischler says. “My wife [Lauren Bowles] was on True Blood for five years, so she’d get her scripts and be so excited to read hers. She hasn’t seen me this excited about getting scripts. I’d read it front to back, not do the actor thing of looking for what I say. I got excited to actually read the whole thing. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a show like that, where I’m like, ‘What? Oh, wow. Okay!’ all the way through the end.”
Once Upon a Time returns Sunday, April 12 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.