The world of Once Upon a Time has once again expanded with the introduction of the Land of Untold Stories.
Unleashed by Hyde (Sam Witwer) in the finale, these new characters “have left their own stories for various reasons — they didn’t like how they ended, they didn’t like how they were going, they needed to be on the run,” executive producer Edward Kitsis explains. “Emma [Jennifer Morrison] and the heroes are going to have to help a whole bunch of people finish their story.” Those in need include the Count of Monte Cristo (Craig Horner), who will appear alongside newbies Jafar (Oded Fehr) and Aladdin (Deniz Akdeniz) — the latter whose tale will explore savior mythology, as we see the toll that role has taken on Emma.
Despite an influx of new faces, the season really puts a focus back on small town stories. “Snow’s [Ginnifer Goodwin] coming to the realization that there is no definitive happy ending — this is their happy ending,” says Kitsis. But questions about Charming’s (Josh Dallas) past create “unexpected obstacles to that happy ending they’re all trying to live,” EP Adam Horowitz adds.
Meanwhile, the inner demons Regina (Lana Parrilla) has been grappling with come to life — literally — in the form of the Evil Queen, who sets her sights on thwarting their happy endings once and for all. “She is absolutely going to be as evil if not more evil than we remember,” Kitsis says. Pro tip: Avoid apples! Below, Kitsis and Horowitz tease what’s in store for each character in season 6:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tease about the Land of Untold Stories?
EDWARD KITSIS: They are mostly filled with stories that have yet to be told. [Laughs] In all seriousness, the Land of Untold Stories is populated with folks kind of like what we hinted at in the season 5 finale, where we saw Dr. Jekyll (Hank Harris) and Mr. Hyde. They’re characters who we haven’t touched upon in our show, and — for whatever reason — have found their way out of the Enchanted Forest or whatever realm they were living in into this other place. What we’re going to see is that they are a bunch of characters who have left their own story for various reasons, so they didn’t like how it ended, they didn’t like how they were going, they needed to be on the run. We’re going to have little fun visual piece: When you’re at Granny’s, you should be able to see come characters you normally wouldn’t on the show.
So while Hyde was very happy to unleash the Land of Untold Stories, there may be characters who are not happy about it?
KITSIS: Absolutely. There are people who ran there for a reason and were content with it. There were people who were frightened. What it does is it puts us back in a situation where Emma and the heroes are going to have to help a whole bunch of people finish their story.
Tell us about some of the new faces we’ll be meeting this year as a result.
KITSIS: We’re seeing Jafar. As we’ve already shown in a little clip from the premiere, he’s a bit of a scary fellow who seems to be somewhat cold-blooded. We are going to learn a bit about the state of Agrabah, and what his role in that place is, and how that connects to the Once Upon a Time spin on the Aladdin/Jasmine story.
What can you tease about Aladdin?
KITSIS: As we showed at Comic-Con, we teased that he was the Savior. So we can say that through Aladdin we might learn a lot more about Saviors. We are going to be seeing a lot of our version of Aladdin’s story in the first five episodes.
And Jasmine (Karen David)?
KITSIS: Our version of Jasmine is a story that we also are beginning to explore within the first five episodes. We learn a lot about Jasmine, but our Jasmine hopefully fits the mold of the princesses on Once Upon a Time as she is very strong, and has a very important goal in mind, something that she’s trying to do that’s not just about romance with Aladdin or anything like that. She’s a princess with a mission.
And you’ll get more into Hyde?
KITSIS: We definitely hinted that Hyde and Rumple had a backstory, and we are very excited to show what that is. We will be doing our version of Jekyll and Hyde within the first five.
How does Jekyll feel about all of this?
KITSIS: I’ll tell you how he feels: frightened. Jekyll is very frightened, he came here looking for refuge, and his worst half is out there trying to kill him.
We’ll also meet Morpheus (Giles Matthey).
ADAM HOROWITZ: Well, that I think the premiere will explain itself. Our take on Morpheus and what we’re doing with that character is unveiled in the premiere.
KITSIS: And it probably isn’t what you think it is. Well, if it is what you think it is, you really caught us.
HOROWITZ: There are some surprises in store for Morpheus.
And for the Count of Monte Cristo?
KITSIS: Well, the Count of Monte Cristo is a perfect character for the Land of Untold Stories. We are going to find out why he ended up in the Land of Untold Stories, why he ran there. He has a very interesting connection to a few of our friends in the Enchanted Forest.
Because of the Land of Untold Stories, will we see untold stories from characters we already know?
KITSIS: We’re going to see that the Queen has a connection and a tie to the Count of Monte Cristo, and that that’s one way you’ll see that these stories start to tie into the Once Upon a Time world in a very strong way.
KITSIS: We have Archie (Raphael Sbarge) coming back.
HOROWITZ: Emma is going to be his patient and he’s going to be helping through her difficult times. Dr. Whale is coming back for an episode.
KITSIS: It’s a cameo, it’s a small thing, we just love David Anders.
HOROWITZ: Well, let me put it this way, we’re going to have Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, there has to be a mad scientist convention.
KITSIS: Let’s just say mad scientists get together.
Let’s turn to the main characters. What are we seeing for Emma this year?
HOROWITZ: Emma is going to be dealing a lot with what it means to be a Savior, the mythology behind being a Savior, how that ties in to her growth as a person and how she’s been coming into her own over these last five seasons. It’s going to be front and center.
KITSIS: We’re going to further see the toll all this fighting is taking on Emma. We know that she had a very troubled childhood, we know that she spent her whole life searching for her family, but in the last five years she not only found her family, but she discovered she was a Savior, and we’re going to see the toll that all of this has taken on her.
HOROWITZ: Yeah, that’s one of the questions we’re interested to explore this year, which is what happens after five seasons — five seasons of fighting, snow monsters, and going to Neverland, saving everybody’s lives, and going to the underworld and back — what does that do to a person? What does that level of responsibility and power actually do to someone? That’s the jumping off point for Emma this year.
How about for Snow White?
HOROWITZ: The story that we’re trying to explore there is what happens to Snow White now after all these years, after the curse is broken? After last year, she decided that she’s not Mary-Margaret anymore, she is Snow, and she is the ruler of these people. She is in charge of an entire kingdom, and now she wants to find some level of normalcy. What does that mean? How do you find that? How do you rule?
KITSIS: She’s coming to the realization that there is no definitive happy ending — this is their happy ending. Although she’s Snow White, she wants to be Snow White in ways that don’t always involve fighting a bad guy in a far off land.
HOROWITZ: The Evil Queen cannot just be hovering out there and not be menacing. Charming has always had questions about his family and his father that he thought were answered, but he’s going to be taken down a path that could very much lead to — Charming’s past becomes something very important to his future, and I think we’re going to see him and Snow embarking on some adventure related to that past, and what that’s going to create for them moving forward, which is some unexpected obstacles to that happy ending they’re all trying to live.
KITSIS: We’ve seen a lot of growth from Regina. We’ve seen her fight her inner demons. We literally saw her split her inner demons. So Regina is going to face the toughest villain she’s ever had to face her entire life, and that’s herself.
The Evil Queen?
HOROWITZ: Part of what she’s going to be dealing with is she’s been stripped away of what she thinks are her weaknesses, which is the Regina part of herself. That seems to clear her up to be unrepentantly evil and bad, which is freeing and exciting for her. But at the same time, she also is Regina, she also is Henry’s (Jared Gilmore) mother — she loves Henry, she has that part of her as well. We’re going to be exploring the complexity of what does it mean when you separate these halves, can you really separate them, can part of you actually be completely good or evil or is it more complicated?
KITSIS: And she is absolutely going to be as evil, if not more evil, than we remember.
Zelena (Rebecca Mader)?
HOROWITZ: Zelena is also going to be wrestling with who she is and who she wants to be going forward. I think that being a mother has affected her, and has made her grow in some ways. But at the same time, Zelena is the Wicked Witch. She is wicked. That is a part of her. She’s done terrible things. She deals with the terrible things she’s done, but maybe not all characters are on a path to redemption. Maybe embracing the wicked bit is who she is, and that is not going to be easy for everyone in town.
KITSIS: For the Wicked Witch, she’s always wanted a sister, and now she has two to choose from.
Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle)?
KITSIS: Rumple last year declared the truth, which is he likes being the Dark One, he likes the power, and he wants Belle (Emilie de Ravin) to love him for who he truly is. We know that they’re in a bad place, and I think it’s only going to get messier. Rumple and Belle are at a crossroads. They have a child and I think there’s going to be a lot of headaches for the two of them.
HOROWITZ: What’s interesting to the two of us about Rumple is as dark as he is, he does love Belle. That is one of the things that he continues to wrestle with, which is last season we saw him trying to admit who he is and not apologize for it, but going forward, he also reveals the fact that he does love Belle. So how can he reconcile those two parts of himself that seem to be at war with each other?
KITSIS: Belle right now is in Pandora’s Box, but we’re hoping that she gets out, and if she does, I think that we are going to see her having surprising friendships with somebody. At the same time, I think Belle is also on a search to find her place. She doesn’t want to just be tied in with Rumple. She knows she has this child, and she’s wrestling with the idea of how is she going to be able to handle this? Her feelings toward Rumple are ones of anger, but yet they have this child together. So for the rest of their lives, they are all tied together, and that messiness and her future are what are on her mind right now.
KITSIS: Henry is growing into a hero, and I think that’s what we’re seeing. We’re going to see him back at school, we’re going to see him back in operation with Emma, and he is growing into his role as hero and author.
Will that operation have a name?
HOROWITZ: There is a new operation name and it will be revealed in the premiere.
How about for Hook (Colin O’Donoghue)?
HOROWITZ: Last year we saw Emma saying I love you to him when they weren’t in any danger, so Hook is excited to progress that relationship. At the same time, he is on his path of redemption, and we are going to see Hook doing his best to be heroic this year. We are planning to delve more into Hook’s past. Hook is a character who has had a dark past, and because of that, it’s another case of a character who is trying to fight for a continual happy ending, must come to terms with what they’ve done in the past and see that there may also be come unexpected consequences with that in the future.
KITSIS: Hook is a pirate who has lived hundreds of years traveling the many worlds, so there are a few people in the Land of Untold Stories that might have a past with him.
What are some of the themes that you guys are exploring this season?
KITSIS: Some of the things that we’re exploring are what is a happy ending? We’re exploring fate, destiny, the future, what does that future mean? We are also really exploring the demons within ourselves. Can you just separate the darkness or is the darkness a part of us and we need to be both? We’ll see Regina is literally facing herself, but I think that could apply to anyone. We know with Rumple and Gold, we know everybody has the darkness in there, demons in their past that they’ve come to terms with.
With all that’s going on, what does the dynamic between Emma, Regina and Snow look like this year?
KITSIS: One of the nice things about having five seasons of the show is that there’s a lot of history now from the characters. This really is a family that has come together. Henry’s dream in the beginning was to bring everyone together, and I think in a lot of ways he has, but this year they’re going to be tested from their past. If there’s one thing the Evil Queen hates it’s Snow White — Snow White and other people’s happiness.
Snow and Charming are the original characters we fell in love with. What would you say is going to surprise us about their story this year?
KITSIS: Well, it’s hard to say what would surprise you about this story this year.
HOROWITZ: Without giving away the surprise.
KITSIS: But what I sense is that, as you said, this all began with Snow White being woken up by Charming, and we very much would like to see a lot of Snow and Charming this year.
Lastly, will the dwarves finally get a story this year?
KITSIS: Oh, 100 percent. You are absolutely going to see Leroy (Lee Arenberg) and the dwarves are back at it. We’re going to learn the fate of Dopey.
Once Upon a Time returns Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Check out a sneak peek from the premiere: