Another original cast member has booked a return trip to Once Upon a Time before the show’s series finale.
Jared Gilmore, who briefly appeared in the rebooted seventh season’s premiere, is slated to return in episode 20 as young Henry Mills, executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis told press following a screening of Friday’s midseason return.
“We’re very excited to have Jared back,” Horowitz says. “He is, in a lot of ways, the heart and soul of this show. He grew up literally on the show, so it’s really wonderful to see him back.”
The hour, which centers around Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Henry, flashes back to the time before Henry left Storybrooke, paving the way for Gilmore to once again take up the mantle of young Henry, who has been portrayed as an adult by Andrew J. West this season. “At the opening of the year, when we saw him get on the motorcycle, it was like a different Jared,” Kitsis notes. “We’re going to show an episode with him before that in Storybrooke with Regina.”
“We think it’s a really sweet, emotional mother-son story, ” Horowitz adds.
That does indeed mean the show will be returning to its roots, even temporarily. “I would be depressed if I had to go the whole year without seeing Storybrooke again,” Kitsis says. “So yes, we are going to see Storybrooke again.”
Whether that means we’ll see other original cast members remains to be seen. “Once is home to everyone, so there’s an open invitation to every actor who has been on the show to come back in the finale,” Kitsis says. “We’ll see who’s available. But throughout the year, we’re going to see some familiar faces as well.”
After the exits of six major cast members at the close of season 6, a number have familiar faces have returned briefly this year. Gilmore returned for the premiere; Jennifer Morrison returned in one episode that the producers called “an emotional swan song“; Emilie de Ravin, and Giles Matthey both returned for a Rumple-centric hour; and Rebecca Mader is reprising her role as the Wicked Witch for an arc in the back half of the final season.
When asked directly about the show’s former leading lady, Kitsis quashed rumors about her return. “Jennifer Morrison has not been confirmed to come back on any level,” Kitsis says, but left the door open. “We’re very hopeful to see a lot of familiar faces to the end. We haven’t confirmed anyone.”
“We expect to have some announcements in the coming weeks, but everybody is welcome back,” adds Horowitz.
Concluding with a bit of hope, as the ABC fairy tale drama tends to do, Kitsis says, “If the real question is, will the final couple hours remind us of the first six years, then the answer is yes. But does that mean everyone is coming back? No.”
Once Upon a Time returns Friday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.