Everything you've wanted to know about the new locations, new characters, and returning beloved favorites

September 26, 2017 at 12:30 PM EDT

Once Upon a Time is undergoing a major overhaul heading into season 7, which means new characters, new locales, and even a new curse. To keep track of all the big changes, EW will bring you interviews with the cast — new and old — along with executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis over the next two weeks until the ABC fairy-tale drama’s return.

Once Upon a Time may look drastically different in its rebooted seventh season, but the DNA of the beloved fairy-tale drama is still intact.

Here’s where we’re picking up with the new season: After Henry leaves Storybrooke in search of his own tale, he finds a different iteration of Cinderella (Dania Ramirez), with whom he eventually has a precocious daughter, Lucy (Alison Fernandez). But the family is torn apart when a new, yet familiar, curse traps them and a trio of returning characters — former Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla), one-handed pirate Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), and the Dark One Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) — as well as a quintet of new characters (see the full character rundown here) — in the Seattle neighborhood of Hyperion Heights.

On Monday, we gave you a primer on the show’s many changes, but to get more insight on the reasons behind the reboot, EW sat down with executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis for a major deep dive on season 7. [Editor’s note: This interview was conducted in two parts, one of which included executive producer David H. Goodman. Portions of these interviews have previously appeared in other stories on EW.]

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was the first germ of an idea to take the show in this direction?
EDWARD KITSIS: The first time I really started to think about doing what we’ve been calling the requel — half reboot, half sequel — is around season 4. Every year we kind of reinvent the show, but for us personally, we felt like there was a six-year plan. Either these characters get a happy ending or they don’t, but at a certain point, it’s going to start feeling like we’re just stretching.
ADAM HOROWITZ: So around season 4, when we’d been on for a while and realized it looked like we’d be on for a little while more, the idea of a six-season plan for this first chapter of the story of these characters seemed like the right idea.
KITSIS: And I think for us, personally, we wanted to be able to end the show the way we wanted to with all the actors that we started with in the pilot. We didn’t want to just be like, “Oh, well, these people are sent off to an island and we’re still in Storybrooke.” We wanted to end it the way we envisioned it when we pitched the show. At the same respect, we felt like this was an idea that we still loved, we still had fun doing, we still had fun telling, and it felt like fairy tales in the real world are needed more today than they were when we started seven years ago, so in a world where superheroes can reboot, we thought, “Why not fairy tales?”

You’ve said before that the DNA of the show will still be intact. Can you expand on that?
HOROWITZ: I would never put us in the same category as this, but the analogy could be Star Wars in a sense, which is that you had these first couple of trilogies, they wrap, and now we’re in a new adventure. We have some of the same characters who are carrying over into it, and a bunch of new characters who are telling the story. So the DNA’s the same, and again, we’re not putting our toes in the league of Star Wars. That’s like one of our greatest inspirations ever, but—
KITSIS: But we are saying we’re stealing from their reboots. [Laughs] But I mean the general idea of “Here is Henry, here is Regina, here is Hook, and here is Rumple on a new adventure within a new book with new fairy-tale characters” felt exciting to us.
HOROWITZ: When we talk about the DNA remaining the same, what I think we’re referring to is a few things. One thing we’re referring to is on a literal level. It’s still Henry. He’s older, but it’s still Henry. Then you have Regina and you’ve got Hook and you’ve got Rumplestiltskin, and those characters are all characters we’ve seen before in the first six seasons of the show, but the adventure and the emotional journey of those six seasons, we feel like we wrapped up the way we wanted to at the end of season 6. But now, you get to continue on new adventures with them and with some new characters.
KITSIS: And so what will be the same is we will be going back and forth between flashbacks and in an enchanted forest, and stories in the present modern world.

RELATED: Check out Once Upon a Time photos from season 7

Via those flashbacks, are we going to see a lot of what has happened in the intervening years?
KITSIS: Yeah, we’re going to be flashing back to the time, as we showed, when Henry left home. We showed the teaser at Comic-Con this year. And we’re going to be flashing back to a new period. So we’re not going to be going back and showing, “Oh, this was the time before the [first] curse.” We’re in a new book with a new land, so we’ll be telling new origin stories as well as Henry’s epic adventure.

The flashbacks we saw in the Enchanted Forest in the finale, was that our Enchanted Forest?
HOROWITZ: This new Enchanted Forest that you glimpsed, as Henry says to Regina before he goes off on his adventures, it’s another realm. It’s another one of these books that has these stories and a different iteration. So, yes, we’re in a new forest.

Jack Rowand/ABC

Tell us about Hyperion Heights and how it’s different from what we were seeing with Storybrooke.
HOROWITZ: The main difference is Storybrooke was a self-contained small town that only contained the fairy-tale characters and they were trapped there. Hyperion Heights is part of Seattle the way Brooklyn is part of New York. We’re in a city now, and it’s more densely populated, and it’s filled with both fairy-tale characters and non-fairy-tale characters, and that’s another interaction and vibe that we didn’t really have in Storybrooke, where it was all the cursed people. So for the first time in the show, we’re really seeing our fairy-tale characters in the mix with real people, so there’s an element of, who is a fairy-tale character, who isn’t a fairy-tale character, and we’re dealing with a villain whose goal is quite different than we saw originally in Storybrooke, it was about trapping everyone in there. In this, we’re going to see that Lady Tremaine wants to push everybody away, wants to gentrify the neighborhood, so that all these characters are separated forever.

Can you speak to how different this curse is?
GOODMAN: In terms of Lady Tremaine’s motivations in Hyperion Heights, she’s sort of Regina Prime. She’s trying to figure out a way to scatter these fairy-tale characters to the wind so they can’t be together. We’ve always seen when these characters get together, they always figure out how to beat the bad guys. She’s learning and standing on the backs of these other curses that have come before her to be as effective a villain as possible.
KITSIS: If she indeed cast it. That is the other thing. We said very clearly in the pilot of Once Upon a Time that Regina cast the curse, but what you will see this season is we don’t necessarily say that in the premiere.
HOROWITZ: So there are mysteries to be solved. What we hope for the audience is when they come in that hopefully we signal right away, and they accept it, is we’re not redoing season 1. There will be elements that are familiar that will echo it, but we’re hoping to take a left turn where we took a right this time.
KITSIS: This curse is going to be designed differently than the last one, and I think with the last one it was very clear it was the Queen and she wanted to keep everyone at a status quo and enjoy their misery every day. We’re going to enter a season much more like we did with the second part of season 3 where we’re not going to actually know who cast the curse and why, and that will be one of the mysteries. One of the other things is Hyperion Heights will much more reflect the world we’re living in today whereas Storybrooke kind of was its own timeless, you know, Capraesque little, small town.

So we’ll actually have technology?
KITSIS: We are going to have technology and juice bars and Instagram and robots.
HOROWITZ: And robots everywhere.
KITSIS: Jetpacks! No, but we are going to have technology.

Is this the type of curse that can be broken by true love’s kiss, or will heroes have to figure out something else?
KITSIS: You’re assuming that we break the curse this year, which we may or may not, and you’re assuming that the heroes didn’t cast it, which we don’t know also. So I would say that hopefully who cast the curse and what’s going on and what the end goals are is an intriguing mystery for the audience to watch this season.

You have done a relatively large time jump. Is there anything you can say as to just how far ahead we are, both in flashbacks and in Hyperion Heights?
HOROWITZ: I would say that it’s not as simple as it appears, and we get into that in the first couple of episodes.
KITSIS: I would say as long as it takes Henry to go from Jared to Andrew.
HOROWITZ: But it’s not as simple as it looks, because we’re not in the year 2030.
KITSIS: Yes, we’re not doing sci-fi. As we’ve said in the past, some realms move at their own time.
HOROWITZ: But we get into how all that works very quickly, but the present-day Hyperion Heights, Seattle stuff takes place in 2017.

NEXT: The OUAT bosses divulge scoop on all the returning characters

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Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.
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