The series finale of Once Upon a Time is upon us.

After seven seasons and 155 episodes, Once will come to an end Friday night. What started as a somewhat simple premise — Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming’s (Josh Dallas) daughter Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) returns after 28 years to rescue a variety of legendary literary characters from the Evil Queen’s (Lana Parrilla) dark curse — has evolved over the years to include more characters and realms than we can count.

With its emotionally grounded and relatable stories, Once resonated with millions of fans — and executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis think the fans are the very reason the show made it this far. As such, the OUAT bosses penned a letter to the fans, which EW can exclusively share. (Click the photo to enlarge.) Read the letter, and then scroll down for our series finale preview interview with Horowitz and Kitsis.

Credit: Troy Harvey/ABC via Getty Images; Courtesy of ABC

[Editor’s note: Portions of this interview have run in previous Once Upon a Time finale pieces.]

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: As you prepare to say goodbye to Once Upon a Time, how are you guys feeling?
EDWARD KITSIS: It’s a lot like leaving college. It’s been such a special time in our lives, and we’re really grateful for the seven years and the experience we had. It’s sad, because over the seven years, everyone that works on the show’s become like a family, so we’re proud of what we did, but it’s always hard to say goodbye.
ADAM HOROWITZ: It’s very emotional, and it’s kind of drawn out for us because of the process of writing the last episode, saying goodbye to the writers, and then the filming with the cast and crew, and putting it together, and knowing that each one of these things is the last time we’re gonna do it with this very special group of people, and these characters that we spent so long living with.

What do you think Once Upon a Time’s legacy will be?
HOROWITZ: I don’t think that’s for us to say. I mean, it’s something we’re very proud of and we love everything we’ve done, all the ups and downs of it and everything we’ve learned from doing it. It’s up to the public and you guys to decide what the legacy is or isn’t.

Can you talk about the importance of sending the message that everyone deserves a happy ending?
KITSIS: Sure, I think that when we started this show, when Mary Margaret said that even the possibility of a happy ending is a powerful thing, it was always a show about hope, and it was always a show meant to inspire people to be their best selves. We were never a show that was just said, “The Evil Queen is evil and the heroes were heroes.” We always tried to show that everybody can change and be redeemed and grow as long as they keep hope In their lives.

Can you tease how there’s a full-circle moment in that regard in the finale, particularly for Regina?
HOROWITZ: In the series finale, there’s a lot that comes full circle. But with the hope that we’re also moving forward. This show has always been about going past the happy ending. It started with Snow White and Prince Charming’s iconic happy ending and moved past it. So we’re hoping that this ending of the show is in the spirit of that.

Ginnifer Goodwin mentioned on set that the original pitch for the show was, “What if the Evil Queen got her happy ending?” Was that your goal, then, to actually give her that in the end?
KITSIS: Yeah, I think we saved her happy ending for the end, in a sense. I think her journey throughout has really been watching somebody confront the demons within and emerge on the other side a better person.
HOROWITZ: I think it’s that idea that extends past her to everyone. There’s always been this sense in the show about wanting to find a happy ending, wanting to overcome adversity, wanting to find redemption. And I think all of our characters, in some ways, have found different struggles in that regard. I think our ending endeavors to honor that for everyone. The show did start with the Evil Queen busting up the wedding of Snow and Charming, and I think that seismic moment in the series is something that we feel all the way through until the finale.

And there’s a similar full-circle moment having Rumple — a Wish Realm version of him, anyway — be the final villain.
KITSIS: Yeah, as we said, we wanted the last two hours to honor the seven seasons, and he really was such a great villain. You’ll see in the last two hours, the real villains in a lot of ways for some of our legacy characters were the demons inside them — whether it was Captain Hook needing to not just be a pirate and look for revenge, the Evil Queen not wanting to be evil, and Rumpelstiltskin finding his heart. What we wanted to do was be able to, throughout the end of the show, have these three legacy characters really confront their own demons. I think Rumple really reflects that.

How would you describe the finale? And what did you want to achieve with it?
KITSIS: Well, I think we just wanted to sing the songs one more time. We look at both the last two hours as our last chance of doing Once Upon a Time. What we’re hoping is that the last two hours will really remind everybody what they loved about the series, and hopefully will stay with them.

What do you think it was about Once Upon a Time that made it last?
KITSIS: The characters. I think that people really just loved the characters the actors who played them. Every week, we just transported people and gave them a little magic and hope in their lives. For one hour, you got to just kind of lean back and see a story that was hopeful, and I think that might have been what it was. We tried to do an original take on fairy tales. When we started seven years ago, we were the first on TV to do it, and we were the first on TV to do true love’s first kiss that wasn’t between a couple. I think we came out in a way that was different and people didn’t expect it. Then what happened was they fell in love with the characters and the actors who played them, and they just, like all of us, sometimes your favorite shows become your family, and the tried and true stayed with us.
HOROWITZ: I mean, I think it’s everything Eddy’s saying, and it’s the fans. It’s the other side of the coin to what Eddy’s saying, which is it’s the fans who showed up and did fall in love with these characters and did want to be with them and see them through all their trials and tribulations. It’s that alchemy of characters and fans that can make a show go on as long as we did.

What’s the most poignant fan interaction you’ve had?
KITSIS: I can just tell you on the flight over here [to London], the flight attendant said to us, “Thank you, because for one hour a week, I got a little magic in my life.” And I thought that just summed it all up, and that literally just happened three days ago.
HOROWITZ: Three days ago we were on an airplane and this flight attendant was so visibly moved by the experience of the show that it was moving to us.

What was your favorite moment over the seven seasons of OUAT?
KITSIS: It’s hard to say, because every year and every episode, there is something that you love. It’s like, what’s your favorite child? I loved that dwarves hatched out of eggs, I loved that we opened with the end of the Snow White tale, I loved the way Lana walked in to that wedding. I loved going to the other worlds.
HOROWITZ: For me, it’s a simple moment that doesn’t really actually involve any of the characters directly. It’s when the clock ticked, because when the clock ticked at the end of the pilot, it was symbolizing magic and hope and the show moving forward and starting, and all these things both in the show and outside of it. So that always gets me, to this day.

If you could open up a new chapter of Once Upon a Time 10 years later, what would you want it to be about?
KITSIS: I think I would leave it up to someone else. I think we told our story.
HOROWITZ: I think we’ve told our story, we’re very happy with our story, we’re very happy where it began and where it ended. If in the future something else happens with the show, we’ll be excited to see what that is. And look, you never say never, but for now, this is our ending and the end of this show for us.

Once Upon a Time’s series finale will air Friday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Once Upon a Time

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