On March 3, the cast and crew of Once Upon a Time were honored by the Paley Center as part of the annual PaleyFest. We spoke with actors Ginnifer Goodwin (Mary Margaret/Snow White), Josh Dallas (David/Prince Charming), Lana Parilla (Regina/The Evil Queen), Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin), and Colin O’Donoghue (Hook).
1. Ginnifer Goodwin has always identified with Snow White.
Long before she took the role in Once Upon a Time, Goodwin was a big Snow fan. “Honestly, I was always obsessed with Snow White,” she recalled. “I know it’s the really boring answer given the circumstances, but it’s the truth and it was probably for very shallow aesthetic reasons. She was a brunette, I was a brunette. That’s the princess to whom I could relate.”
2. Her TV husband Josh Dallas was never much for fairy tales.
“I wasn’t really into fairy tales when I was growing up,” he admitted. “I was always outside. I was always playing Army or doing something like that, or building some kind of fort. So I didn’t ever really read fairy tales.” Dallas did go on to say that doing Once Upon a Time has given him a new interest in the genre. And yes, he’s been doing his Grimms homework.
3. It’s not easy being charming ALL the time.
But he’s doing the best he can! “It’s a good burden to bear,” Dallas reflected. “Everyone can have a little charming in their lives.”
4. Colin O’Donoghue is a lifelong “Peter Pan” fan.
Like Goodwin, he knows his character well. “[Disney’s Peter Pan] was one of the first films I saw,” he said. “I read the book and knew the character.” Because of that, O’Donoghue has made a conscious effort to distance himself from the Disney villain. “I wanted my Hook to be slightly different and to be less outwardly evil and more of a rogue,” he continued. “I wanted to be more pirate-ish, as opposed to just a nasty piece of work.”
5. The actors originally thought they were always going to be playing two characters.
At least, Ginnifer Goodwin did. “This season I was faced with having to create a sort of amalgam of the two women,” she explained. “And whereas I thought that naturally Snow White’s strengths would shine through, I found myself slipping into Mary Margaret more and more. It’s a work in progress. I need to find a way to balance them out.”
6. And sometimes it’s the actors that influence the writers.
“With Gold, in the beginning, I always kind of played that he knew something, that he knew more than people thought,” said Carlyle, who noted that he had to do a lot of guessing before Rumple’s backstory was fully revealed. “Whether that was true or not, I didn’t know, but I think in a sense you almost force the writers’ hands, and then they give you that.”
7. Playing in both worlds is fun, because hello, fairy tale costumes.
The back-and-forth lends itself to some awesome attire. “I adore the fairy tale costumes,” Goodwin said. “Who wouldn’t? I’m very impressed with what they’re able to do with us in modern day, but come on, we want to be in those ballgowns and our bandit wear, riding horses, shooting bows and arrows.”
8. There’s also a joy in exploring the duality that these characters embody.
Lana Parilla said she never gets tired of Regina switching sides. “I love playing both,” she explained. “The duality is so great, because there’s evil and good in all of us. And that’s what I try to portray when I’m playing Regina, showing the conflict between good and evil.”
9. On the good side, Regina and Henry can repair their relationship. Hopefully.
“[Henry] once really loved her,” Parilla said. “And I still think he does. So I hope that there’s room to salvage that relationship.”
10. But these villains aren’t ever going to become totally pure.
“I don’t think [Hook] could ever be all good,” O’Donoghue reflected. “I think he should have a slight edge to him, and I like the complexity of that. I think characters like that are good. It’s heartbreaking then when you begin to feel something for a character, and then he does something really, really bad. I like people to sort of feel for their villains a little bit.” And we do feel for Hook — perhaps more than is appropriate.
11. Incidentally, Hook knows he’s not exactly living his best life.
“I think that he’s well aware that this hatred for Rumple has taken over his life,” O’Donoghue continued. “And maybe there’s a slight regret to that, because it’s a missed opportunity to do a lot of things. But it’s also very difficult to let that go. Once he sees him, it’s blind fury.”
12. Rest assured, Colin O’Donoghue is a total sweetheart IRL.
“I like to think I’m a pretty nice guy,” he said. That’s part of what makes playing Hook so fun: “I get to be a little nasty to people. I like that.”
13. As for Rumple, don’t expect a major turnaround any time soon.
“I think one of the things that makes him so interesting to me is that the more inhuman they make him, the more human he becomes,” Carlyle said. “He does things that maybe you and I would do.” At the same time, Carlyle isn’t hoping for a speedy redemption. He went on to say, “I don’t think we should be aiming to try to redeem Gold in some way or redeem Rumple in some way. I think we just have to let that play.”
14. The goal of switching between good and evil isn’t to mess with the audience. Though that’s fun, too.
“You want them to kind of think, ‘What do we feel about this guy? Do we like him or not?’” Carlyle said. “I don’t think you can actually like Gold, but I think you can get to a place where you can understand him.”
15. No matter what happens, it’s unlikely this fairy tale family is ever going to come together.
Now that Rumple knows he’s Henry’s grandfather, he may want to join the family — but that’s probably not on the horizon. “I really don’t think so,” Carlyle conceded.
16. On the other hand, it’s worth keeping hope alive.
Josh Dallas is optimistic, at least. “It’s like the most dysfunctional family you could ever find, ever,” he joked. “I think hopefully by the end of the season maybe they’ll be some kind of family outing, I don’t know. We have Rumplestiltskin and David, who are both joint-grandfathers of Henry. The Evil Queen is Henry’s step-grandmother, and these are all things David was trying to figure out in the last episode, just trying to figure out exactly what the family dynamic is. I think there could be a family picnic!” That could only end well.