Yes, the Queens of Darkness are coming to town, but what’s next for Emma and the residents of Storybrooke? After months of Once Upon a Time teases about Maleficent (Kristen Bauer Van Straten), Ursula (Merrin Dungey) and Cruella de Vil (Victoria Smurfit), EW pressed executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis about the characters we’ve come to know and love over the last few seasons. Will Emma (Jennifer Morrison) really go evil? What secrets are Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas) keeping? And can Regina (Lana Parrilla) stay good? Get the scoop: (And if you want spoilers on the Queens of Darkness, go here.)
Where does the premiere pick up?
ADAM HOROWITZ: We’re picking up a few months after the events of the winter finale. We’re going to be seeing how everything has settled in Storybrooke and maybe a little how it settled outside Storybrooke.
EDWARD KITSIS: We’re going to find out how Gold (Robert Carlyle) has taken his banishment. We’re going to find out in the flashback how he met and recruited these Queens of Darkness, this team of evil. All of it is going to lead to a couple of surprising revelations about Emma and a very dark secret that Snow and Charming have held onto that we didn’t realize they were keeping secret.
Are the dark secret and the revelation about Emma connected?
HOROWITZ: The stuff that we’re planning to reveal comes out of stuff that we’ve already done. It’s building off the mythology we’re already created as opposed to going somewhere completely left field.
KITSIS: There are revelations you can have about people that they themselves don’t even know about. This pre-dates Emma’s birth.
Can you talk about how you’ll be putting the focus back on the original characters?
HOROWITZ: As far as focusing on our core cast in the upcoming storytelling, it isn’t so much about the outside forces coming into our world, but about how these outside forces impact our core characters and what it’s going to do to them and their relationships.
KITSIS: We’re going to really explore what makes a hero and what makes a villain. Is it as black and white as just that? Or are there gray areas, which are always much more fun to write about. We’re going to pick up on a lot of things that we set up in the first half of the season. Regina and Robin (Sean Maguire), Rumple and Belle (Emilie de Ravin). We’re going to get more Snow and Charming. We’re going to get more Emma and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue).
What can you say about this insinuation that Emma could go evil?
HOROWITZ: One of the big themes for the second half of the season is what makes someone a hero and what makes someone a villain, what the differences are and what the common ground is. Emma has spent a long time in the series being told she’s the Savior and being told she’s a hero. She’s going to have to face that it’s not as black and white as that. Going into the second half of the season, all of our characters are going to be wrestling with this idea of good and evil, not just in terms of what they’re facing as an external threat, but internally within themselves.
What’s Rumple’s first step with the Queens of Darkness in trying to get his happy ending?
KITSIS: The first step for a man who has lost it all is to get it all back. The first step is how. We know he’s in a land without magic. The premiere is really going to show how he goes about getting it all back and what the story is. As we teased in the fall finale, he realized maybe Regina was onto something, maybe fate has it out for the villains, maybe they need to find this Author. Gold is never one that is afraid to hijack somebody’s good idea.
Can Belle ever forgive Rumple?
KITSIS: That is one of the things in the second half that we’re exploring, which is forgiveness. Can good people make a bad decision? Can bad people make good decisions? Can you come back from the bad decisions you made and how? What he did to Belle is really atrocious. That is not going to be solved with a mixed tape and flowers.
Speaking of Robin Hood, he left Storybrooke. Are there other characters that might venture out of town despite the fact that they can’t come back?
HOROWITZ: There may be some exits and entrances. You’ll see some characters arriving in Storybrooke and you’ll see some characters departing as well. We think it’s fun to venture outside the confines of Storybrooke and see some of our characters in the real world.
KITSIS: We are absolutely going to be showing an entire episode of Robin Hood in New York City.
What’s next for Robin Hood and Regina as she’s likely faced with being tempted by the Queens of Darkness?
KITSIS: Regina has really shown a lot of discipline this year by not killing Marian and doing the right thing. There’s a lot of her that feels like, “Why am I continually doing good things when I’m not getting good results?” As far Regina and Robin Hood goes, that and what happens is what happens is one of our favorite parts of the second half.
How will the hunt for the Author change now that Emma, Regina and Henry are teaming up?
KITSIS: You’re going to realize that other people are looking for the Author on the other side of the hero-villan spectrum. There is a sense of a race to find the Author. We are going to meet the Author at a certain point.
HOROWITZ: The identity of who he or she may be and what their background is is something that we do intend to reveal in the second half of the season and makes up a major part of the second half of the season.
What challenges come out of Emma and Regina working together?
KITSIS: Emma and Regina have a rocky relationship, but Emma vowed to Regina, “I’m the Savior, I’m going to bring back everyone’s happy endings, including your own.” We saw an episode in the first half that she wanted to be Regina’s friend. We’re going to see Regina is a lot closer to Emma’s mom, but we are going to see a new side to their relationship and some growth from the pilot, where Regina was going to drive Emma out of town no matter what.
We’ve been waiting all season to find out why Will Scarlett (Michael Socha) is in town. Will we finally find out?
HOROWITZ: We’re going to see more of Will, we’re going to see more of his background and see some of his time in the past. As we know, he was one of the Merry Men, so we’ll see some of his interaction with Robin Hood.
KITSIS: We’re going to see how those two actually met. We saw them together and saw how her joined the Merry Men, but for the people who watched that Wonderland episode, you’ll see that wasn’t the very first time they met. We’re going to dive fully into why he’s there. We’re definitely going to see more of Will in this back half.
Will we also get to see more of Hook’s backstory?
KITSIS: We’re going to see a Hook backstory, absolutely. We’re going to see him at his most pirate-y.
Can you talk about Hook and Belle working together?
KITSIS: What’s interesting is Hook actually shot her in season 2. He used her as a pawn to get back his revenge for Mr. Gold, but now they both find themselves on similar ground, which is they both feel betrayed by Rumplestiltskin. He literally had both their hearts. Hook feels a lot of shame and guilt for getting rid of the fairies. Belle feels upset because she was deceived. We’re going to see them work together to try to repair some of the damage done.
What’s next for Emma and Hook’s relationship?
KITSIS: What we’re trying to do is just show a relationship, a real one, even though it’s between Captain Hook and the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. What we’re going to do is we’re going to see them grow and we’re going to see them get tested. Like all things, sometimes things get in the way of just purely your relationship; sometimes life gets in the way of it.
Besides our Queens of Darkness, is there anything you can tease about some of the new characters coming in?
HOROWITZ: There are plenty of people coming in and out, but it’s exciting for us to introduce some of these characters for the reason that they really will hopefully shine a light on the backstories of our characters and the emotional predicament they’re in now. Some of these characters will be there for a little while, some will be there for an episode. It varies from character to character.
With that said, you mentioned Emma’s childhood friend Lily would come back at some point. Will she come into play soon?
KITSIS: I sure hope so. Why set her up, right?
[Editor’s note: After the completion of this interview, Horowitz tweeted this.]
Any thoughts on them going back to the Enchanted Forest?
KITSIS: Last year, what we realized as the theme was, “There’s no place like home,” they all realized Storybrooke is their home. There’s no grand design for everyone to find a portal and go back. What it really comes down to is, “How do we make this our home? How do we all live in a happy, utopian environment?”
Will we see any new worlds in the second half of the season?
HOROWITZ: We’re going to be seeing some new worlds and some old worlds again.
KITSIS: We’re going to see Oz again and we’re going to see the Sherwood Forest and a few surprises.
Once Upon a Time returns Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.