Once Upon a Time is on its last legs, and so too is the cast.
As the rain pours outside the Vancouver-based set, the cast has lost track of time filming in a giant green-screen room. They’ve spent the bulk of the day shooting a nine-person scene, gathered around a massive war-room table as they deliberate how best to deal with the show’s final threat.
The cast is unaware the cloud-covered sun has set outside as the scene changes. They’re still surrounded by green screen, but the Evil Queen’s castle has given way to a library, where Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) stands a safe distance from his daughter Alice (Rose Reynolds), their poisoned hearts keeping them apart.
One of their own is missing, Regina (Lana Parrilla), whose face is plastered on a royal proclamation poster that Robin (Tiera Skovbye) hands to Henry (Andrew J. West). The moment is tense as Robert Carlyle’s Rumplestilskin declares he’s the best man to take down his Wish Realm alter ego. He makes his exit through a green-screen door. “This is a toilet,” jokes Carlyle, breaking character amid his cast mates’ laughter. O’Donoghue gives him a wry smile. These two men, both on camera and off, have certainly come a long way since the show’s 2011 debut.
O’Donoghue actually joined the ABC fairy-tale drama in season 2, as famed Peter Pan nemesis Captain Hook. On OUAT, he was a foil for Carlyle’s Rumple — tldr; Hook was going to run off with Rumple’s wife, so Rumple killed her and took Hook’s hand, leading Hook to hunt his “crocodile” for centuries — and eventually a love interest for Emma (Jennifer Morrison). That version of Hook has since gotten his happy ending with Emma, with O’Donoghue continuing on the show in the rebooted seventh season as a Wish Realm version of the one-handed pirate, desperate to cure his poisoned heart and reunite with his daughter.
All these years later, Hook and Rumple are still intrinsically tied together, which is especially prevalent when it comes to the series finale. “These guys spent hundreds of years trying to kill each other,” O’Donoghue tells EW. “You see hundreds of years of this thing that has been bubbling underneath just come together.” Read our interview with O’Donoghue below:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: As you head into he final days of filming, how are you feeling? Are you ready to say goodbye to this character?
COLIN O’DONOGHUE: I mean, I think we’re ending it in a good way. I think it’s great that we have a chance to put a full stop on the show. I’ll definitely miss elements of Hook because he’s been such a big part of my life for six years now, and you don’t normally get a chance to do that as an actor. It’s very, very rare that you get a chance to really explore a character. I’ve been lucky that with Hook, I’ve been able to do so many different things with him. It will be difficult to let go of Hook, but I think I’m ready to sort of see what’s next and all that kind of stuff, you know?
How do you feel about Hook’s ending?
I kind of get two endings. I mean, essentially, original Hook got his happy ending last season, and I was really delighted with that. I was happy with the wedding episode and the fact that it’s a musical. This time around, it’s been really interesting with Wish Hook, because his motivation’s been completely different than original Hook’s was. It was all about his kid, and I’ve got two kids, and for it to end the way that it does with Alice is a very important thing, and I’m delighted with that.
Hook’s ending is intrinsically tied to Rumple’s. Anything you can tease?
Without giving anything away, we see that Rumplestiltskin decides to do something to help Hook, and it’s a massive, massive, massive sacrifice for him. In the context of the relationship that they’ve had, I mean, these guys spent hundreds of years trying to kill each other, and that’s such a huge thing. For me, it helps that relationship really come full circle. You see hundreds of years of this thing that has been bubbling underneath just come together. It’s a very special moment.
Now that the curse is broken, what can you say of the dire circumstances the heroes are facing in the final two hours?
Once the curse gets broken, then obviously, we sort of go, “Okay, well there’s still a few episodes left, but what’s going to happen?” We get to see a couple of alter egos come in, other Wish Realm characters that come in that are characters that we love and know. They come in and create a bit of hijinks, and are really way more evil than any person has been so far.
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How does Wish Hook feel about having to face off against Wish Rumple?
Wish Realm Hook has come across Wish Rumple and knows exactly what he’s like, and so he’s willing to do whatever it takes to try and save everybody.
Jennifer Morrison returned to set for the finale. What was it like having her return and getting this last beat for the couple?
Having Jen back was great. I mean, look, we worked pretty much exclusively together for five years and built an onscreen relationship that I feel very proud of how that worked and how we worked together. It was just great to have her back for that day and have a bit of fun with everybody, and it was good.
What do you think will be OUAT’s legacy?
I think, in years to come, people will look back and sort of look fondly on the fact that this was a show purely about hope and about good versus evil, but good always triumphs. At its heart and at its essence, it’s about love and hope, and in a way that is very grown-up. Even though its about fairy-tale characters, the writers have written [the show] in such a way that really goes to the heart of everybody, and I think that’s hopefully where it will endure.
What has Hook meant to you?
I mean, Hook has meant everything to me. He’s been me for 14 hours a day for six years, pretty much. Hook’s allowed me to explore and play around with elements of me that I never had as Colin, you know? To be able to play and sword-fight and basically live like a kid for six years, so that’s been fun. I also had a family while we’ve been doing it, I’ve had my kids here, and it’s been a huge part of my life.
Can you talk about the importance of sending the message that anyone can get a happy ending?
When I interact with any of the fans, you see this show has allowed people — especially people who feel like they’re marginalized, are off to the side, and not really part of society — and it’s created this whole other world where they realize there are other people there who feel the same way, and they get to connect together and through the fandoms. It’s taken on a life of its own, and I think this show allows you to see that if you believe in yourself, and even though there are hard times, there is hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, if you’re willing to believe in yourself and see it through.
[Editor’s note: There’s that aforementioned poster in Robin’s hand!]
What’s been the most poignant thing you’ve heard from a fan over the years?
There’s been a couple of times where people have said that they were so desperately alone that they’ve considered taking their own lives, and through the show, they’ve met other people who felt the same way, and realized, “I’m not alone, there are people out there who I can talk to,” you know? That blows me away, where they feel, through this show, and through the love that they get from the other fans and people who are in the same situation, that they realize, “You know what, there is hope, there is light.”
If you could open a new chapter of Once Upon a Time 10 years later, what would you want it to be about?
Ah, that’s good. Hook. [Laughs] No, I think it would be nice to see all the characters a little bit older and sort of having had happy endings and stuff, then to see what will happen and how they would deal with some sort of huge crisis and how that would impact them and their relationships and stuff there.
How would you describe the finale and how it compares to the last six season-enders we’ve seen?
Well, I would definitely say the last episode is as epic as probably any episode that Once Upon a Time has ever done. I mean, it’s massive, it’s huge. It’s like taking the best of all seasons and jamming it into one — literally.
Anything you plan to steal from set?
I can’t possibly tell you that. … Well, who do I play? [Winks]
What’s next for you?
There might be a couple things in the pipeline, but I can’t actually say. But I can tell you what’s immediately next is I’m going to holiday — that is a given — for a couple of weeks. So yeah, I’m taking a break.
Once Upon a Time’s series finale airs over two weeks, starting Friday at 8 p.m. ET, and concluding Friday, May 18, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.