The characters in the fairy tales you grew up listening to are people too. That’s a big part of the story behind ABC’s upcoming fantasy series “Once Upon a Time.” From the minds of former “Lost” writers and producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, “Once Upon a Time” follows the lives of a number of storybook characters who find themselves trapped in the real world after a curse is placed on them.
Jennifer Morrison (“Warrior”) stars as Emma Swan, the woman tasked with saving the fairy-tale world and bringing back the happy endings. Morrison says that there’s much more to the series than the familiar faces, like Snow White, and that the show is about something bigger and much more relatable.
“It’s relationship driven. There is this sort of underlying universal thing,” Morrison said. “We’re in a time in our lives where the economy’s kind of tough and jobs are tough, a lot of struggles people are facing. In a sense, our show really represents that in the curse that is on the characters and the hope that there is a way out, that you can band together and find a way out.”
Taking such a fantastical premise and making it about something real is a trick Horowitz and Kitsis say they learned from their time working on another sweeping fantasy epic, “Lost.” The creators cite the character-driven drama of “Lost” and that show’s executive producers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, for giving them the direction and recipe for a successful outlandish drama series.
“I think that the important thing that Damon and Carlton always told us was that it’s about character first, although the fairy tale is fun, and Storybrooke’s fun,” Kitsis says. “Like, oh my god, that’s Grumpy in a scene with Little Red Riding Hood. If you don’t care about the characters and you don’t care about their struggles, for us it’s important that they’re not just animated characters.”
For any TV show with even the most tenuous connections to “Lost,” there will be questions of whether there is an overall arch already planned. Horowitz and Kitsis say they know where they want to take it but are waiting to see how viewers react first. “You can really only take those big picture ideas and then look at what’s right in front of you and try to tell the best story you can, and we’ll see what the audience says,” Horowitz explained.
To clarify further, Kitsis offered up an analogy. “It’s kind of like we’re on a road trip. We know we want to get to New York eventually, but if we see a large potato in Idaho we have to go see, then we’re going to veer off and see it,” Kitsis says.
“Once Upon a Time” premieres this Sunday on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. CT.