Did someone wish upon a star? Because ABC’s Once Upon a Time is back with new episodes this Sunday at 8/7c, and this time around the series is going to dive deep into Archie’s backstory – that is, the origin of Jiminy Cricket – by literally burrowing beneath the surface of Storybrooke. Here, we have a Q&A with Raphael Sbarge (who plays Archie) as well as some bonus scoop on Ruby/Red Riding Hood and a big loss coming in the winter finale (airing Dec. 11).
TVLINE | You’ve previously done a lot of straight drama, including 24 and Prison Break, as have Lana Parrilla (Regina/Evil Queen), Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin)…. What drew actors such as you to this slightly off-center material?
Look, at heart every actor fancies himself a storyteller and hopes for that opportunity to be a part of a good story. And every actor who read this pilot said they fell completely in love with the story and the characters and the opportunity to kind of tell two stories – in a fantasy world and in a modern world. To then counterpoint them is just an actor’s dream. Before this show aired, I found myself trying to explain it to people and their eyes would glaze over, but I keep saying, “You’ve got to watch it!”
TVLINE | I found myself doing the same.
What’s so thrilling is that in the execution they’ve done something quite magical. I was equating it early on to Harry Potter or The Princess Bride, where there’s a magical quotient to the storytelling that is done in a very heartfelt and untreacly kind of way. I’ve watched now the first season of Lost, and this is sort of from that handbook, where they take a couple of characters and go out in the jungle with a suitcase and do a deep dive into who those people are, and then pull back and have everyone else there. It’s sort of a novel in a way, or a wonderful short story.
TVLINE | What’s going on in this week’s episode?
Essentially Sheriff Graham makes Emma a deputy, and then this sinkhole appears in town. Henry goes to try and figure out what’s in the sinkhole, knowing in his heart that there’s a clue about the other [fairy tale] world. Archie, being his therapist, is very concerned and follows him, and a journey ensues. What we also then do get a chance to learn about how Jiminy Cricket came to be.
TVLINE | I understand that Jiminy Cricket wants to “leave the family business.” What is the family business?
I’m not allowed to actually say what it is, because it will give some things away. But what they carved out is akin to the way [mythologist/writer] Joseph Campbell would talk about “a hero’s journey.” Jiminy Cricket wasn’t just a noble guy because he said so. What you get to see on this trip are the fire rings he had to walk through to get to a place where he could evolve to develop a sense of doing the right thing.
TVLINE | And he’s a human in this backstory, because I see two or three younger actors playing you at different ages.
Right, there are two other actors, and then there’s me, and then that evolves into Archie.
TVLINE | I’m not familiar with Jiminy Cricket lore, but I assume we’ll see how he became a bug?
That specific moment is actually captured on film, yes.
TVLINE | Why do you think Archie was fashioned as a child psychiatrist? Is it because Pinocchio in a way had Jiminy Cricket’s ear?
It’s interesting, because you’ve got a character named Jiminy Cricket and he’s a conscience – what the heck would he do in a modern way? Having him be a therapist was inspired, because in a world that is fraught with shades of grey, what a therapist does is sit with you one-by-one and essentially help you decide what doing the right thing is. He tries to help you find what your path is, without any judgment or any imposition of a particular philosophy. Obviously it has huge echoes to Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket in the original  movie. In the original book, Jiminy Cricket was a ghost and didn’t really speak at all, but Walt [Disney], when he saw the first screenplay, wanted to bring the character to the foreground and make him more central to Pinocchio’s journey.
TVLINE | Is there a Pinocchio in Storybrooke? Is he someone’s mailbox or something…?
[Laughs] Well, we saw Geppetto in the pilot [in the jailhouse scene], but I’m not sure about Pinocchio yet. I can’t answer that question. But they are trying to tell these stories and reinvent them.
Once Upon a Time Bonus Scoop:
IN THE HOOD | Viewers this week will get another taste of Storybrooke’s Ruby, who thus far, save for some scenes in the Cinderella episode, has remained a mystery. “What you see is what you get with her,” teases Meghan Ory, who plays the diner waitress and her fairy tale counterpart, Red Riding Hood. As for Ruby’s tendency to dress and act in a way that draws attention — including, as we saw, from the doc played by David Anders — she says, “Yeah, you see little glances exchanged here and there. She might be a little bit in heat!” But will Ruby at some point cross a line and bait the wrong kind of creature? “I sure hope so!” says the actress. “I hope there’s a Big Bad Wolf in the near future.” Until things get hairy for the lass, TVLine hears that during an Episode 10 flashback, we’ll get a hint of Red’s past — specifically how it involves Snow White.
CLIFFHANGERS COMING | Two weeks from Sunday, Once Upon a Time will air its winter finale, and according to the synopsis from ABC, “Storybrooke mourns the loss of one of their own.” Asked to tease that twist, Ory at first quipped with a laugh, “Maybe Granny’s Diner closes down?” Pressed further, she was quite mum, explaining, “I know you want to know things but it would be like showing you your Christmas presents early!” She then allowed this much: “Let’s just say that it will be a very, very memorable episode. There are lots of cliffhangers, and it’ll be a good teaser to get you wanting to come back when we start [Season 1] up again in January.”