Emilie De Ravin Raves About Once Upon a Time's Lost Treats (Alas, No 'Squirrel Baby' for Belle)

Lost scribes turned Once Upon a Time creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz didn’t have to ask twice when they courted Emilie de Ravin to be the Belle of the fairyland land that was in “Skin Deep,” this Sunday’s episode of the new ABC series.

“They were like, ‘Hey, do you want to play a princess?’ And I’m like, ‘Hell yeah!'” the actress tells TVLine with a laugh.

Though de Ravin notes that she was never the type of little girl to dress as a princess, she counted the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast among her favorites “because it had such a fantastic moral to it. Belle is a strong young woman – there’s nothing insipid about her – and we talked a lot about emphasizing that.”

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In this variation on the story, Belle barters herself to the resident “beast” – aka Robert Carlyle’s Rumpelstiltskin – in order to save her father’s life and help their land survive the Ogre War. “She takes this chance to do what she’s always wanted to do, which is be brave and be the hero, even if it means giving up a lot, including her father and her best friend,” says the actress. And Gaston? “Um, Gaston she doesn’t really mind leaving,” de Ravin laughs.

As the episode’s title indicates, Belle’s relationship with Rumple will demonstrate “that love is not skin deep,” de Ravin previews. “Their relationship starts off with fear on her behalf and him not knowing how to deal with this chick in his castle. But as she becomes more relaxed, that interests and amuses him. He sees that she can be this kind of doting, sweet girl.”

As a result of this mutual eye-opening, “There is a progression from friendship to something maybe more,” de Ravin teases.

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Watch a preview of de Ravin as Belle, then read on for more:

I asked if it’s a bit difficult to get through a Rumpelstiltskin scene as Carlyle delivers his captivating and thoroughly colorful spin on the imp, wearing “gold face” and all. But de Ravin maintains, “I was more moved by it, because I felt sorry for him — I mean, he’s got these bloody contacts in that I’m sure are so annoying, the poor thing!”

All told, de Ravin – who marathoned through early Once episodes after booking the role – says, “I really love what [Robert] has done with Rumple, and I love Mr. Gold. They’re similar in a sense, obviously, but the subtle differences are cool.” (As for whether she also appears as Belle’s Storybrooke counterpart, the Aussie beauty would only hint, “Possibly!”)

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Of course, Once is known for scattering Lost “Easter eggs” in episodes, be it a bottle of MacCutcheon whiskey or a well-chosen house address. “I’ve noticed the Apollo [candy] bars, Damon [Lindelof]’s weatherman thing…. It’s a nice little give-back to the fans,” de Ravin says.

So, in this episode, might we catch a cameo by Claire’s squirrel baby….?

“Oh, totally,” de Ravin sarcastically answers. “She carries it around the whole time!”