Once Upon a Time: Jennifer Morrison on Emma's 'Complicated' Love Life and the New, Dark Threat

Once Upon a Time Season 2 SpoilersOnce Upon a Time‘s family tree got a lot more contorted when the ABC drama revealed that Rumplestiltskin’s long-lost son and Emma’s baby daddy are one and the same. The same episode ended with a grim bombshell, that The Dark One learned long ago from a seer that the “young boy” who reunites him with Bae would be his “undoing” — to which Rumple shrugged, “Then I’ll just have to kill him.”

TVLine spoke with Jennifer Morrison about Emma’s reunion with her first love Neal (and what it means for any potential “Hook-up”) and the dark cloud hanging over Henry, as Season 2 resumes Sunday at 8/7c.

VIDEO | Once Upon a Time‘s Emma and Neal Have ‘The Talk,’ Rumple Has a Brutal Reunion

TVLINE | So, Rumplestiltskin’s son is also Henry’s dad and Emma’s ex (played by Michael Raymond-James). Do you feel the show is strongest when dealing with these tangible family dysfunctions, albeit in a fantastical context?
It’s an unbelievable family tree, and when you really start to dive into those relationships and the connections between those people and the relationships between those people, it really starts to come to life. As an actor, that’s what excites me, to get to play with and figure out the best possible way to bring that stuff to life.

TVLINE | What I liked about “Manhattan” is that characters had a chance to, like, stop and breathe. I’m watching the scene in the bar, thinking, “This is really great, because Emma and Neal are just talking like people talk.” There’s no mystical mumbo jumbo going on.
There is sort of an interesting relief about having a breath in the real world, where there is no magical solution to something. It’s just real people with real problems and they’re going to have to deal with it — and Emma, I always feel like she’s a different person when she’s taken by surprise. She’s worked so hard to build a tough exterior in order to protect herself, based on all the things she’s been through in her life, 2Once_FallFinale_EmGoldthat she is always her most vulnerable and her most vulnerably honest when she’s taken by surprise, because she doesn’t have time to process her thoughts or to put that wall up. It allows for a lot of stuff to come out of her that we don’t normally get to see.

TVLINE | We were left with quite the reveal, in what the seer told Rumplestiltskin…
There’s now this looming threat, basically, on Henry’s life that no one’s aware of, and it’s something I think they’re setting up to pay off over time. It’s also interesting because the Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold character has really evolved — we’ve gotten to see two very different sides of this man, even in the Storybrooke world. He does have this love for Belle and he does have capacity to be good, and yet he’s also got this capacity to be darker than anyone else. He’s also made true on his deals with Emma, so oftentimes Emma does end up aligning with him, knowing it’s like “the devil you know or the devil you don’t.” With him, there’s a certain, almost bizarre “code of ethics” to his evil.

TVLINE | But like you just said, we the audience now have to somehow reconcile that with the fact that he has this longer term plan that does not bode well for little Henry.
He does, yeah — and if there’s anything we know about Gold, it’s that he will do whatever it takes to save himself. That is obviously the most foreboding, JENNIFER MORRISON, MICHAEL RAYMOND-JAMESknowing that if Henry is a threat to his life, he will definitely be a threat to Henry’s.

RELATED | Ask Ausiello: Will Once Upon a Time‘s Emma Reunite With August or Graham?

TVLINE | Is the story moving forward about Emma coming around to Neal’s point of view on why he bailed on her back in the day? He’s laid out his case.
It’s a lot for her to take in all at once, and she doesn’t really have time to process any of it because so much happens so quickly, immediately after getting this information. I do think there is some sort of closure in her mind, having the explanation that he wasn’t just screwing her over. But that doesn’t change the fact that he still made a decision to not be with her, to allow her to suffer even more by letting her go to prison. In her mind, when there is love that was as true as what she had for him, you choose love. You don’t choose the person who comes to you and tells you, “Well, she’s got a job to do.” It’s why it’s hard for her to completely forgive her parents for giving her up, like she said early in this season. “Yes, you did what you thought was right for everyone else, JENNIFER MORRISON, ROBERT CARLYLE, JARED GILMOREbut what about what was right for me? I would have been in a curse, but I would have been with you.”

TVLINE | That was a great point she made.
She seems to always be the victim of that particular circumstance, which is someone making a decision for the greater good and her having to serve the greater good, instead of anyone taking care of her or letting her take care of herself.

RELATED | Scoop on Once Upon a Time‘s Regina: Did Cora Cast a Spell on Her?

TVLINE | Has Emma unwittingly leveled the playing field with regards to Regina? Is Regina going to seize an opportunity to prey on Henry’s hurt?
On some level. But unfortunately for Regina at this point, she is so wrapped up in her own sort of mess that’s going on with her mother… and her failing at trying to not use magic … that she sort of misses seeing her opportunity. She does make a move to get him back, but she doesn’t necessarily make the most strategic move based on the circumstances.

TVLINE | As we have seen, she and Cora have a much larger, nastier endgame going on.
This is [creators] Eddy [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz] doing such a great job of seeing the complications of human nature, which is that she still has a love for her mother, despite all the terrible things that have happened. It makes that situation incredibly complicated for her. Regina is incredibly powerful and she has found ways to push her mother out of her life, COLIN O'DONOGHUE, JENNIFER MORRISONbut now that she’s back … it’s hard for her not to be seduced by that idea of maternal love again.

RELATED | Once Upon a Time Seeks New Mad Hatter for Possible Spin-Off

TVLINE | Adam told me that Emma’s love life is going to become “really complicated” — care to elaborate?
[Laughs] I think it’s becoming incredibly complicated, incredibly slowly. Nothing happens quickly for Emma in love, unfortunately. Neal has someone in his life (played by The Walking Dead‘s Sonequa Martin-Green), so even though Emma’s saying she doesn’t care for him, you see that glimpse of, “Oh, I really don’t want to hear about this guy having someone he’s in love with.” In the meantime, obviously there’s always been a connection, some kind of “kindred spirit” element, between Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) and Emma.

TVLINE | Well, I was going to ask about Hook, because I know that while he comes with lots of baggage, here he is now, freshly betrayed by Cora and Regina. Maybe he’ll look to align with the forces of good for a bit?
I’ll be interested to see what happens with that, because we haven’t gotten to a point yet to see what that decision is. He’s so caught up in his own need to have revenge against Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold for what he did to Milah. All we know is that Emma does definitely feel a connection to him because she also started out as a thief, she also started out as abandoned in certain ways, she also lost love at a young age…. They have all these things in common, so as much as she sees him as someone she needs to keep under control or keep away from her son for sure at this point, there’s an undeniable connection between them as well.

REMINDER: I will be moderating Once Upon a Time‘s PaleyFest panel Q&A this Sunday, March 3, at 1 pm PST. If you can’t make it to Beverly Hills, watch it on LiveStream.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Char says:

    Loved this interview but I have only one comment on Emma’s love life: WHAT ABOUT AUGUST??

    I know that Emma will probably be super-furious about August’s involvement in Neal’s abandonment, etc. but they had SUCH a connection last season and I can’t seem to find any mention of him ANYWHERE which is pissing me off.

    Anyway, they had chemistry, August is cute, he’s good with Henry and Hook’s slimy. What more can I say?

    • leonard says:

      the guy has a problem resisting temptations, of all kinds. not to say that he isnt a nice guy, but being responsible and accountable is not apart of his character description, ie not a good fit for emma. furthermore i’d have a hard time believing that neal would have left emma if he knew that august wasnt going to live up to the end of his deal.

  2. L says:

    I agree with Loki that if the roles were gender swapped swan queen would be canon i personally still think it should be…. esp since I cant see anyone else that Regina could end up with and be properly happy. She would get Henry back, the whole Snow feud would end (that would be an interesting storyline), emma is the only person who really challenges her, emma is the saviour and love is how regina will be saved and the series has to give her a happy ending. Plus Jmorrison was right when she says everyone makes decisions for emma based on a greater good or for themselves ie Neal or everyone else ie Snow and charming. Regina cursed an entire land to seek vengeance for Daniel if she redeemed herself im pretty sure she would always put emma and henry first in a good way. That an they would be a family which is what emma really wants.

  3. leonard says:

    To all those people that believe that Bae really is not Emma’s true love, i ask this: why did he go back to his apartment to prevent an altercation between Emma and Gold? Bae could have inferred that Gold did not have magic so there was no real harm to her well being. He had been running from his past for so long that even if he really didn’t feel something for her, he would have left her there. Sometimes when you love someone, you have to do what is best for them, at the risk of your own personal happiness. Isn’t that a unifying theme between Henry-Emma-SnowWhite-Charming? I just really hope the writers don’t put too many additional obstacles between them, the family issues and the “other realms” factor are plenty with out the need for superflous romantic entanglements.

  4. Kelli says:

    If Emma and Hook don’t happen I’ll be severely disappointed. Not a fan of Neal, I don’t feel like Emma and Neal have any chemistry whatsoever and when you put their scenes up against Emma and Hook’s scenes there’s no comparison. I would not cry if they killed Neal off at this point. Sorry, that’s just how I feel. This whole series will be a disappointment if Emma and Hook don’t end up together and happily ever after. Emma deserves a partner and an equal who won’t leave her regardless of the situation. Bottom line, Neal left Emma because he didn’t want to face his daddy and all that “crap” he left behind. That’s not true love. You don’t walk away from true love. He’s a coward

    • carrionne says:

      I don’t think “coward” is the right word. I completly agree with you about Hook and Emma but the word “coward” is used a lot in this show and not accuretly. Let’s stop using it because it’s the cause of too many problems already. I have to admit… when I read “coward” I thought ” Like father, like son” even though I don’t actually think Rumple was one.

    • Amy says:

      I could not agree more. The only way I can see Neal’s cowardice being remotely redeemed at this point would be to sacrifice himself to protect Emma and/or Henry. I would also not cry if they killed off Neal at this point either.

  5. Heather says:

    I’m sorry but I am still holding out for Emma and the Huntsman. He is the only one I felt like had any mutual chemistry with Emma not to mention his story lines up with hers…Emma being the daughter of Snow White. So the Huntsman fits perfectly. I like Neal but do not feel the chemistry and Hook, well to me it doesn’t make sense. Sure Hook is good looking but were talking about Snow White’s and Prince Charming daughter. Prince CHarming and Snow owe their lives to the Huntsman and not to mention Emma and Graham were crushing on eachother before his untimely death. So here’s to hoping his death is not permanant but just a mere obstacle.

  6. Sarah says:

    I miss Hook! :o(

  7. Abyssinian Maid says:

    I screamed a little on the inside when I read that last part- they are my favorite on screen will-they-won’t-they! Their chemistry is off the charts and I think they would be SO great together!!!!!

  8. Is there any way to restore Graham to life on the show. He would have been great for Emma and he would make a perfect stepfather for Henry. I don’t think that Neal deserves Emma. He did let Ema go to jail. Like her parents he sacrificed her for the greater good. Okay let him be part of Henry’s life but not married to Emma. He gave up that option when he didn’t tell August to go to hell and bail Emma out. Make sure that in the third seson that Aurora comes across Henry and he is saved by Aurora and Mulan. Also make sure that when Neal wakes up and has a discussion with Mulan and Aurora that they come to realiize that Neal is Henry’s father. Please reconsider letting Ruby go. She really adds to the show. Bob Johnson

  9. Sarah says:

    To be honest, I’m surprised there are so many captain swan haters here. I personally think that its the best relationship on the show. Right now, I really want them to show the better sides of hook, the real him, not his facade he normally uses. Hook is a wounded man, and truly, he is a kindred spirit who was plunged into grief at the death of his true love. Who knows, maybe emma could be the one who tears down his Protective layer, and he breaks down hers. I’m expecting some sparks here, so please don’t fail me storyline and script writers!

  10. rikki Wilkinson says:

    I love the idea of hook and Emma being together a would hate it if she got back together with Henry’s dad.