TVLINE | Among our characters there in Neverland, what dynamics are you excited to explore?
KITSIS | We’re really excited about all of it. We’re excited to see Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold, who was going off on a suicide mission in the name of doing the right thing, because he believes his son is dead. You’ve got Emma grieving Bae, though of course we know that he’s alive. You’ve got Hook, who realized that revenge is not all it was cracked up to be, so maybe he’s thinking there’s a future for him and Emma. One of the things we’ve loved most is just having the group just be together, on this trek.
TVLINE | What, do they trade zingers along the way?
KITSIS | Oh yeah. And there’s the way they all react differently to things. Obviously David hates Hook. Regina hates all of them. Snow resents Regina. They all have this baggage and this history that after two years we forgot we built up, but then when you watch Season 3 you see it all come out.
TVLINE | Were you suggesting earlier that there will be time for, if not romance, romantic moments…?
HOROWITZ | Romance plays a big part in this season. We certainly don’t want to undermine the intensity and the importance of the mission to rescue Henry, but we also know that the feelings between many of these characters are going to be hard to deny.
KITSIS | The other thing is that because we are doing the 11/11 split of the season, we really are treating this like its own season. Neverland will be done by 11, and because you know what you’re writing towards, we’re almost treating it like one giant movie. And like any adventure movie, there’s romance, there are tings that terrifying, there are things that are heartbreaking…. That was always our goal, to have that big summer movie feel, where you can be laughing and then frightened all in the same hour.
HOROWITZ | The best kind of roller coaster is the one that goes through all of that stuff.
TVLINE | You told me over the summer, “There is a special someone out there for Regina.” What is she like when crushing on someone — or being crushed on, however it is this scenario shakes out? Or is this not about tepid “crushing” but co-viewing-friendly heat?
HOROWITZ | It’s about destiny and fate. — and with Regina, you can certainly also expect plenty of heat.
TVLINE | After the Season 2 finale, you assured me there was a plan for Belle and the others back in Storybrooke. What shape has that plan taken?
HOROWITZ | That is an excellent question. Belle’s role in this first half of the season becomes clear very early on, within the first couple episodes — and in a way we think is not expected. How Belle fits into all of this is something we’re really excited to reveal to the audience.
TVLINE | Because Emile de Ravin is still a series regular, right?
HOROWITZ | She is still a series regular, and she is still very much involved in the story.
TVLINE | What can you say about Neal’s story over in Fairytale Land? Is that where your extended need for a Robin Hood (now played by Sean Maguire) comes in?
KITSIS | If you were guessing, that might be a good guess….
HOROWITZ | We pick up Neal right where we left him in the finale, which is with Aurora, Mulan and Philip, and he’s got a big problem, which is he is as far away from his family as he’s ever been. How is he going to get back? He doesn’t know what’s happened. Last thing he knows, Tamara was shooting him in a boiler room!
KITSIS | It was a cannery, to be fair.
TVLINE | What backstory gaps will you be filling in via flashbacks?
KITSIS | The second episode is a Snow/Charming episode, with the Evil Queen — we’re going to be filling in some time from [Snow’s] wake-up to when they met her on the battlefield. How did the queen react to that wake-up? And who told her?
HOROWITZ | Episode 3 is a Tinker Bell origin story….
KITSIS | We’re going to tell a Rumple story, and we’re going to find out how Hook became a pirate. And Episode 6 is called “Ariel” (guest-starring JoAnna Garcia Swisher as The Little Mermaid).
TVLINE | And what can you reveal about Giancarlo Esposito’s return?
KITSIS | We always want him back, and NBC was kind enough to lend him to us. I would say, “If the queen is going to find out that a sleeping curse was broken, who better to deliver the news?”