Once Upon a Time: JoAnna Garcia Talks 'Klepto' Ariel, Swim Fin Woes -- Plus: Exclusive Video

Once Upon a Time Preview ArielThis Sunday at 8/7c, ABC’s Once Upon a Time heads under the sea to introduce us to a little mermaid. As played by JoAnna Garcia Swisher (Reba), a front-runner for the role since Season 1, Ariel will in flashback face off against a “familiar” foe, while in Neverland she offers her special swimming skills to Emma and the gang.

Swisher spoke with TVLine about assuming the iconic princess for “more than a couple of episodes,” the pitfalls of swimming with a fin and how Ariel will make a splash in Storybrooke. Plus: An exclusive clip of her debut.

PHOTOS | Once Upon a Time‘s Ariel Makes a Splash

TVLINE | You as Ariel — this has been, what, two years in the making?
I know, right? I’m so glad they decided to this right after I had a baby!

TVLINE | I was going to say, a few months earlier and you would have had to politely decline.
Even a few months after, I was like, “Oh god, here we go….”

TVLINE | [Once cocreator] Adam Horowitz is a great Yankees fan. Were you ever concerned along the way that your husband [Nick Swisher] leaving the Bronx to join the Cleveland Indians would jeopardize this gig?
Not in the slightest. In fact it was really cute, Adam got to talk to Nick while we were in Vancouver. He was really excited.

TVLINE | Where do we pick up Ariel’s story in Fairytale Land? Has she met Prince Eric yet?
Yes, she has – so she’s pining, plotting to figure out a way to see him again. She has met him and she is madly in love. It’s incredibly romantic. I save Snow White’s life, so to return the favor, Snow teaches me how to be a princess. And she also urges me to be myself and tell him the truth and follow my heart and all those incredibly romantic Snow White notions.

Watch an exclusive clip from Ariel’s introduction, then read on for more

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TVLINE | How and why does Ursula enter the picture?
Well, there’s always a price to pay with magic, and when you dangle the idea of being with Eric in front of Ariel, she will go to no end to make it happen.

TVLINE | Meanwhile, what are you up to on the Neverland side?
Well, mermaids can swim between realms, so that ability becomes quite handy and useful to the gang…. They call upon Ariel to maybe help in their fight.

TVLINE | Is there any moment of recognition between Regina and Ariel? Because Regina is Ursula, right?
Yes, Regina is Ursula. I think there probably is a little bit of resentment….

TVLINE | So, why the purse? What’s in it?
Where else am I going to keep my dinglehopper, Matt?! I’m definitely enamored with little objects – I’m a bit of a klepto – and I find things along the way that I fancy to be mine. It’s my “treasure bag.”

TVLINE | Are there other nods to Ariel’s JOANNA GARCIA SWISHER, GIL MCKINNEYstory? Is there a crab…?
There is a crab, but he’s not dancing round and adorable. It’s just a brief sort of tip of the hat. In fact, I explain to them that we don’t eat humans down below, so… it’s kind of horrifying to see seafood everywhere!

RELATED | Once Upon a Time‘s Colin O’Donoghue Ponders Hook/Neal Face-Off

TVLINE | Emile de Ravin said that Belle has scenes with Ariel…. Is that more down the pike?
It’s not as far down the pike as you would imagine. Like I said, mermaids can swim between realms, so we do get to interact. Obviously when you’re a guest on a show, it’s your job to help the heroes along in their journey, and I really love the fact that Ariel gets to do that in a lot of ways.

TVLINE | When swimming between realms, can she bring someone along for the ride, if they hang on tight?
I don’t think that would be suggested! But the bag that you were asking about, it definitely helps in her journey.

TVLINE | Any costume issues?
I mean, thank god for Spanx! [Laughs] But Eduardo [Castro] is an incredible costume designer, so there were no issues. I did have some times where my back was hurting because I swam a lot with my legs bound… and I was in the real ocean quite a bit, on two different occasions. I really feel like I didn’t think through all of it! I was like, “You want me in the ocean, not the 100-degree water tank/giant Jacuzzi?” [Laughs]

TVLINE | Oh, and it can get chilly there in Vancouver.
It was so… cold. The day that I had to go into the ocean, Lee Arenberg (“Leroy/Grumpy”), who’s like a surfer dude and has been in all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, helped get me through that with some tips.

TVLINE | Jen Morrison was telling me how she had to sneak a sweater onto Emma in an upcoming episode, it was that cold out one day.
Just this past Monday, I was like, “Where did you get gloves, dude?” And Jen was like, “It’s magic — we can manifest things here.” I was like, “I wish I had known that a month ago!”

TVLINE | You and Jen go back a ways, right?
She’s one of my closest girlfriends, yeah. She was at my wedding, and at every big monumental moment in my life, and I think she’s so fantastic. One of the reasons I watched the [Once Upon a Time] pilot is because I watch everything that my girlfriends do, and I was like, “Whoa, this is spectacular.” I instantly became a fan. so I was excited to be able to do this!

Want more scoop on Once, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

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. courts says:

    The more the show goes on, the more they dissolve their original point

    • Cass says:

      Do you mean how it used to take 300 years and a curse to travel between worlds, and now there are beans, mirrors, hats, wardrobes, flying ships, and an entire population of mermaids that can do it?

      • courts says:

        Exactly that.

        • Mary says:

          I disagree. I’d say that only those born as mermaids can travel between realms, which is why Rumple couldn’t simply turn himself into a mermaid and do it. Then there’s also the problem of him being stuck in mermaid form in a land without magic. So I have no problems with mermaids being able to travel between realms.

          • Cass says:

            But Rumple MAKES DEALS. That’s his shtick. He couldn’t sometime in the last 300 years have gotten a mermaid, or a dozen, or a hundred of them in his debt and sent them to scour the seas for his kid? It’s like how originally there was only ONE bean and then last season there were beanfields full (until they disappeared for plot purposes). Now, maybe Rumple could have sent the mermaid army out and they couldn’t find Bae because he never approached the sea…?

      • Christina says:


      • gdv says:

        I, too, am perplexed at how it took Rumple so long to get to the land without magic, or even why he had to send the Hatter to Oz for him in the Frankenstein ep. It seems like everyone and their mother can travel between worlds now.

        Matt, the next time you interview Adam or Eddie, could you perhaps ask them if they plan to address this somehow in an upcoming episode? It just drives me crazy!

        • CYL says:

          They did address it. Their argument is that this world was a land without magic, until Rumple dropped the potion in the well and brought magic. After that, the same rules as every other magic realm applied. So once the purple smoke cleared, all previous magical transportation methods (beans, mermaidshats, etc) worked again.

          • courts says:

            Except that they’ve also introduced that this world DOES have magic and that people from other worlds have been coming in for a long time.

  2. Stormy says:

    She’s very pretty. Like a cross between Isla Fisher and Ginnifer Goodwin.

  3. Gerald says:

    I know it was obvious that Lana was going to end up being Ursula, but I’m still disappointed. Ursula is such a great character and deserved better…sigh

    • Terrance says:

      I agree. Such a disappointment to waste such an iconic character that could have been an awesome villain down the line for the show.

      • Alice says:

        X2 its like they are trying to save money by show horning characters into other characters now Regina is Ursula (of course) they just couldn’t resist using her for another villain.

      • They had talked about other villains coming into the show plus we have the “undead” Maleficent on Storybrook cavern maybe (hopefully) waiting for Krisin Bauer to reprise the role again. Also, since Ariel is a supporting character I think they don’t want to focus in Ursula but give a rival villain along the way in this or next season, Cruella de Vil anyone?

  4. C says:

    The casting has been spot on this season. Robbie Kay and Rose McIlver are both great and Joanna Garcia was the pefect choice for Ariel.

    • EL says:

      Robbie Kay is so scary good! In my humble opinion, he plays such a fantastic villain and that young man, if he so chooses, will have quite a future as an actor.
      I have LOVED Joanna Garcia Swisher since Reba, & have watched her in Privileged, Better with You and everything in between! She is a PERFECT Ariel & I am so happy to have her & all of her talent on OUAT! Frankly, if the character of Ariel is a good fit, I’d love it if she would be a recurring or regular character. Otherwise, I cannot wait to see what she does next!

  5. simy says:

    can’t waito for the episode, so excired to see Ariel

  6. Cass says:

    Aw, I love that Joanna Garcia and JMo are buds. Cute. Lana has been saying she really wanted to play Ursula so I’m happy for her, but I thought it had been confirmed that Regina wasn’t Ursula. I’m confused.

  7. Christina says:

    I miss Bandit/FTL Snow. Always depressing when they show her and the current shell of herself in the same episode. #RIPSnow

  8. Fernando says:

    I think Lana can play whomever she likes, just an amazing actress. She will rock the role of Ursula.

  9. Jo says:

    dear god all people seem to do is complain time and time again, instead of focusing on what they actually like people seem hell bent on focusing on things they don’t like or where the show has yet again disappointed them. ouat fans are getting as bad as glee fans….

    • Josh says:

      I completely agree with you. People do complain too darn much. Still, I have to admit that I didn’t start watching this show until a couple of weeks ago after doing some research to make sure that I had been mistaken. I hated Lost and I hated that these two guys that worked on Lost were screwing around with beloved fairy tale characters. I have in the last two weeks been watching this show non stop on Netflix and Hulu, and i have now gotten all caught up. Loved every minute of it. I mean sure there were some things that could have been better but for the most part it’s so much better than i thought it would be. Still, there are so many complaining about this or that and it’s getting annoying. Just enjoy the ride. However, I have to admit that if any of these beloved fairy tale characters got killed, like Ariel, then even i might start complaining and in fact i might quit watching all together.

    • courts says:

      The reason why people complain is that the things they do like change or all of a sudden don’t make sense. So people want the reason they liked the show in the first place back and complain rather than give up altogether.

  10. abz says:

    I love Joanna ever since Reba. She’s the perfect casting choice for Ariel. I really think that she shouldn’t have taken her husband’s last name. I think her name is just fine without it.

  11. Annie says:

    In a previous interview, Joanna was asked if Ursula is Regina, or if Ursula is her own character. Joanna replied “She’s Ursula!” This lead readers to believe that Lana was playing Ursula as a *separate* character. Now Joanna is saying that Regina IS Ursula, which will be recognized when Ariel sees Regina in Neverland. It’s a bit confusing. Also, in the promos, Lana gives Ursula a different speaking voice. Did they change their mind about Regina being Ursula mid-filming?

    • Louise says:

      Yeah, I found it rather confusing too. I think what will happen is that it’s Lana as Regina posing as Ursula. So Ursula is technically a seperate character, but Regina takes on her identity to win Ariel’s trust or whatever in this episode.

  12. abby says:

    I am glad she found another show after the unfair cancelation of better with u got canned way way to early. ( and I loved her in reba) this just had me then into once upon a time now.