Once Upon a Time‘s Michael Raymond-James decided to “break radio silence” with a series of Twitter messages on Monday, the day after his character, Neal Cassidy/Baelfire, was killed off of the ABC series.
The alum of such series as True Blood and Terriers made clear that he neither quit nor was he fired, but instead was the subject of a “bold storytelling choice,” by Once creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis.
Raymond-James also begrudgingly addressed/dismissed a rumor that he had trashed a trailer, as well as shot down a rumor that he recently filmed a pilot in Vancouver. Instead, he said, “When I decide what comes next I will let everyone know here. So stay tuned….”
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Here and the actor’s tweets; below them, a brief Q&A with cocreators Horowitz and Kitsis.
1) I did not ask to leave the show. Nor was I fired. Neal's death was nothing more than a bold storytelling choice. As an actor I always—
MichaelRaymond-James (@MRaymondJames) March 31, 2014
TVLINE | When in mapping out Season 3 did you decide upon Neal’s fate?
ADAM HOROWITZ | It was pretty early on. And as soon as we realized where it was going to go — and it was not a decision that was made lightly — we talked to Michael and we all kind of huddled together to come up with the best way to do it.
EDDY KITSIS | We kind of started setting it up in Neverland; watching his father sacrifice his life had a profound effect on Neal. And what we really wanted to tell is: What happens when the kid who was always the moral compass loses his father [Rumplestiltskin], they make up and then he finds himself, like father like son, repeating that same obsessive quest to get back? But when [Neal] realized there was a price to be paid, he didn’t run from it, he did it, so that his son [Henry] would see him as a hero the way that he eventually came to see his father.
TVLINE | Moving forward, what storytelling pros outweighed the cons?
KITSIS | The biggest con for us was we love Michael Raymond-James and we love that character. For us, it was a creative decision and it was an evolution in the character.
HOROWITZ | It was a storytelling choice but one that was made in the context of the larger story we’re trying to tell. When you’re telling a serialized show, you reach a point where you see the avenue it’s leading you towards and what’s going to happen there. You then have a choice — you can try to resist it and do something that doesn’t feel organic, or you can be true to it, even if it’s painful. And that’s what we did. We leave it to you and the audience to judge how you feel about it, but for us as storytellers, that was where it felt like it had to go. We didn’t want it to be exploitative, we didn’t want it to be about shock, that’s why it wasnt in the promos…. It was something we wanted to be emotional and real.
TVLINE | Will Neal’s death spark additional motivation for everyone, in the battle with the Wicked Witch?
HOROWITZ | It will. It will raise the stakes for the characters with regards to the Wicked Witch and what’s going on in Storybrooke, but even more importantly, on the larger canvas of how these characters are growing and interacting, for the story beyond this, this is a pivotal moment for many of them.
TVLINE | Best case scenario, would you have liked to shoehorn in a final scene between Henry and his father?
KITSIS | Of course.
HOROWITZ | In the sense of for the character, yes, that would have been great. But for the storytelling, this is the way we wanted to do it. That’s the tragedy of it, and that’s something they’re all going to have to deal with. But yes, I wish Neal could have had an emotional farewell with his son, like his father did with him, but that’s not how it played out.
TVLINE | Of course, some are choosing to see this as your endorsement of the Emma/Hook ‘ship as canon….
KITSIS | The thing is that with us, we ‘ship Once. We don’t take a particular side.
HOROWITZ | The truth is, we love the passion behind ‘shippers, behind what’s canon or not canon, what could be canon…. It’s fantastic. But the thing that’s sometimes hard to understand is that from our perspective, we’re looking at the show from a story we’re trying to tell.
KITSIS | We look at it as: In Emma, you have a character very similar to Regina. These are two characters with walls up, and the only one who got beneath them was Henry. So it’s about their pursuit of allowing love to come in again. They’re both very scarred by it and frightened of it, so for us it’s about watching Emma make a natural evolution to when she does decide to act upon it.
TVLINE | And, as you told me previously, Michael could come back for a flashback down the line….
KITSIS | Absolutely. We would love that.
TVLINE | But this is the last we’ve seen of him this season?
KITSIS | Oh, you never know…!