Fall TV Preview

Once Upon a Time Creators Preview Season 4, the Emma/Regina Deep Dive, [Spoiler]'s Spoiled Return and More

Season 4, Episode 1

Unless you’ve been living under a rock troll, you know that ABC’s Once Upon a Time will lead off Season 4 (premiering Sunday at 8/7c) with its own spin on Frozen‘s Queen Elsa, Anna et al. But that’s just the tip of the storytelling iceberg, as creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis shared with TVLine as part of our Fall Preview and during a chat at the show’s premiere party.

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While some of the following has been doled out to you in bits and pieces over recent weeks, here is the (mostly) complete transcript of the highlights, for your last-minute, pre-premiere consumption.

TVLINE | When did you first start batting around the idea, “Maybe we should make a run at Frozen?” The movie came out in late November, right around when you wrapped Season 3A….
EDDY KITSIS | January…?
ADAM HOROWITZ | It was a process, and I’d say the process was this: That first weekend, right around Thanksgiving, I took my daughters to see Frozen, Eddy took his son, and we just loved the movie so much. We became obsessed with it. And there were a few “What if?” conversations that happened, but by the time we got to January it started to go beyond that into thinking, “Wait, we see a way to do this….”
KITSIS | It was writers room fan fiction – “Oh boy, if we had those two we could do this…!” Finally we had so many “We could do this” ideas, we thought: What happens if we ask? And they said yes.

TVLINE | Is it a lingering Season 3 plot thread or something new going on in Season 4 that these characters will help service?
KITSIS | Oh man, that’s a good question….
HOROWITZ | It’s a tricky question.

TVLINE | Or is it about bringing in new pot stirrers?
HOROWITZ | It’s a combination of a number of things. It’s a new pot stirrer and all that, but it’s also not so much about plot coming out of Season 3 but out of character coming out of Season 3. And by that I mean, what our characters went through — particularly Emma and Regina, and Mary Margaret and David, all of them. Where they found themselves at the end of the season is incredibly relevant to what the Frozen story is and what those characters bring to our show in Season 4.

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TVLINE | But weren’t most of the Storybrooke characters happy when last we tuned in?
KITSIS | Well, listen — most of them are happy, but that’s what the premiere is for. The premiere is to let you know, “This is what the new season is about.” We are gong to take the character growth from the last three seasons, and Anna and Elsa (played by Elizabeth Lail and Fringe‘s Georgina Haig) are going to incite new developments.
HOROWITZ | I’d also say that in addition to inciting things, there are things about Anna and Elsa that we discover are resonant within our own characters – issues and things they’ve dealt with over the course of three seasons — that make them feel like a really nice match. They can help the process of discovery and growth.

TVLINE | Is also a bit of someone else bringing their fight to our characters’ playground?
KITSIS | Sometimes when someone brings their troubles into our town, LANA PARRILLA, SEAN MAGUIRE, CHRISTIE LAINGwe find out that their troubles and ours might be the same thing.

TVLINE | What would you say is the overall theme for Season 4A?
KITSIS | “Never give up on the people you love.” To us, that was the main inspiration about Anna. We loved that she never gave up on Elsa, even though Elsa was willing to go off and live alone and let it go. Anna was like, “No, you’re my sister and I love you no matter what.”

TVLINE | So, for example, is it about Regina not giving up on the man she loves, or Robin not giving up on the woman he originally loved?
HOROWITZ | Or is it some combination? That conflict is certainly one we dive into right off the bat.

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TVLINE | Care to go on record ruling out any blood ties between any Frozen characters and the regular gang?
KITSIS | Yeah!
HOROWITZ | We will go on record as saying that we are not going to reveal that Elsa is, for example, [a Storybrooke character’s] sister, or that someone is her brother.
KITSIS | We really should just have a villain named, like, “Scott,” that has no relation to anyone – and then just watch the fans get bored and go, “Oh, now we get it.”

TVLINE | Who has the most unexpected relationship with a Frozen character?
HOROWITZ | That’s interesting…. I would say, Charming?
KITSIS | I would say Prince Charming has an unexpected relationship.

TVLINE | In good way or bad way?
KITSIS | In a good way.

TVLINE | Could 4B have been 4A if Disney said, “No, too soon” to the Frozen mash-up?
HOROWITZ | We would have reconceived a lot of things, but were very fortunate that The Powers That Be at Disney said yes at a very early stage. We’ve had the benefit of planning this since February.
KITSIS | Or else we would have done something complete different.

TVLINE | You’re doing an 11-and-11 split season again?
KITSIS | Yes. Like last year, the first half will be Frozen and the second half will be revealed in the winter finale.
HOROWITZ | The working title is “The Coming of Scott.”
KITSIS | Scott, The Villain That Has No Relation to Anyone. He’s just an annoying jerk who cuts in front of you and never says “Excuse me,” he doesn’t tip at Granny’s…. No, the seeds [for Season 4B] are planted in the first 10, so that when you see [the reveal] in 11 you go, “Ah, OK.”Once Upon a Time Maleficent

TVLINE | The news of Kristen Bauer’s return as Maleficent — does that give away something about the back half of the season?
KITSIS | Well, you know, it might, or you can look at it as just a tease for the second half of the season.
HOROWITZ | Kristen Bauer is someone we loved since we used her in the first season. We had an idea [for her return] and if you hang around and watch you’ll see what it is. But yeah, she’s a fun character to play with.

TVLINE | We’ve seen lots of love triangles on TV, we’ve even seen characters come back from the dead to create a love triangle. How might Regina/Robin/Marian be different?
HOROWITZ | First, who says we’re doing a love triangle?
KITSIS | Exactly. It’s going to be messy and it’s going to be complicated, but we’re hoping it’s a hot mess.
HOROWITZ | We’re trying very hard to put our spin on these different kinds of relationships. Hopefully it becomes less about the relationship itself and more about Regina. What we saw at the end of the finale, with Marian returning, and how that might affect her feelings for Robin Hood, his feelings for her, his feelings for Marian, that will open a door to who Regina is and what she’s going to become.

TVLINE | OK, because she needs some good loving, and I don’t see her stepping aside politely!
KITSIS | We all need good loving, Matt.

TVLINE | But to be clear, Regina doesn’t remember killing Marian?
KITSIS | She was just another peasant. LANA PARRILLA, JENNIFER MORRISONWe saw her wipe a whole village out — she can’t remember everybody!

TVLINE | I read that there’s a Regina/Emma-centric episode on the horizon….
HOROWITZ | There’s an entire episode devoted to that dynamic coming up in the first batch of episodes, yes.

TVLINE | How are things now between the two of them, given how Season 3 ended?
KITSIS | “Complicated.” We definitely feel like we are paying attention to the three seasons leading up to this, in terms of where they were, where they’ve been and where they’re going. That that’s been a really rich area to dive in to, and we’re excited for the audience to see that.

TVLINE | What obstacles can you tease for Emma and Hook now that they are on the same page, after she learned of his magnanimous gesture to find her?
KITSIS | One of their biggest obstacles is Emma’s past history – in the sense that Emma is someone we know has a very hard time letting her guard down. Sometimes, obstacles can be internal as well as what’s put in front of you. It’s like Adam said, it’s less about who Regina and Emma are with and more about who they are as people, growing.
HOROWITZ | Also, when Hook discovers that she’s not Jewish, and he was raised Orthodox…. The whole thing is tricky.

TVLINE | We shouldn’t worry about Killian COLIN O'DONOGHUE, JENNIFER MORRISONbecoming too domesticated, should we?
HOROWITZ | No, we should not be worried about that. We are not about to see a domesticated pirate.

TVLINE | Will Emma keep living with the Charmings, or will she go apartment hunting?
KITSIS | She needs her own place, and we’d love for her to see it this year.
HOROWITZ | But on a sheriff’s salary, in Storybrooke…? But in all seriousness, the domestic situation of the Charmings, of Emma and Henry and of Regina, does fit into the early episodes. Now that they’re making Storybrooke their home, they’ve got to figure out things.

TVLINE | And what is going on with the Charmings and their new baby?
KITSIS | Right now they’re really happy. They have their child, they’re very excited…. I think that everybody starts out Season 4 ready to make Storybrooke their home, but as you know, as a parent, a baby can sometimes add stress in a relationship. It can also bring you together. And it can also make you react in certain ways. Also, we’re going to find out in the first batch of episodes that Mary Margaret will have much more responsibility than just her child.

TVLINE | We’re going to get a flashback to a pre-Rumplestiltskin Belle?
HOROWITZ | Absolutely. We are going to — for the first time, I believe, since the three minutes at the beginning of “Skin Deep” – see a backstory that involves Belle before she met Rumple. That’s in the first batch of episodes.

TVLINE | You’ve been rather mum on your plans for The Knave thus far. What can you give me?
HOROWITZ | His background as Will Scarlett, who was one of the Merry Men and a thief, comes into play very early.
KITSIS | And for those [Once Upon a Time in] Wonderland fans, we will be explaining why he’s in town and what happened [since the spin-off ended]. I can tease that he fits rather nicely into Storybrooke. His introduction is a really fun one.

Want more scoop on Once Upon a Time? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line. (With reporting by Vlada Gelman)

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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58 Comments
  1. Freddie says:

    Thanks for the interview :)
    Waiting for the episode now – heard so much just want to watch it.
    All i will say is i love Emma Swan and im excited for her arc this season and how it will fit Frozen and also the Emma & Hook romance. I am rooting for them all the way
    And i would love to see Emma get a place near the water – which Henry said she will like ;)

  2. Jake says:

    Is there a need to watch wonderland since the knave is coming to the mothership?

  3. Bianca says:

    great interview!

    Can’t wait for this season. I hate the angst they gave Outlaw Queen but I know they will make it through.

    • Addie says:

      Outlaw Queen fans, don’t worry. Robin and Marian will plan to renew their vows and then at the very last second Regina will run in and be all “I love you Robin, I always have!” Oh wait, wrong show nevermind.

  4. Len84 says:

    I want to see more of Emma and i do believe we had to be waiting for her to get to this point – where she is home, with her family , has accepted where she belong and starting a new romance with Hook – the man who adores her to the moon and back and ends of the world and time. I really want to see the development and her overcoming her struggles and also getting more progress with her parents esp Snow esp as she acknowledged in the finale what she was doing to Snow and so on.
    Hook being alittle domesticated would be adorable to see LOL

  5. mikayla says:

    Emma and Hook going to be complicated! I am excited to see this!! because they are not conventional in any way. I need to see Hook try to adjust himself to Storybrooke and miss his pirate days. I need Emma run around still being scared because one kiss doesn’t solve all her issues. I love that they are both so complicated! It makes things more realistic (as much as you can in a fairy tale show lol)

    • Freddie says:

      The thing is i dont see Hook missing the pirate days [in a way] as such because he knows in that missing year away from Emma – he could not/didnt move on, and he remained faithful and he knew and he told Emma in that episode that he couldnt just go back to who he was before… she changed him in such a way. He tried to go back to that full on fear the pirate but just couldnt even felt the guilt of what he did to Ariel… which was the point that had to be when he finally did the trade off his ship it would be for Emma.
      But i think/feel Hook is going to go through a identity crisis – where certain changes he will go through – we all humans struggle with a little change, imagine Hook change – he has no ship which was his home [memories attached to that, lifestyle], his piracy not really there (even though his skills as pirate in the team is important and good to have) and also he will be having new clothes… thats alot of change for a person and for someone going to live in a modern world when all he has known is the old fairytale world. He will now have time to actually live in Storybrooke and as he embarks on a relationship with Emma.
      But as you say what i love about Emma and Hook is that they are different couple in the show to the others – they have their own internal issue and struggles esp Emma that make them have the angst and so much more and working/fighting to make it work etc. I am here for all that – the trials and angst and struggle and good moments with them.

      • Freddie says:

        Also i do feel Hook will mess up in a way [again humans do mess up – its natural] especially as despite all his confidence and bravado – he still i feel doesnt feel worthy for Emma so in a way might make him feel like he should do things to be that but i like that element if thats what we might see…
        Anyhow both Emma/Hook are pirates ;) she loved the compliment he threw at her in the finale again lol :D

  6. Guest says:

    Hahaha hilarious interview! Now I really want a douche Scott to be introduced! Need more emma backstory! :D can’t wait for this season!

  7. Can’t wait to see the Knave

  8. Jennifer says:

    I was already eager to see more of Emma and Regina but I’m thrilled that Eddy talked about drawing on everything they’ve been through in three seasons. They really do have such a rich history. I’m also glad they are addressing the living situation for everyone. Henry needs both his mothers in his life equally and I am curious to see how they manage that.

  9. Jen says:

    Really fell in love with OutlawQueen last season. It was so nice to see a softer, happier side of Regina with Robin. Lana Parrilla is amazing and I’m sure she will sell me on whatever direction they take her character, I just hope it will eventually be back with Robin. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the Regina/Henry quest. Love all the characters/ships on this show.

  10. Ellie says:

    Cannot Wait!!!

  11. Ashley says:

    I might have to pick this show back up again just for The Knave. Will kept me watching Wonderland ’cause I love the actor and the character was the best thing about that. It’d be fun to see him interact with the OUAT characters.

  12. Brittany says:

    I’m so excited to see the Emma/Regina-centric episode! They are the root of the show (along with Henry, of course) and so I think it’s so important to focus on them. I truly hope they don’t diminish the essence of those characters because of the relationships they are being put into. I don’t care much for CS or OQ, to be perfectly honest. The biggest travesty would be to take the focus away from the Swan-Mills family. I am sincerely hoping to see them focus on building Emma and Regina as individuals as opposed to as partners in relationships.

    • JR1 says:

      Emma deserves her family which is the Charming Family first and foremost! Who she was taken away from! Thats the only family that deserves first place and core of it… because its something Emma deserves.
      Also both women can grow as individuals in a relationship too and with a parther, thats how relationship and oneself grows too in life not just being alone. It doesnt take away anything other then a growth where you are able to be yourself and content which these two women are with the Hook and Robin, and whatever their struggle will be. I never see why ppl dont acknowledge that you can also grow in a relationship with a partner who sees everything about you and accepts you which is what the show is showing.

      • Kyle says:

        Why should it be an either-or situation? Regina and Emma are Henry’s mothers. They both love their son deeply and I doubt Emma feels that she “deserves” her parents more than a good, loving and healthy relationship with her son and her son’s other mother. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but I find this idea of putting the Charming family above Henry and the family bond created through him a little odd.

        • JR1 says:

          Charming Family does include Henry! Hence the Charming family name i said. Emma and her parents and Henry are one family – Charming Family, thats what i meant. I never ever said Henry isnt included or made that assumption. Emma’s first and foremost family are the Charming Family meaning her parents and Henry.

  13. Kristina says:

    These guys seem like such fun! Thanks for posting the interview, really looking forward to the season!

  14. Whatevah says:

    the best thing about this interview? Very little Frozen..

  15. Martin says:

    What about Wills scarletts girl, the Red queen? – will she be in it at all. Hope so.

  16. Kubrick says:

    My theory is that Will Scarlett aka The Knave is a long lost sibling to the Charming family.

  17. Liz says:

    thank you for this interview, Matt! You must be a huge evil regal. So much Regina in this interview. I’ve never understood why people seem so extremely invested in her to be honest…I do like her and want her happy but the center of the show has always been Emma me the Charming’s for me.
    Would have loved a little more on Emma and Killian, both their individual and common journey. And a bit more in Rumple…I read that Killian and Rumple will interact more this season; Rumple and Henry as well. Very excited

    • JR1 says:

      Emma for me too, and the Charming Family they are the core! I want to see that more because Emma deserves her whole family coming together and thats the Charming Clan firstly. Love and being family.
      I am going to enjoy this season because it seems we going to get this and Emma. And also Emma/Hook and how two individuals who are damaged and their pasts they have overcome that to be in a relationship and work it. Fighting for it.

    • Kyle says:

      Matt asked a question about the Regina and Robin story. Then clarified two points about that. There are two questions about Regina and Emma and their dynamic following the season finale, two about Hook/CS and one about Emma and the Charmings. With all due respect, but how is that not enough? Or an imbalance for that matter?

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      I have a Q&A with Jennifer Morrison posting next week. Plus, Emma/Hook had been covered greatly over the summer, including in my Colin O’Donoghue Q&A.

  18. thais says:

    I Just need Regina/Robin together

  19. Li says:

    “the Emma/Regina Deep Dive” <3 Thank you Matt for having a title that puts the focus on our favorite Savior & Queen. Not about how hot Hook is.

  20. rachelle says:

    I just want Robin to choose Regina. Ignoring the fact that I don’t think Marian will last because she’s supposed to have died and doesn’t belong in the here and now, I want Robin to choose to be with Regina with no ambiguity. I don’t want her to be something that he falls back on when/if he has no other options. I’m so nervous. Edward and Adam have been deliberately vague about what’s gonna happen with R&R. They keep talking about Regina’s growth/progress. That’s all well and good, but I want Outlaw Queen, too! Call me greedy, I don’t care. I keep thinking (dreading!) that the writers might use the whole R&R progress from last season to show Regina’s growth, that she was able to open her heart and love again. That’ll upset me so much! I’m hoping I’m wrong.

    • Me too. I think it’s been so many years since Robin was w/Marian and look what his heart has been through. I think Marian may be the one to peace out knowing in her heart he is with her out of obligation but his heart belongs to Regina; I think she’ll let him go and start a new life herself. I’m glad to watch Regina’s growth but Robin is her Soul Mate and I don’t want him used just as a Regina growth tool; I love Robin Hood, come on it’s ICONIC Robin Hood! to be with Regina for good! I do wish he’d give us some hope for OQ though.

  21. Gabrielle says:

    I am so freaking excited for everything but the addition of the Knave just makes everything so much better. Is it wrong I am more excited for his arrival than The Frozen gang?

  22. Sim says:

    Matt, are you a secret swan queen fan? Seems like you’re servicing that part of the fandom a lot of late :)
    Well, personally I love the canon stories a lot and I’m a bit worried that all the love people feel for Regina’s character may lead to her never being held accountable for all the pain she’s caused. People see, to forget that she not only killed her own father to achieve her revenge but that she’s the reason Emma grew up as an orphan…I love that she’s trying hard to be better and I want her to get her happy ending – but I think she still has a way to go in coming to realize what immense damage she’s caused…I hope Adam and Eddy won’t give her a clean slate just because Regina’s character is worshipped by many.

    I can’t wait to get all the Emma development this season. She’s the center of the show for me and her relationship with Hook is just great. I can’t wait to see them figure things out together…and I’m also looking forward to see how raising baby Neal will impact Snow and David in regards to Emma and all the emotional repercussions of not having raised her.

    • Freddie says:

      I never seen any indication that Regina realises that she has done wrong or that she took Marian’s life – none of it. But just blame Emma for the timeline screwup when really she saved a life!

      • Kyle says:

        It might be just me, but I kinda think having someone come back from the past is a bit of a shock for those affected by it. And I don’t know, but I’ve heard once or twice that people in shock can be a bit emotional. ;) These are human beings. Why not allow them to have a human reaction to the finale shock. Sorry, but I think it’s unrealistic to expect Regina or Robin or Marian to be rational in this situation. The premiere picks up right where the finale left off so, no, of course you haven’t seen a more rational reaction and reflection yet. Because these characters didn’t have a second to really think and reflect about what the heck just happened yet.

        • JR1 says:

          We’ll see if Regina can even realise that she killed her lover’s wife in the past or does she keep blaming others and force to use magic to get what she wants

  23. Neah Cole says:

    Oh my god, I’m shocked. I think I have discovered a new term, Swan queen hahahaha! I actually like it!!! I mean, they definitely have the best relationship development of OUAT, no doubt. And I totally feel that they could be something else. Now I’m thinking that Henry would have a real family and all! To be honest, I’m really tired of Hook. I hope that never works out. However, I kinda like sir Robin hood and Regina, It’s so cute… and that little Roland oh god! xoxoxoxo. And finally a season about Belle’s past! Also, a Regina and Emma centric season, those two are the pearls in this show :). I’m really looking forward to watch it!!

    • Freddie says:

      Are you saying that Emma doesnt deserve the kind of level of love and support Hook has for and how much he loves her and would do for her because no else has ever… no else has ever put her first, chosen her, come back to her, fought for her, gave up on her – he hasnt.
      Emma deserves so much love and she has a man in Hook who loves her completely and believes in her and comes back to her, Emma has never had that and you are wishing that Emma doesnt have that – again be without love (heartbreak) the story set up is that he is different to all the rest of the men who has lied to her and broken her heart. Emma has a man who loves her like Charming loves Snow, the things Hook has done for her to find her and bring her back – thats love. He is her love interest.
      Hook is a interesting character within who he is and how he is deep down. And why Emma and Hook connect and understand.
      By the way Henry has a real family – everyone together who you see in the show. Not just his two moms.

  24. Rita says:

    I am excited for Emma and Hook’s relationship deepen and them become closer, even though there will be struggles to over come

  25. Lilly says:

    Love hearing about Emma and Regina’s relationship they have such an interesting dynamic can’t wait to see it explored further those episodes are always my favourite

  26. Name That Tune says:

    When A&E talk, wht do I always feel like I am listening to a used car salesman trying to sell me a lemon?

  27. Philippa says:

    I’m disappointed that there’s no Flynn Rider type character for Rapunzel.

  28. Nanette King says:

    Who is narrating this review/preview episode?

  29. CeeCee says:

    My absolutely uninformed guess on the Knave, JMHO, is that he is Aurora’s father, who is trying to stop Malificent from messing with his family before Aurora is born. Malificent was furious when Will broke into her palace and stole her mirror. This was how he ticked off Robin Hood, by convincing the merry men to help break in. Robin only wanted the gold to give to the poor and warned everyone not to take anything else. But Will used them to get in a swipe the mirror. So maybe Will is there to try to appease Malificent and protect his family. Again, just guessing here.

  30. Christina says:

    I really want them to do Princess and The Frog! And make her black too please. Like the cartoon movie. Representation is everything.

  31. Cara Whellan says:

    Do we go back into Arendelle in any part of season 4b because I want to see what they did with hans and the decision that Anna makes after marrying Kristoff?

  32. Ashlee says:

    I was wondering if a author was going to make it so they get a do over with Emma growing up?If so would you make it so the evil queen change her mind bout her curse?Also would you make Neil stay in the enchanted forest so they can still have Henry.Please ask the creators of Once Upon A Time.

  33. Ashlee says:

    Will you make it so the new author changes the past?So Emma can get to grow up with Snow White and Prince Charming.If you do will the Evil Queen turn good so the curse will never happen?Also will Neil stay in the Enchanted Forest?So Henry can still be born.Will the Evil Queen still adopt Henry?Is it possible Neil doesn’t die if they go back in time?Please creator answer my questions and try to make this happen if you could.Answer me at my email please.These questions are for season 5.