Jennifer Morrison Quits Once Upon Time

Once Upon a Time's Jennifer Morrison Opens Up About Her Exit: 'Emma Had Reached a Really Beautiful Place'

The honeymoon was short-lived for Once Upon a Time fans.

Not half a day after Emma and Hook exchanged vows at the crescendo of the ABC series’ well-reviewed musical episode, Jennifer Morrison announced that if there is a Season 7, she will not be back as a series regular. That said, she has promised to come back for a singular episode, as needed.

Shortly after Morrison shared her news and TVLine relayed series creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis’ heartfelt statement, we hopped on the phone with the actress, who’s in the midst of rehearsals for The End of Longing, an Off-Broadway play written by and also starring Matthew Perry. In Part 1 of our conversation, Morrison delves into her decision — and expresses her regret over sending fans on a roller coaster the past 24 hours!

TVLINE | When did you first let Adam and Eddy know that you might not be re-signing this spring?
It’s one of those things where until there was a decision on the table to make, I had no idea what my instinct was going to be. You can’t assume that they’re going to invite you back, and you can’t assume that there’s going to be a Season 7.  So until I knew that there was even a decision to make, I kind of pushed it out of my mind a bit. And then once the decision was real, I did have strong feelings right away, that I had to sort through.

Obviously I love the show, I love the character, I love Eddy and Adam, I’m very close with some of the cast…. It’s a tricky decision to make, because all those things are very attractive. But the other side of that is I did six years on House, I did a year on How I Met Your Mother, I did six years of Once Upon a Time — that’s collectively 13 years of network television back-to-back, which is a-ma-zing and the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but it’s a grueling schedule. I don’t know if everybody realizes that we work 16 to 18 hours a day, and being in Vancouver for the show meant flying every weekend trying to barely see my friends and family every once in a while. For six years, I was on average taking 100 flights a year.

It’s worn me down in a certain way, and it made me stop and think about where I was at in my life and what I wanted and what my priorities were. As much as I love the show, I ultimately had to do what was right for me, and I need to be home. I need to be in New York in L.A., I need to be around my family and friends and have a chance at a personal life, and to have opportunities to do new things creatively. So I’m ready for the new challenges.

TVLINE | Does a part of you feel that Emma’s story is complete? That she might have been servicing something else, something perhaps smaller, moving forward with this Season 7 “reset”?
I don’t know; it wasn’t like they pitched me a story that I declined. The decision wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in a storyline; it was a truly personal decision. But I do feel like Emma had reached a really beautiful place. By the time we get to the musical episode, I felt like we were coming to a very natural culmination of her story, that we were facing her happy ending. That’s always what I’ve hoped for for her, that we could take her on this journey, where she has had ups and downs, where she’s had to fight very hard not only to protect her family and herself but also to be vulnerable and to be open, to be a better version of herself. I feel like she’s really reached a new place in her life, in a way that felt like a good place to leave her.

TVLINE | Of course a lot of our readership this morning has said, “No Emma, no Jen, no Once for”—
[Interrupting] I hope that’s not true! I have no interest in this being the end of the show. I care about everybody involved so much. I want to see it continue, and I really meant it when I said [on Instagram] that I will watch the show and I hope everybody watches with me. It’s very sweet, the loyalty—

TVLINE | Their reactionOnce Upon a Time Wedding Spoilers may have been in part due to the roller coaster they’d been on in the past 16 hours. They get the wedding, they get the musical, and then….
I know. I hate that that’s how the timing had to work out, but unfortunately this information was in the world and it was going to come out sooner rather than later. We all felt like we wanted it to come from all of us, not come from a “source “that we had to confirm or decline. I felt strongly that it should come from all of us, because we do all care about and appreciate the fan base. It would have been lovely to have waited until after the season finale, in certain ways, in terms of the storytelling, but I felt like — and I think everybody, from ABC and Eddy and Adam’s side felt like — we wanted it to come from us.

TVLINE | Was the season finale written knowing that you wouldn’t be returning, or will it merely allow for that?
I believe they knew [my decision] by the time that they were writing that. The other thing is, the show still hasn’t been picked up for Season 7 officially, so they had to write kind of not knowing if it was the end for everyone or not. So there was a delicate balance that they had to keep, which I am impressed by and I am sure put a lot of pressure on them. Because there was a chance that this is the end for everyone, and there was a chance that this was a “pause” before then the start of something totally new. But that question might be more for Eddy and Adam; I don’t know where they were in the process. But as soon as I was sure how I felt about [leaving], I let them know immediately.

TVLINE | The one Season 7 episode you have promised to return for, is it necessarily the premiere? Or could it come later down the line?
I believe it’s the season premiere; I can’t remember contractually if it was slotted as exactly that, but I believe it’s the season premiere.

TVLINE | In their statement, Once Upon a Time SpoilersAdam and Eddy gave you props for bringing to life “a brand-new Disney princess”
Awwww….

TVLINE | How does it make you feel to read something like that?
I love that, it makes me so happy. I love those guys so much, I really do. They’re such incredible human beings and such great writers…. They’ve been by my side every step of the way in terms of putting it all on the page and giving me the chance to breathe life into it. It means a lot to me. Disney is quite the corporation, in terms of their princesses. It’s fun to shift people’s perspective of what it means to be a princess. We started this show with Disney concerned about Snow White holding a sword! And we’ve come a long way from there. So I am very proud to have been a part of that change, and to be a part of that journey. I am absolutely privileged to be considered among the “new guard” of princesses.

NEXT WEEK, IN PART 2 OF HER EXIT INTERVIEW: Morrison revisits her favorite storylines, shares her leading man’s reaction to her decision, and more.

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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65 Comments
  1. A says:

    I don’t watch the show so I don’t have a personal connection to all the devastation are currently feeling. However, what a classy exit interview thus far. Even though JMo is leaving, I believe her when she is saying she has run out of gas and just needs a break, but wants the show to continue.

  2. chadcronin says:

    Oh man! I want to know her leading man’s reaction now! While I am never happy to see a lead leave this is a perfect time to should it continue. I think they could bring in new people and start another chapter if the right cast and if they can mix the old with the new. I can accept her leaving. It’s not like we did months of campaigning to save a show and go through months of lies like we did for another show recently. That made me mad and the loss of that main star leaves a hole in the show. I hope they renew the show as it’s not fair if they cancel OUAT over this.

    • Cornelius says:

      I hope JMo doesn’t get hate if they do end up cancelling it cause the OUAT fanbase can be awful at times and they’d just blame her rather than the decreasing ratings.

      • chadcronin says:

        I felt better after reading this. She came out as honest and descriptive as she could and she has my respect for it. People need to be honest. Most shows only last this long. True Blood was crazy popular and only had 80 episodes and this will have at least 133. A great feat for any show. There is more there to use and changing up cast seems logical to me so ABC should give that a chance and at least see how it goes. People should look for what they like in a show and not just tear it down. The current story ran it’s course. I will keep watching. Jennifer wants us to watch with her, I’m in!

  3. laurelnev says:

    They could easily have Ema off-screen, or actually moving away from SB with Hook. TBH, look at how much Ginny was gone for maternity leave for the last few seasons. Snow was still in the story, just not on screen that often. (Nor was Charming, for that matter.)

    Is Jen committed to one show or one taping? Big difference in TV Land. :) IOW, I don’t think Jen’s exit necessarily means the demise of Emma. She could tape a LOT of scenes in one taping, to be spread throughout the season.

    And no one in indispensable. Lana got her start on Spin City, a show EVERYONE said would die with the move to LA and Michael J Fox’s exit, (along w/ a few other key players.) Two and a Half Men was supposed to tank without Charlie and Angus, but it actually improved. Maybe without out modern-day-raised “Savior,” OUAT can go back to focusing on the challenges Fairy Tale type characters have when transplanted to the modern world, and its “Enchanted” inspired roots.

    I wish Jen all the best, and totally understand her decision to bail. She is NOT the Captain; her love interest is. (Guess we’ll see if Hook stays to go down with the sinking ship or not. ;) )

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      As noted above, she is contracted to appear in one episode.

      • laurelnev says:

        Bummer…or maybe not. We all know how Show Biz works…one ep can easily turn into more, especially if Jen does truly love the character and the show. It’s not like she’s leaving on bad terms or anything…

        And who knows whether the story will really need her. Charming has been acting as the sheriff for eons, and Mrs Wollowitz was NEVER seen on screen, yet was a huge part of TBBT. :)

        I just hope they don’t turn her into a black cat or something to keep her around. ;) (Yes, that is a Sabrina reference.)

  4. Susan says:

    Thank you, Jennifer for 6 years as Emma Swan! I love you and will miss my Emma! There is no Once without you!

  5. Ben says:

    Part of me just wants this series to end on this high note. Emma was the heart of the show from the beginning, her getting her happy ending (beginning) is everyone getting theirs. I cannot imagine Once Upon a Time without Emma. I wonder what will happen with Killian now. I always pictured the ending being everybody going back to the enchanted forest. Maybe that would be a good reset ;)

  6. Val says:

    What a woman, what a actress and what a character Emma Swan was. My favourite since season 1, and she will be missed!!! I was always here for Emma’s journey, and its been a beautiful one, such a development. One of the most beautiful growth, and also the love story between Emma and Hook, and getting their faitytale wedding and their happy ending, happy beginning, i do hope that will be intact for them esp Emma.
    I am not sure how i feel about watching the show without Emma, since Hook is one of my faves too but i honestly cant see one without the other.
    I just wish Jen all the best for the future and thank you.

  7. SamofSherwood says:

    I’m glad they realise how EPICALLY poor the timing was, I understand that Jennifer wanted to be open & have it come from her but I still feel this was just mean! Thank-you for having our back on that Matt.
    The season premiere?! I thought it would be the season finale, so she dies then, great! so want to see that…
    Colin’s reaction is so what I want to know, this decision could have potentially made him & their whole cast & crew unemployed.
    To repeat myself, I support her completely, working that much has to suck!
    I just feel this was completely mis-handled & was not at all tactful or considerate to the fans.
    If ABC were the ones gagging Jennifer from releasing it when it was discussed, they dropped the ball!

  8. Jared says:

    Why do I feel like this is Castle 2.0 where ABC wants a reboot only to cancel it in the end. Losing most of the core cast as well as Jennifer Morrison cant sit well for ABC can it? It kind of like what’s the point??

    • Claire says:

      I hope it goes that way and they reboot it. I’m scared they’ll try to continue and ruin my show when what most of us want now is closure. The ratings on this would be a disaster and it would be dead in a month, but they never like to admit when they’re wrong.

  9. Andrea says:

    I think she is very sweet and I think this show could TOTALLY survive without her…it just can’t be too corny. It’s very important to like the hero/heroin of the story. I remember watching the pilot for the first time and thought Emma was absolutely fantastic! She totally nailed the part of Emma Swan bail bonds woman, but the new “person” has to hit the nail on the head or it won’t work.

    As for hook….out of all the characters in the show his happy ending always seemed weird to me. I think Rumple has a better chance of having a happy ending because he is beast from beauty and the beast and the real story of Rumple didn’t necessarily leave room for much exploration so the writers can do whatever they want…but hook was always a villain…even regina was able to separate from her evil self…but hook is not that kind of a character. For the longest time I thought hook was a very tragic character. Emma won’t die but hook might suffer. I don’t know…very sad.

    • Val says:

      Hook was not always a villain when you look back his slavery day, lieutenant days, (atleast not to the level the other two were), and we know why his path of Captain Hook and villainy came, and piracy. Hook’s happy ending is Emma, he found love, light and hope in Emma Swan. His character was always motivated by love… (even his revenge was based on due to love and also losing his brother). And Hook has had such a redemption with being a better man for himself and due to love. (he didnt need to seperate himself from evil, he worked at it and neither blamed anyone for it too). Its heartbreaking to see what becomes of Hook, because his happy ending and world is Emma, she is gave him a reason to live again and out of darkness. And as we saw they were always meant to be, even before she was born and true loves.

      • Oncer says:

        Your post is a great example of what went wrong with Emma Swan, in my opinion. This is an article about Jennifer Morrison and Emma Swan but your post is all about Hook and HIS happy ending. I completely respect your right to love his character and his story. I’m definitely a “to each their own” kind of girl. In my opinion, as the lead, Emma should have been the main character in her own story but they made her a secondary character. Hook should have been Emma’s love interest but instead they made her his love interest. Hook repeatedly talked about how she was HIS happy ending. He didn’t even talk much about how he could be her happy ending, it was always stated she was his. He should have been a supplement to her overall story instead of being her entire story. Her son and her parents got crumbs of her story.

        In terms of Hook specifically, I always saw Hook as being driven by obsessive love, which isn’t healthy. His character was shown to be weak when you compare him to his brother and how they reacted to being in the same situation growing up. When his brother died, he became obsessed with becoming a pirate (not with avenging his brother’s death, mind you, but taking it out on innocents). Then he obsessed over Milah and her death for centuries only to instantly turn that off and obsess over Emma. Emma was HIS happy ending. He didn’t become a better man for the sake of being a better man. He only did it to win his happy ending, which was Emma. He didn’t help people unless it benefited him in getting Emma. If they had written his story (and their story) differently, it would have made all the difference to me.

        • SamofSherwood says:

          Killian is my favourite character in the show but actually, I agree with a lot of what you put, I’d never thought of it like that, hmm..

  10. padraicjacob says:

    It was odd to me that she said specifically that she’s close with just some of the cast. Not that I expect everyone to be besties, but it struck me as odd for some reason

    • Brandon says:

      I’ve always got the impression there has been drama between Lana and Jen. I think they are usually professional about it but they are not crazy about each other.

    • I agree. I also think it is a little weird when asked about returning for 1 episode that she referred to her contract and it being the season premiere. Not throwing shade, but you would think if everything was all roses that her answer would be less rigid and more in line with something like this: “i’ll come back whenever they need me”.

      • Anon says:

        If the personal problems she’s been having is scheduling as frequent transport, it makes sense that she doesn’t set herself up for that kind of flexible availability. And it makes NO sense to say the drama is between Lana and Jen – considering that Lana is the only remaining female lead in S7, as Ginny is leaving, and Jen says to keep watching… (not replying to your comment, more the comment above)

      • Luli says:

        But that is not what she decided…. She decided to come back for an episode, not when they need her down the line…

    • Whatever says:

      Jen has been friends with Ginny before the show started and then became friends with Josh by extension. It’s just the circle of people she hang with before the show remains consistent in her personal life. She has been directing more during the season breaks; may be that’s what she wants to concentrate in her future after fully employed for over 13 years in Hollywood.

  11. Claire says:

    I love Jen and Emma too much to feel it’ll be the same show without her and the rest of the group who’s leaving. Now if only ABC would get the message and cancel the show where we all have some closure.

  12. BM says:

    She mentions that everybody felt the announcement should be coming from them directly and not a source, including ABC – I wonder if they learned from Castle.
    Either way, I think this is how the exit of a lead should be announced and how it should happen! I hope others take notes!

    • ninergrl6 says:

      Really? I like the personal touch and appreciate the candor, but it’s the absolute worst timing. If all shows announced exits this way, I’d never get invested in another character again.

  13. CS True Love says:

    I will stick around for Colin, but it’s hard for me to deal with Regina show w/o Captain Swan. I FF all EQ/Regina scenes this season,

    • ninergrl6 says:

      I *want* to stick with it for Colin, but the thought of Hook without his true love is making me tear up even as I type. If anything, THIS would’ve been a great catalyst for Hook to become the Dark One, but been there, done that.

  14. Amanda says:

    I understand her decision but I won’t be watching next season and I really hope ABC does the right thing and just cancels it. I’ve loved this show but it doesn’t make sense to me to continue it without not only Jen but seeing that majority of the cast is apparently leaving as next year sounds to be a true reboot with only Colin, Lana, and Robert staying. This season really has felt like a good end point and wrapping up everything for all the characters and couples. I’m glad to know the finale will also work as a series finale since it will be my final episode that I’m watching.

    • Fae says:

      I don’t get this. Why not stick around for more stories? It’s like picking up a book from a series and when it ends being like, “There couldn’t possibly be more to tell, I won’t bother with the others”. Just because Emma’s arc is over, doesn’t mean they can’t introduce new characters and scenarios we’re just as interested in. There’s always going to be more stories to tell, so it’s ridiculous to act like we wouldn’t be interested in hearing or watching them just because they don’t all have our favourite character in them…

  15. Beth Jones says:

    If they make another season it won’t make sense to me Colin who plays hook is meant to be in the new season if there is one so the writes are going to be like sorry Colin you got to go now because your leading lady is gone now it just won’t make sense having him there with out her and it will undo the whole true love thing dose that mean they will give hook a new love interest now Jen is going and they will break up. I think if a person is interested in leaving they should tell the writes and boss before the middle or the end of the season and before everyone has signed on for a new season.

  16. Sharon williams says:

    Sorry Jennifer Morrison you ended this show. Period!!!!! You are to blame. I am Not watching ANY more Once! Why could the producers not end this better!!! This bubble business has been crap. This whole smokescreen has been about You!!!

    • Claire says:

      Actually the ratings are tanking even with the cast it has. Ratings are money. The show being on the bubble has nothing to do with her.

    • SamofSherwood says:

      People who have met Jennifer & know her speak of her kindness, I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt & saying this was effing ABC!!

    • Vas says:

      Why so selfish? She fulfilled her contract, she can do what she wants now. I think we should be happy for her and grateful for all the hard work over the years.

  17. Monique says:

    I’m going to miss you too much 😢😢😢😢😢😭😭😱

  18. Mike says:

    I think she missed the point of people not watching the show if she’s not there. It’s not necessarily a loyalty thing as it’s a “she’s the focal point of the show” thing. No Emma means what for Storybrooke. The show starts with her coming to town. You expect us to watch if she’s not around? And that’s not their fault…but it is their reality.

  19. Lysh says:

    Wow, reading her post this morning, it came to no surprise but still sad. After reading this, I’m a little emotional. We’ve been so lucky to have such an amazing woman bring Emma to life. Thanks for the interview, TVLine! I’m excited to read part 2.

  20. Billy Bob Johnson says:

    There will be a shortened Season 7 so everything can be wrapped up.

  21. kath says:

    She really is a class act.
    I’ll miss her on the show. I wish all the best for her.

  22. MattySi says:

    A class act for sure. I will miss her if the show continues but she deserves to do what she wants.

  23. ninergrl6 says:

    Thanks for this interview. Looking forward to part 2. I’m happy for Jen that she’s doing what’s in her heart, but I’m terribly sad for the loss of Emma. Coming on the heels of the CS wedding, this announcement was particularly crushing. I didn’t get to relish the long-awaited happiness & that makes me bitter. I just wish the timing were different and/or that TPTB knew the fate of the show so they could’ve written a real ending. As it stands now, I want the wedding to be the end & I’m going to pretend next week’s episode doesn’t exist.

  24. Butch says:

    I kind of think ABC will renew the show. If ABC was close to cancelling the show there would be no need for this announcement. The show is cancelled and no one needs to know that Jennifer had decided not to return. If the show is cancelled later this week the fans will blame Jennifer for leaving as one of the reasons for cancellation. Why do that to the actor. If they renewed the show and then announced that Jennifer was leaving instead of being happy, the fans would be disappointed instead of happy and that would ruin the renewal announcement.

    • ninergrl6 says:

      I thought something similar. If the show wasn’t getting picked up (or at least being given a serious consideration), this announcement would’ve been unnecessary. Then we could’ve all blamed the network, but I wouldn’t feel as gutted as I do today.

    • Claire says:

      I wonder if they’re looking at our interest to see who would watch. If they are, they’ll find most of us are gone with this announcement.

    • Andrew says:

      @ Butch – I agree.

      Reading the article for a second time, I also found it odd how she seemed to know (or have a good idea) that she was in the Season 7 Premiere. How would she know that—unless she (or the EPs) had already been told about the renewal? Why put that out there if you didn’t know one way or another (like she claimed).

      Also, I got the sense that her needing to make a decision about whether to stay or leave was due to being told that Season 7 was a go. If it wasn’t, why would they make her decide—especially if her current contract was expiring?

      I know showrunners/actors always say they have no idea if they’re coming back, but I think they already knew (about Season 7) before she decided.

      • Brennan says:

        I think a renewal is being held back because 1.) they were hoping the musical episode would boost ratings (it didn’t-they dropped from last week), and 2.) they needed to find something to replace it, which they just did in American Idol. And they’ll take notice of the fandom’s reaction to Jen’s departure and probably cancel. A cancellation can happen at anytime, I don’t know why people think if it was canceled we’d know – it’s actually quite the opposite. Castle was canceled two days before the finale aired – and the promo for the finale also stated “Season finale”, which ended up being a series finale. And the proposed season that it hadn’t been renewed for was also touted as being a reboot without one of the leads.

    • SamofSherwood says:

      I don’t think anyone cares about a renewal announcement now.

      • laurelnev says:

        Are you calling me a nobody? :D

        Seriously, see my own comment re: Spin City. In fact, Lana may never been cast as the EQ without getting her big break when Spin City rebooted after moving production out West. Michael J Fox WAS that show, yet it went on and was still very good without him.

        • SamofSherwood says:

          Not all, my apologies, I was generalising.

          • laurelnev says:

            No need to apologize…the emoticon was supposed to show I wasn’t seriously offended. ;) (And yes, some of us fools do still care, although sometimes I wonder if that just isn’t a reflection of our masochistic tendencies!)

  25. SamofSherwood says:

    It’s a new day (GMT) ~ I’m still pissed! in fact the more I read the more annoyed I become, ABC chose not to release this information until now, they’ve known for months. Did they really think this was the opportune moment?
    Are they that out of touch? I know they’re producing a show called in-humans but does that make them all too?
    I am so done with ABC, this, the car wreck that is Quantico now, I expect more from accompany run by THE mouse.
    It’s all about money, they wanted to preserve the integrity of the musical, well, you failed, miserably!
    This is nothing against JM, she comes across as smart, compassionate & caring, she knows how invested people are in this show & I like to think she protested this decision.
    I say again, just incredibly bad form!

  26. SamofSherwood says:

    Any idea when we will get Colin’s reaction Matt please? early week, late, after the season finale?
    Many thanks!

  27. Intel247now says:

    If the statements are true that the plan was to only bring back 4 of the original cast, with Jen being gone to me as a fan I say let the series end. It has been a great ride and though I’d like to see more, I would rather it end on a good note than a soft reboot where things could go south.

  28. Mikey says:

    I really hope that if there is a season 7, that they use the one episode Emma will be in, well, like at the end of the series maybe; So at the start of the series they say that Emma is on her honeymoon and Regina is the one protecting the town, and then the series finale could have Emma coming back to help Regina fight the villain, and all the original cast could return and all the characters story lines could be wrapped up together. I think that would be amazing. Thank you, Jennifer Morrison for you beautiful work, you truly made the show special and your acting was sublime. You are truly a one of a kind Disney Princess. Thank you and we all love you!

  29. Rebecca says:

    Sorry but I disagree with JMO here. Emma has been missing since S3. Current Emma Swan is/was a pod person who married Hook & was a terrible person. Good riddance to Emma Swan and CS.

    • Val says:

      Disagreeing with the actual actress who knows her role, work and character better and development, because its been one hell of a development and beautiful growth and with her love story. It seems like you are just bitter. Also have some damn respect overall and what this article is about!! Thank you.

      • Rebecca says:

        No…. I can’t have my opinion if I’d like. Thanks though. Like, Emma became a terrible, selfish person ever since CS became a thing. Again I say…. GOOD RIDDANCE to Emma Swan.

  30. I am proud of Jennifer Morrison doing what is best for her – what makes her happy. Whether the show is renewed or not, It has been a wonderful fairy tale of a ride. I am sure all the cast, crew and show runners will be doing great things in the years to come.

  31. Pam Hollar says:

    I love the show, well written and well acted. I like all the character and I think it shows there is good and bad in us all and what we will or will not do for love and family. I hope that Emma will pop up now and then, I hate the thought that she is done.

  32. Cindy says:

    This will be the last season without her. She is the heart of the show. Should have paid her what she wanted.