We’ve only seen four episodes of Once Upon a Time, but it’s become clear what type of show it is, as well as the format. Each episode is almost a self-contained story in the fairytale world, giving us another piece of the main characters’backstory as fairytale characters, while introducing a few new ones along the way (like Cinderella). In addition, the Storybrooke characters continue to develop and grow alongside their fairytale counterparts.
But two characters don’t have fairytale counterparts in Once Upon a Time: Emma and Henry. Emma is clearly one of the central characters of the show, and it’s her relationship with Henry – and the other town’s characters – that has prompted this independent woman to put down roots and become part of a family. During a trip to the Vancouver set of Once Upon a Time last month, we had the opportunity to speak to Jennifer Morrison about her character and how Emma will develop throughout the first season.
Morrison acknowledged that there’s really no way to do the ‘Emma episode’of Once Upon a Time, because she doesn’t have a fairytale counterpart. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect to gain more insight into her character. The writers will give the audience ‘a slower, steadier revelation of who she is. She’s revealed a little bit at a time through her relationships as the story goes on. Her willingness to get involved with certain people and her way of connecting to those people in those moments ends up revealing parts of her past. Those story lines, in a sense, become her flashbacks by proxy.’
Once Upon a Time’s executive producer Steven Pearlman told us that Emma will spend the first half of the season ‘coming to grips with the fact that she has a kid and her relationship to Henry and what it means to be a parent, what it means to be a single parent and what it means to give up your kid for adoption.’While Emma has decided to indulge Henry’s belief that the Storybrooke characters have fairytale counterparts, she doesn’t really believe it. However, Pearlman says ‘…these things keep happening….suggestions that maybe [Henry’s stories] are true. She herself is kind of caught in this place of ‘am I a believer or am I not a believer?”
Morrison particularly enjoys watching Emma and Henry grow closer and believes ‘Jared [Gilmore] and I have such an incredible journey together. [Emma is] this woman who is so incredibly resistant to opening herself up, because she knows that as soon as she opens herself up it’s gonna be a slippery slope of emotions that she’s not ready to handle. And yet [Henry is] just so charming and so sweet and so genuine that she can’t help herself and she gets sucked into feeling so motherly toward him.’Gilmore chimed in that Henry obviously wants help from Emma in saving the fairytale characters, but ‘but deep down [Henry] really wants her to stay with [him] and live with [him] and take care of [him]. Deep down I think [Henry] really wants to get to know her and break away from Regina.’
In Once Upon a Time’s pilot episode, Regina asked Emma about Henry’s father. Emma brushed him off as a concern, saying he didn’t even know Emma had been pregnant. While the actors couldn’t tell us who Henry’s father is, Morrison believes ‘It’s gonna be a long while before anyone knows about that’. But, she said, ‘it’s going to be a fabulous reveal, I think.’
In addition to Emma’s relationship with her son, we know the major antagonistic relationship in her life currently centers around Regina. Morrison acknowledged that the relationship between the two women is tricky, because you have ‘a kid, his birth mother and his adopted mother who are both in his life.’In fact, we’ll be seeing more conflict between the two women in the November 27 episode, when Henry is in danger and both Emma and Regina are fighting about who should help him. But Morrison says ‘There’s some very interesting moments in some of the episodes where the two of them actually have to come together.’
Despite the fact that Emma can’t really wrap her head around this fairytale thing, and her chilly relationship with Regina, there is hope that things might turn out for everyone. In fact, Morrison believes that ‘hope’is the central theme of Once Upon a Time: ‘I think that ultimately the center of the show is the idea of hope and that without hope you don’t have anything. Emma has had a really rough life and there’s still a nugget of hope left in her. I think her relationship with Henry is going to grow that seed of hope in her that she could find some of the things that she dreamed of when she was younger before she was too cynical to let go of those things.’
A new episode of Once Upon a Time will be airing on December 4. Watch a trailer for the episode here.