Raphael Sbarge tells us what’s next for ONCE UPON A TIME

I had such a great time chatting with Raphael Sbarge earlier this TV season that I jumped at the chance to chat with him again before tonight’s all new episode of ONCE UPON A TIME. This time, Jiminy Cricket doesn’t tell us much (because he can’t tell us much, or he might face the same fate as our dearly departed Sheriff) but after our chat, I’m even more excited about what’s to come (You see that folks? I think he may have turned me into an OUAT believer!).

The first thing people want to know, naturally, after that fall finale – what’s the town’s reaction going to be now that we’ve experienced our first significant loss, with the Sheriff dying.
You’re going to see some of that this weekend.  I can’t obviously talk about an episode that hasn’t aired yet, because I’ll get in trouble [laughs], but I can say, you know, look, pulling pages from the LOST handbook, obviously, this is something that they did there as well, where they actually established a central character and then put that person at risk, or killed them. What the writers are sort of doing is sort of setting up the level of risk and danger, and kind of personal investment to this loss to the audience.  I’ve had so many people come up to me and say “Oh my god, is he really dead?” and “I’m so sad.”  All of us knew that it was coming from the pilot; he had been told from the beginning that was the case and it wasn’t a surprise.  But it still is kind of shocking, and I think we’re all still kind of, like “Oh, wow, okay.”  I know it went through the cast as well.  Personally, he was such a sweetheart, Jamie Dornan, but we understand that this is this world that they’re trying to create.  Obviously, by killing him, by essentially crushing the Sheriff’s heart, what it obviously does, it also, in a balance, really sets up the Queen, even that much more, of being just horrible and evil and terrible [laughs].  I’ve had people come up and say “God I hate her” [laughs]!  She’s doing such a wonderful job.  What it has done is obviously created that sense of danger and stakes, which is what creates a good story.

We’ve gotten to see Archie stand up to Regina, which was a big turning point for the character.  Will we possibly see them continue to butt heads a little bit, or is he going to once again kind of back away and be under her spell, so to speak?
Let me see if I can answer that by not directly answering that [laughs].  I can say that what we are seeing is, and what you’ve seen so far, is again, the way they did it on LOST, is a kind of a storytelling where they focus on one character at a time, and they give that character, like the Evil Queen’s episode, or Prince Charming, or of course the Sheriff, and Rumplestiltskin is coming up on Sunday.  What they’ve done is set up all the players, and do these deep dives, sort of a full rich, broadening of each character’s back story, so that when we appear, even if it’s for a short amount of time, we bring all this kind of sentiment or depth of that other story into what we do.  I think what’s so clever about it is that it’s given us, given people a sense of getting much [more].  When you only have essentially 42 or 45 minutes, based upon how many commercials air on a network show, by not being all things, everyone on every show, what this allows us is that we’ve gone a bit deeper into the world.  Clearly the queen, in this configuration, rules the town, has this extraordinary power, is sort of driving, the driving evil force in the show.  In my opinion, and I don’t have knowledge to actually tell you this, this is just this actor’s opinion, so I’m not breaking any rules [laughs], is that clearly what’s going to happen is the trail is being laid, or the path is being set, for what will be probably an ultimate battle of forces.  Operation Cobra.  Wherein which good will begin to try and match wits and strength with evil.  It seems to me like that’s where it is headed.  I do know that there is a fair amount of character devoted episodes that will really be, kind of giving us a lot more information. Each of the players and how they triangulate with each other.

That’s what has been one of the major pluses for me on the show is that we get depth in the Storybrooke world, and depth in the fairy tale world.  We  know just enough to have a pretty fully formed idea of what’s happening, and we don’t often see that in other shows. 
There are two things that I’ve found quite remarkable about what they’ve done.  One is, sort of a comment that I get from people, where they come up to me and say, God I feel like for the first time in years, there’s one show that my whole family can watch.  In the very fractionalized universe of television watching these days, where everyone goes off to the various devices and watches whatever they want to watch, or on their computer.  This is a show, where generationally, it seems to be smart and interesting enough to appeal to a demographic that is sort of 8-80.  You know, my kid is seven, in second grade.  You know, he loves it, and conversely, my mother on the other side of the spectrum, in her 80s, and friends of hers have grown up with these characters and they feel somehow that they’re being reminded of something that’s very powerful for them, that’s lived in their imagination.  And they feel like it’s smart enough.  The show doesn’t pander, and it’s not treacly or super sweet in any kind of way.  The Snow White episode, the fact that she’s got this tough quality about her.  People seem to really like this sort of living breathing kind of way of reinventing these characters.  As a result, it’s got this seemingly huge demographic of 8-80 that I think is somewhat distinct in the television universe at the moment.  I think that the writing has been incredibly smart, and that is essentially a hallmark of the show!

The ratings have been great – we’re getting to the point of the midseason point.  Has there been talk of what happens beyond a season 1. Do you know, and not even really asking about what happens at the end of the season, but is there a S1 ending, and has there been talk about what comes in Season 2 and beyond?
The way they do it, and I guess this is a part of design so that things don’t get leaked, they don’t tell us really anything.  We get it when the script gets released.  The writers sit in the room and write it.  ONCE UPON A TIME scripts and nuclear launch codes are kept under tight wraps [laughs].  Any show is ratings driven, but the fact that the show is one of the highest rated dramas of the fall season is tremendous.  We got picked up after the second airing for the back 9.  Incredibly thrilling, and exciting to be a part of a big show.  They devoted this marathon on New Year’s Day, a 6 hour block of all the shows, replayed.  Obviously, counter programming some football, but trying to engage and find new viewers.  We all feel that Disney and ABC are really behind the show, and it’s exciting! [laughs]  I’m very grateful to be on a show that is obviously, again, not only smart, but taking characters and breathing new life in them.

Is it difficult, looking at the script on the nuclear launch code level, to not get the script too far in advance?  Can that be difficult to form an idea of how portray the character, or is that something you enjoy doing, and might be different than other things you’ve been a part of?
You know, it’s not too dissimilar from other shows.  The script gets released and everyone essentially rallies around it.  And then there are rewrites, changes, and adjustments that come down.  It’s different than a play, that’s for sure, and different from a movie, where you get a whole set script and you basically follow that blue print.  What’s exciting about it, in a way, kind of like life, I guess, it’s sort of long form story telling.  We don’t know when we wake up tomorrow what’s going to happen.  There’s a sort of expectation of wow, what’s going to happen next, and then you sort of find your way to that.  I find that very interesting and engaging.  And fun in a different kind of way.  I had heard that the Jiminy Cricket episode was coming.  When I got it, I was thrilled.  I was so excited, and when I first read it, I cried.  There was something sort of very tragic about that story.  This character’s conscience was borne not of cleverness but actually some really tough knocks, there was something about it that just affected me when I first read it.  Then once I got to it, it was so exciting to explore and take the trip.

I’m really looking forward to see where the trip takes you!
Oh that’s so great – I just was buying coffee at Starbucks, and someone said, “oh my god, I’m so excited about the show.”  She said, “I’m looking for spoilers on the internet all the time, I’m just breathless to hear what’s happening next.  I’m telling all my friends.”  She’s probably 30, 35.  I said, I’m so glad.  She said “it’s so fun, so imaginative and it’s hit such a wonderful chord for me.”  I’ve heard that, obviously, I live in Los Angeles, so there are a lot of people in the business that I run into as well, and we can all be a little jaded.  Been there, seen that, worked on that, know what I mean?  Even people in the business have come up and said how much they enjoy it, how much they appreciate it.  I’m really grateful to be part of such an amazing team of artists; I’m so excited for what lies ahead.  We’re at episode 115 we’re shooting now, and you’ve only seen 107.  There’s so much to come.  It’s pretty exciting!

ONCE UPON A TIME returns tonight at 8/7c to ABC with an all new episode called “Desperate Souls.”  Regina and Mr. Gold play dirty politics and take opposite sides when Emma runs for a coveted Storybrooke public office against Sidney. Meanwhile, back in the fairytale world that was, Rumplestiltskin tries to track down the ultimate power source in order to help his son avert the horrors of a meaningless war.

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