We go ONCE UPON A TIME with Jane Espenson to discuss “The Return”

You all know Jane Espenson from her work on many of our favorite series – BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, BATTLESTAR, CAPRICA, GILMORE GIRLS, the list goes on.  This season she’s been lending her creativity to ABC’s Sunday night hit ONCE UPON A TIME, which returns Sunday at 8/7c with a Jane-penned episode appropriately titled “The Return.”

To celebrate the show’s return to our schedules and what sounds like an exciting batch of final episodes, I spent a bit of time chatting with Jane about what’s to come and what the writers are pushing for in Season 2 (and beyond).

What is it like writing on ONCE UPON A TIME compared to other shows you’ve been involved with, and how is it similar?
It is similar because I’ve written on a lot of genre shows and so this is some of my favorite kind of writing.  Where you’re talking about the world, but you’ve sort of got this lens of fantasy between you and the real world, which allows you to write a little more honestly, because you’ve got that little bit of distance, gives you a little more objectivity, which I love.  I think the audiences love it, and I love writing it.  Different, how is it different from other projects?  It reminds me a lot of BUFFY and it’s sort of great mixture of tones, and that it can be really dark and really funny at the same time.  And that’s not something that all shows have.  I feel particularly confident doing this show.  I’ve had 20 years now, and I feel that this is a show where I sit down to write with nothing but pure joy, in terms of look who I get to write for, look what I get to explore, and I’m sort of at the point in my career where I can sort of just take the enjoyment of the writing because it’s such a fun show to write.

What can you tease about “The Return” without giving too much away, obviously, and what else can we expect as we head towards the end of Season 1?
I would say what I can tease for “The Return” is that it’s a genuinely, emotionally affecting episode for Mr Gold.  Mr Gold’s trying to figure out who August is, and at the same time, he’s remembering being Rumplestiltskin and being with his son.  And you’re going to see Mr Gold in a way that we haven’t really seem him be vulnerable and shaken before.  And coming up, I can tease that this finale is one of the best hours of TV that you’re ever going to see!  You’re going to see Sebastian Stan, and Emilie DeRavin, and Jamie Dornan again in it, so hold onto your hats!  It’s a big finale!

You mentioned “look who I get to write for” – is there a character or an actor that you love putting your words into their mouth, or the character you love writing for the most?
Yeah, writing for Mr Gold/Rumplestiltskin absolutely can’t be beat.  I think Bobby Carlyle does such an amazing role, and the guys, Eddie and Adam, wrote/created this amazing bifurcated character of Gold and Rumple, and writing for both halves of it, are some of the most fun I’ve had.  But boy there’s a lot of great characters!  It’s fun to write for Regina and Emma and Mary Margaret.  They’re all great.  I love writing Archie/Jiminy Cricket.  I get to write Jiminy Cricket!  Disney’s been very generous with these characters, and so you’re able to write for characters you never thought you’d be able to touch in your lifetime!

Obviously, going forward, the show has had great success in Season 1 – should we get a Season 2, have there been discussions about what happens beyond this great finale?
Oh yes! That has been!  You can’t help it.  We are always constantly brainstorming and thinking and moving around with ideas.  These are characters and situations that just won’t let you go.  They just keep, new notions keep suggesting themselves.

There are so many fantasy and fairy tale characters that we haven’t seen yet – is there one that you’re dying to write something for?
I know we’ve all talked about wanting to do The Little Mermaid.  That’s a story that we haven’t done yet, and I think the writers room would be very excited if we got to do Ariel!

ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.  For more information, head on over to ABC’s showpage for videos, photos, and an episode guide to refresh your memory!