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'Once Upon a Time' deserves a happy ending

TelevisionTelevision IndustryEntertainmentSnow White (fictional character)Once Upon a Time (tv program)Lost (tv program)Damon Lindelof

Once upon a time, former "Lost" writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz had a dream, to write a show about the fairy tales that played such a major role in their childhoods. They had no fairy godmother, just their former boss Damon Lindelof, who nevertheless helped them slay the ogre Writer's Block and make their dream a reality after several years.

And making reality of dreams is sort of what "Once Upon a Time," a new ABC fantasy series premiering Sunday, Oct. 23, is all about.

With one of the most defiantly complicated and multilayered story lines of the new TV season, the show opens in present-day Boston, as cynical bail bonds collector Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison, "House") is surprised on her 28th birthday by a stranger, a child named Henry (Jared Gilmore), who drops twin bombshells: He is the son Emma gave up for adoption 10 years ago, and Emma -- who never knew her parents -- is the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), whisked away just before the evil Queen's (Lana Parrilla) curse robbed her parents of their happily-ever-after by hurling them and their friends into the odd coastal town of Storybrooke, Maine, where none of them realizes his true identity. And only Emma can break that spell.

See why it took Kitsis and Horowitz eight years to whip this yarn into shape? And that's just skating the surface of a fantasy narrative that will unfold gradually over the coming weeks, a risky move in today's ADHD TV world.

They caught a lucky break in landing Morrison, whom they had thought was contractually bound to her guest role on the CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother."

"They thought that I was going to turn out to be the mother … and then they saw the episode where they revealed that I wasn't, and they freaked out," the actress explains, laughing. "This was just a couple of days before I got the offer (for the role), and three days before I had to fly to start work on it, so thank God for that episode, and thank God they happened to see it."

It was a stroke of good fortune for Morrison, too, who fell in love with the script on first reading."This was such an exceptional, exquisite script," she says. "I couldn't put it down. I was reading it on my iPad, and when I got to the last page, I kept trying to move the page forward. There was so much intrigue set up in the pilot that I almost couldn't stand not knowing what was going to happen next, and I thought, 'Well, this is something I would love to be a part of.' Very rarely if ever does something come along that feels so special."

Meanwhile, Kitsis and Horowitz had found their Snow White in Goodwin, who met with them just a few weeks after wrapping the HBO series "Big Love." As fate would have it, this was a role the actress had yearned to play since she was a little girl.

"My biggest dream on the planet up to this point was to be a Disney animated princess," Goodwin says. "I went on talk shows and begged Disney for roles and went in to audition for all the new musicals, but I never really necessarily thought that anything would come to pass. It's not necessarily a steppingstone in my particular journey. Then I got a call that I was being offered the role of Snow White in a new TV show that was being written by Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, of whom I am a huge fan from 'Lost.'

"I read the script that night, and I thought I would start it and then fall asleep, because that's what you do during pilot season. But I ended up reading it several times. I was bouncing off the walls. I couldn't sleep, but I had to wait for my manager to get up the next morning so I could make sure he had read it and would get things moving. Every time I read it, I cried at the same points, including the end."

Although most of Goodwin's role revolves around events in Snow White's life that aren't in the original fairy tale, she did get a chance to re-create the moment when the character is awakened from her deathlike sleep by a kiss from Prince Charming. As if on cue, snow began falling while the scene was being shot in a Vancouver forest.

"It was magical and insane," Goodwin recalls. "We weren't planning on using snow in the scene. I was lying in that coffin, freezing cold, in a sundress, and they had a heating pad plugged in underneath me, but I didn't want to get up because I felt like I was stuck in an Ansel Adams photograph."

Although Morrison is one of the few cast members who don't get to play dual roles given the nature of the narrative, she says she's thrilled by the richness of her character.

"Emma is just a dream. The way she is written, just on the page, is already so complex," Morrison says. "She has a unique relationship with every different character, and a different side of her comes out based on who she is relating to. That's already there even before I bring myself to it. So in every episode I am dealing with four or five major relationships that are incredibly different and incredibly complicated. As an actor, that is so exciting to take on."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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