Once Upon a Time Writer-Producer Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones, Husbands) stopped by Let’s Talk TV Live last week to talk with me and the fans about her latest episode “In the Name of the Brother,” as well as all things Once Upon a Time (including the highly anticipated “Manhattan”) and the latest Husbands project – a new comic book series. You can listen to the complete interview on the Blog Talk Radio site, but here’s some of what she had to say about…
They’re digital comics that we made through Dark Horse and I’m really proud of them. Brad [Bell] and I wrote them together. He wrote issue six himself, the rest we collaborated on, and they are available now for download, but they are also going to come out in a hard cover edition in March. They are going to comic book stores in March and then they are getting to bookstores at the beginning of April and we are going to be traveling around signing them. We’re going to be at Wondercon. We’re also going to be at Gallifrey One, which is the Doctor Who Convention, and Brad and I both are going to HalloWhedon in the U.K.
Shooting the Frankenstein story (“In the Name of the Brother”) in black and white:
I was very pleased to get to do that too because it takes a little bit of courage on the part of a network to want to put something on the air that’s black and white. I mean, there’s a reason everything went to color. ABC was so awesome and so cool and so brave to let us tell this much of the story in black and white as we did. And black and white looks so beautiful now. I just thought it looked gorgeous.
Shooting Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) in color for those black and white scenes:
I like seeing Rumple as we’re used to seeing him and sort of the idea of the strength of his personality was underlined by seeing him standing out against that black and white background in that amazing costume.
David Anders’ performance as Dr. Whale/Victor Frankenstein in the episode:
Isn’t he amazing? I was really struck by him and I thought he really embraced the whole feeling of it. I mean, he looked like a silent film star and I thought captured the emotion and the contrast of playing the characters very distinctly. I mean, he may be second only to Rumple, in terms of being an actor whose two characters are most different in the two worlds, and yet he played both of them so precisely and you never lost track of who he was or where he was. He really brought both characters to life.
The potential significance of Greg Mendell’s name:
We don’t want to spoil things that are coming up, but I will say that you’re not saying a name I haven’t heard before. I’m not going, like, “Oh, my God, there was a famous scientist [the founding father of genetics] named Gregor Mendel?”
Cora’s (Barbara Hershey) manipulative nature:
She certainly is manipulative isn’t she? I mean, not Barbara Hershey, she is delightful, but Cora, absolutely.
The scene in the car between Cora and Regina (Lana Parrilla) in which Cora so artfully manipulated Regina from pure hate to acceptance:
I’ve got to say those scenes, the scenes with her and Regina – particularly the exchange in the car that really sealed the deal – was some of the stuff I enjoyed writing the most in this episode. It’s a tricky bit of writing; how do you turn Regina so quickly in so few scenes? It required some cleverness in the writing and I really enjoyed that challenge.
You can write the lines as well as you want, but if you don’t have an actress that can deliver them convincingly, it doesn’t matter and I thought both of them did an amazing job, sort of making that dance work for Regina. She was so certain of where she stood that she was going to get in that car in the middle of the night and go awake everybody up, and then to get from there to where they end up – that required some really strong thoughtful acting from both women.
Lana Parrilla as Regina:
She’s amazing. I mean, there is a weight to her acting. It’s like you feel the intelligence of the character and it never gets thoughtless. There’s always this presence to it.
The abundance of riches in strong female characters that populate Once Upon a Time:
One of the things about fairytales is that there are so many female characters, and so few male characters, that it really opened this up to have this show where the top of the call sheet is so densely populated with these marvelous actresses and so with Jennifer [Morrison], Ginny [Goodwin] and Lana all up there all working hard and turning in these great performances week after week… It’s so great to have these layers and layers of female characters, female actresses. It’s very rare. It’s kind of rare in TV and movies to have a scene with two actresses where they’re not just talking about an off-screen man and, our characters, they’ve got lots of stuff to talk about.
Breaking the iconic “chipped cup”:
The cup. I think people need to remember that symbolism works one direction, not both directions–the cup symbolizes the relationship, but that doesn’t mean that breaking the cup ends the relationship. The cup has no magical power over the relationship.
…And the fans’ reaction to it:
I’m a fan, too. There are shows that I watch where I gnash my teeth and I get upset and I worry about the characters and if they have a character cheating on another character, I get very upset and I absolutely understand. But I think, yes, these are characters who face obstacles, and that’s often how romantic storytelling works. If you have a happy couple, they’re often off-screen. If love is going to conquer all, you need there to be a thing to conquer.
Playing the angst and pain of an emotional moment like Belle smashing the cup:
I think it is a great gift to an actor to give them drama like that to play. I would not want to wish too much happiness in the characterization on any actor. If you think about people talk about like their favorite Spike [from Buffy the Vampire Slayer] moments of all time, they often cite the moment where he’s talking about, “I would have saved you, Buffy. Every night I think of the different way I could have saved you.” It’s a very painful moment that really let James [Marsters] shine.
Jennifer Morrison and her character Emma:
[Jennifer’s] so good at that dry delivery. Even though [Emma’s] learned that she’s descended from these fairytale characters, there’s still something so real-world about her that’s so different from the characters who started in Fairytale Land that continues to set her apart. I think that is really, really special.
Cora and Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold:
Well, certainly it seem like they have a history. She’s called him master the way you would a teacher – like a schoolmaster – and she gave him that kiss where he just sort of … I felt he barely kept his anger in check when she kissed him and he had to stand there. But we also saw a little bit of force of habit there, the sense that, yes, she’s not making this up, they have kissed before. I wouldn’t be surprised if we learn something more about that history this season. If you look back at what casting choices have been announced earlier this year, you might be able to figure some stuff out about some back-story reveals that might be coming up.
The relationship between Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) and Emma:
I think that this is obviously a pairing where there are a lot of sparks onscreen. But there are a lot of complications. We know how she felt about Neal [Cassady] in the past and yeah, all I can say is that we are aware of how well those two played together.
Jane’s Favorite Scene in Tallahassee between Neal Cassady (Michael Raymond-James) and Emma:
I co-wrote that episode with Christine Boylan who’s on our staff… I think I like the scene in the convenience store where [Emma] was pretending to be pregnant. It was funny and we got to see her when she was running back to the car and she drops the bag. The way that was staged was so funny. You could get to see her smiling and laughing in the way we don’t normally see Emma.
Non-Fairytale Land characters popping up in Storybrooke:
When you think about it, it’s an interesting question because I think Henry and a lot of viewers see the transition from the stories we’ve told before to Frankenstein as being a big leap. Obviously, Frankenstein has some folktale like elements to it, but really feels like a very different genre. But for me, I felt like we already made that leap quite a bit earlier when we went to Pinocchio because Pinocchio is not a folktale. We know who wrote it. It has an author and it was written in a certain year as opposed to folktales.
The upcoming episode “Manhattan” (February 17):
It’s just stunning and revelatory and funny and tragic and awesome. Revelatory is the best word. And so, keep an eye for that. I guess that’s the best thing I can do is just say – I don’t want to tell you anything. I don’t want to spoil you. There are some big, big reveals coming up that are so satisfying and so amazing and so sterling and inevitable in this style of good storytelling that I think you all are just going to be blown away.
Crossovers and mashups:
Oh, yes, well, I mean, one of the things that I love is when there’s a show that has stories and characters that are so appealing– so real – to people that they want to continue writing them and think up more stories for them and come up with crossovers like that, I think that means that Eddy [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz] did a really good job creating this world and the way the stories unfold and the characters. And so yeah, when people come up with mash-ups and crossovers like that, I think it makes me smile because it makes me feel like those characters are living beyond the edges of my script pages. And so yeah, if anyone out there wants to write that, write it and put it up somewhere and let your friends see it.
The season two DVD:
We may be coming up with some fun DVD extras and fun stuff to show at next year’s Comic-Con and things. So if you have a chance to come to San Diego Comic-Con or to buy a DVD of season two, we’re kind of coming up with some stuff to make both of those really special.
And, speaking of Comic-Con (Breaking News: Tickets go on sale February 16)…
If you’ve never been, it is an experience of a lifetime. There’s nothing like it. It’s just exhausting. You get sick and tired and exhausted, but you’ll love it. And people who think that it’s all guys have a lot of stuff. You go to Comic-Con now and there are so many women fans, young women fans, the new face of fandom is the young women. They are out and they are creating and they are participating and they are doing amazing things. And I think people have this image of sci-fi fans and they don’t understand what a vibrant wonderful group it is.
Brad Bell and I will be at Comic-Con and we’ll be signing copies of the Husbands comic book collection and who knows of what we’ll have. We’ve got two really new hot promo photos of Sean Hemeon and Brad Bell – the lead actors – and people are going to want to get copies of those.
Tune into Let’s Talk TV Live every Monday night at 9:00 p.m. ET or listen to the podcast available on Blog Talk Radio and on iTunes. Once Upon a Time returns with new episodes February 10 with “Tiny.”