Peter Gadiot and Sophie Lowe
Like its predecessor, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland adds new details to a familiar fairy tale to tell an entirely different story.
To wit: This Alice (Sophie Lowe) has to escape from an insane asylum to make her way back to Wonderland, where she hopes to reunite with the love of her life, a genie named Cyrus (Peter Gadiot).
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"It's honoring what came before and leaping off and trying to do our own spin," executive producer Adam Horowitz said at the Television Critics Association fall TV previews on Sunday. The producers note that the 13-episode first season is a contained and complete story that, should it prove successful, could continue with a new tale in a potential second season.
Unlike her literary counterpart, this Alice isn't the weak-willed girl who followed the White Rabbit down his hole. "She's tough, mentally and physically," Lowe said. "She can kick a-- and look after herself." Added executive producer Edward Kitsis: "You'll realize that Alice was an ignored girl growing up, so in a lot of ways, Alice is trying to prove this to her father so she can get his love."
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But who is this genie? "We love the idea of a genie who thought, 'If only one day I could get free, I could live [my own] life.' Alice had a really tough growing-up process, so they kind of complete each other in a way." Kitsis noted that it seemed very plausible that a girl who could follow a rabbit down a hole would love a genie who can travel to many different lands.
The producers say that Wonderland won't be nearly as dark as Once. "It has its own unique vibe," Kitsis said. "For us, Wonderland is a psychedelic romance. It's trippy and weird and intense, but it also has some real characters and romance." Levity will come in the form of the hookah-smoking Caterpillar (voiced by Roger Daltrey), the White Rabbit (voiced by John Lithgow) and the introduction of the Cheshire Cat. As for the return of the Mad Hatter, the producers noted they're not recasting Sebastian Stan, but they hope he'll have time to return to their world.
Further, fans of the flagship series will get a deeper experience knowing some of the characters who cross over, including the Queen of Hearts (Barbara Hershey), who the producers teased would likely appear in flashbacks. The show's main villains, however, will be the Red Queen (Emma Rigby) and Aladdin's Jafar (Lost's Naveen Andrews), both of whom will have backstories that expand upon their existing personas. "What we want to do is present the audience with something they've never seen before," Andrews said. "There has to be ambiguity."
But you don't have to have watched Once to get it. "This show exists concurrently with Once," Horowitz said. "We hit the ground running in the pilot of this show and hopefully you can come right in."
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland will premiere Thursday, Oct. 10 at 8/7c on ABC.