Once Upon a Time is going under the sea!
The ABC fairy-tale drama will finally introduce the beloved mermaid that fans have been dying to see since the show subtly name-dropped her. Ariel (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) will dominate Sunday's episode, titled "Ariel," in both past and present, as she comes into contact with our heroes. Unlike other fairy-tale characters who get the Once twist, Garcia Swisher says her little mermaid is very familiar.
"She's very true to who she was in the movie and that's what I love about it," Garcia Swisher tells TVGuide.com. "Her optimism is still there and she's got this spunk and this desire and this bravery, but really gets herself into trouble with how naïve she is. But that's also what we love about her."
In the past, Ariel will actually save Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) from what Goodwin calls a "truly near fatal accident." "In order to repay Ariel, Snow offers to help Ariel find her true love and, of course, they become BFFs along the way," Goodwin says.
That true love is Prince Eric (Gil McKinney), whom Ariel also saved at one point. "It's incredibly romantic that Ariel can be driven by this incredible love for this man that she's only just briefly met," Garcia Swisher says. "It's just old school and there's this incredible connection. It's a very Disney moment."
But in true Disney fashion, that moment might not last since Ariel will come face-to-face with the infamous Ursula, who, in the world of Once, has been more myth than legend. "Ursula does not disappoint," Garcia Swisher says. "She has the embodiment of evil. Really and truly in our story, Ursula has never been seen. She is a beloved character, someone that's revered and worshipped in a way."
And who plays Ursula? She will have a very familiar face as — spoiler alert if you missed the promos — Lana Parilla will pull double duty. "Everyone knows I've loved Ursula since I was a little girl and I've based a lot of Regina off of her actually," Parrilla says. "I've found it challenging to make her different, because I didn't want her to be like the Queen. It's a bit tricky and I think you'll get a kick out of it. I didn't know how to go about it initially. But after some of the work I did, I found a different Ursula that's not the one we know from The Little Mermaid, so she's my version."
Meanwhile, Regina will have other issues to deal with when she realigns herself with Gold (Robert Carlyle) in her quest to get Henry (Jared Gilmore) back. "Regina's just fed up with the Charmings," Parrilla says. "She's had it. They're just a bunch of goody-two-shoes and they're kind of cliquey and she's not into that. She is the odd man out constantly. ... She uses her power and magic to get what she wants and they don't and it's just taking longer and longer. The more days she goes without her son, the more frustrated she becomes. She's just ready to take matters into her own hands, so she flees and leaves them all and finds Gold. They're two peas in a pod. They understand each other. They speak the same language. She has more faith in him than the Charmings at this point."
Look for Regina to put to rest the question "once and for all whether or not that's truly Belle [Emilie de Ravin]" that Rumple has been envisioning, according to Carlyle.
But their ultimate salvation may lie with Ariel. "The wonderful and interesting thing about mermaids is that they can swim between realms," Garcia Swisher teases. "So I feel like my fins can be put to good use. Good thing Ariel is in good shape."
Are you excited to meet Ariel?
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.