Neverland is a place where anything you imagine can come true — which is both good and bad news for Once Upon a Time's ragtag group of fairy tale characters.
When Once kicks off its third season on Sunday (8/7c, ABC), Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Regina (Lana Parrilla), Captain Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) and Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) head to Peter Pan's homeland to rescue Henry (Jared Gilmore). But having heroes and villains teaming up won't be as easy as it sounds. In fact, it's quite the opposite, as the Charmings have to deal with their foes and internal family issues all while trying to save Henry.
Below, Once bosses Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis tease the third season, including the dastardly new villain Pan, Regina's love interest and the fates of Neal (Michael Raymond-James) and Storybrooke:
Why the decision to send the group to Neverland?
Adam Hororwitz: Neverland is something we laid into the show from an early point. To finally get to go there and to get to explore it and unfurl all the things we've been waiting to unfurl has been really exciting.
Edward Kitsis: We want to make sure this season that we take the time to really get those character moments; to really have people question the things that have happened after two years. Greg Mendell (Ethan Embry) said to Regina, "You're a villain. Villains don't have happy endings." You're going to see that's ringing in her ear. For Emma: "Am I just the savior? Is my job just to make everyone else happy? Why do I have this magic?" What is it like for Snow and Charming to actually take a moment and say, "She knows she's our daughter, but I'm not sure she looks at us like parents." We want to dive deeper into their character and their experiences and also have a kicka-- plot and intensity that we always bring... Because Neverland is a place where you don't grow up, then you have to confront your past. Our inspiration was the idea that these characters would have to return to who they were before the curse in order to achieve this.
What can you tell us about Peter Pan?
Horowitz: There's a darkness to Pan. Neverland is a place filled with magic and imagination and really, really scary stuff.
Kitsis: You're going to start realizing what he wants Henry for, but like any good mystery, you won't know the whole picture until you watch the whole 11 episodes.
Horowitz: We feel like we've really stripped our characters down to their core needs, wants and desires with a very clear mission of getting Henry back.
How soon will we find out who the Home Office is?
Horowitz: As we stated in the finale, Greg and Tamara (Sonequa Martin-Green) don't know who they are working for and who they're working for is Peter Pan. The Home Office, one might assume, is related to Pan. That's cleared up pretty quickly.
Kitsis: Who the Home Office is gets revealed in the premiere rather quickly.
How will the Charmings and their enemies fare working together?
Kitsis: Adam likes to call them the fairy tale Avengers. The first test will come when you face your first obstacle. At the end of last year, Henry was taken, there's a ship going and we're all on the bus. But when the bus hits its first speed bump, what happens? You have five leaders on the ship who all want to be leaders.
Horowitz: You have a common goal, but what happens if you get to it and when you get to it.
Kitsis: Stormy waters ahead, I would say.
What's the Charming family dynamic like?
Kitsis: We're going to get deeper into it. For the last year, Emma realized that her parents were Snow and Charming, but they haven't really had a breath or a second to really wonder what that means. We're going to explore a lot of that family and a lot about how they feel about being parents or a child. To us, Neverland is a place where, because you don't grow up, you're forced to confront your past.
Will you address Snow White fixing her darkened heart?
Kitsis: At the end of last year, she realized she made a mistake. This year, it's about finding the hope. It's the hope that Snow White always brought to us. She is the light. She's going to see a lot of darkness and realize that the best thing she can do is return the light to not just her, but to her daughter and her husband. Charming realizes right now that he needs to be Prince Charming, he needs to be noble and be an example for his daughter and show her how you go about a mission with honor. Right now, Emma did not grow up with the benefit of those two, so if the Queen has a better way to get Henry and that might break the law, so be it. It's prison rules.
Will you explore the Emma and Regina dynamic, since they are very magical when combined?
Kitsis: We absolutely are. They go back and forth between hating each other and having mutual respect for one another. In a lot of ways, they're similar. But when you're similar with someone, you tend to fight with them. Right now, they're unified in getting Henry, but you've got two women who both want to be leaders.
How soon will we find out about Regina's new love interest?
Horowitz: Very early in the season we are going to address Regina's love interest. What that will be, how that will happen, that's a surprise we want to keep for now, but it's something we're really excited about. It's a side of the character of Regina we've only touched upon in the first few seasons. We're excited to see more of that and more importantly, exploring her capacity for love.
Kitsis: There may be somebody out there for Regina. The question is: Will she open her heart to that?
Horowitz: What we want to do with Regina with respect to a love interest is not just put a love interest just to have one. We want to make this part of the larger journey for the character over the course of the show. This is hopefully different from what we've done thus far. We've see Daniel (Noah Bean) in the past with her and what she went through. We saw her when she was young, innocent and uncorrupted falling in love and how that affected her and made her into the person she is today.
Kitsis: And in a lot of ways, that's all she's wanted to go back to.
Horowitz: Right. Now we want to say, "Well, what happens when the opportunity for love enters her life now when she's grappling with all these things and she's become the woman she is, flaws and all? How can she handle this? Can she open her heart to it? Can she accept it? Will it make her better or worse?" That's what we're really interested in exploring this season.
Speaking of villains, Hook returned with the Jolly Roger to help the good guys. Has he really changed?
Kitsis: He Han Solo'd back.
Horowitz: He's a pirate. He's been a pirate for a long time. You don't change on a dime.
Kitsis: You can change your motivation, but you can't change who you are.
Horowitz: We have good instincts and bad instincts, but they're all dictated by who we are at our core and that's something he will wrestle with.
Kitsis: What he realizes is this pursuit of revenge has left him an empty life. So now if he gets a second chance, he's going to live that life. Maybe it's time to love again.
What can you tease for Tinker Bell's (Rose McIver) introduction?
Kitsis: Tinker Bell is one of our favorite stories this year. We tell you a story about Tinker Bell. She has a very surprising connection to one of our cast, and it's not Hook because that's a given. They spent time on Neverland.
Horowitz: Like all of our characters, there's an origin story for Tinker Bell. It pays some homage to what we all know of Tinker Bell, it's got a Once twist to it.
Kitsis: I do know you have to clap your hands and believe.
Horowitz: With Tinker Bell, we're going to be seeing her very soon. In fact, in Episode 3.
Will we see the Darlings again?
Horowitz: They're so integral to the Peter Pan story. We have not forgotten about them. There is a connection and tie-in to what we're doing with them as well.
When will we find out what happened to Storybrooke?
Horowitz: It's going to be a little while before we're actually in Storybrooke.
Kitsis: We're going to see Belle (Emilie de Ravin) in a very different form in the beginning.
Horowitz: She's going to be hopefully the Belle we all know and love. We have a surprising way she's coming into the story this year.
Kitsis: The first batch of episodes is really going to focus on Neverland and flashbacks.
Horowitz: But that's not to say there's no Belle.
What about Neal, who ended up in the Enchanted Forest?
Kitsis: He's back home, but he didn't want to go. We'll find out why he ended up there. We're going to find out his adventures because Emma thinks he's dead. Neal knows the last thing he said was, "I love you," and now he realizes more than anything that he wants to get back to her and to Henry, but he thinks they're in Storybrooke. Luckily, he's found Mulan (Jamie Chung) and Aurora (Sarah Bolger) to help him out.
Horowitz: Assuming he's alive.
Kitsis: He's alive!
How will Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) fit into the Once world this season?
Horowitz: Robin Hood also comes back in a way that we're not willing to spoil, but we will say that--
Kitsis: He will repay a debt that he owes.
Horowitz: We've seen some connections he's had in the past and those will continue on in the future.
What are you most excited for this season? Who do you think is Regina's new love interest? Should Emma explore a relationship with Hook? Or are you hoping she'll be reunited with Neal? Hit the comments!
Once Upon a Time returns Sunday at 8/7c on ABC.