The contracts for Once's main cast are up at the end of the current season and Deadline is reporting that ABC is looking at completely retooling the show if it moves ahead with a Season 7. ABC Studios is in negotiations with show creators Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz as well as the main cast — Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Robert Carlyle and Colin O'Donoghue. The new season would reportedly "reimagine" Once as we know it and focus on the four core characters of Emma, Regina, Mr. Gold and Hook.
This isn't brand new news. Morrison expressed "uncertainty" about the next season earlier this year and ABC president Channing Dungey told Deadline January that some retooling would be done if the show were to be picked up for another year. "Regardless of what we decide to do at the end of this season, I think they think they would put a little bit of a bow here, and then there is a next piece that comes after that," she said.
However, the idea of going forward with only those four characters raises a lot of questions. Can you really have Mr. Gold without his wife Belle (Emilie de Ravin)? The show went through some serious creative hoops to bring Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) back from the dead for Regina. Will he only be around for half a season before being ditched again? Those core four also raise serious questions about the fate of Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas), as well as Emma's son Henry (Jared Gilmore) — the three of whom have been a crucial part of the show since the pilot.
ABC had similar issues with Castle last season where the studio was willing to move forward with some of the cast but not all, causing major controversy when Stana Katic's contract wasn't renewed. The network put a pin in that by pulling the plug on the show altogether. While Once's ratings are not at its peak, it's still a strong performer with DVR numbers and has strong ties within the Disney/ABC brand.
The question remains whether fans would continue to tune into the fairy tale drama if over half of their favorite characters have been cut from the story.
Once Upon a Time currently airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.