Drama, Divorce, Plagiarism: Everything You Don’t Know About ABC’s TV Show, Once Upon a Time
ABC Television’s popular show, Once Upon a Time, is now in its sixth season. The show, which features retellings of classic fairy tales and children’s literature, starts with the premise that the Evil Queen – old crone who attempted to derail Snow White’s happy ending with Prince Charming – has finally defeated her old foes. She lives in our world, in a sleepy town called Storybrooke, Main, where nothing – and no one – is what it seems.
The show’s heroine is Emma Swan, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, who is the Savior returning to Storybrooke in order break the curse, which was put on the town by Regina Mills, aka the Evil Queen. The twist is that Emma had a child as a teenager and then gave him up for adoption… and he was raised by Regina, her parents’ enemy! This twist is unbeknownst to Emma when the series opens and a lot of the drama of the first season is Emma meeting her son, Henry.
Of course since Henry’s other mom is Regina, the two cross paths often, which sets the show up for some interesting subtext. Once has a reputation for action, adventure, romance and even a little magic. Some have said the show often seems to be spinning tales that are a bit too close to their Disney-fied versions. However, the drama of the show often pales in comparison to what goes on behind the scenes. This is the Untold Story of Once Upon a Time.
Like Their Characters, Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas Had an Affair
At the beginning of Once’s first season, Snow White and Prince Charming are beset by a curse that renders them different people living in modern-day Storybrooke. When Dallas’ Prince Charming wakes from his coma, he does not know that he was destined to be with the local schoolteacher, Mary Margaret, whose secret identity is Snow White. The characters are inexplicably drawn to each other, even though Charming is actually married to someone else. Mary Margaret’s car even gets vandalized after townspeople catch on to their affair.
Dallas’ Storybook Marriage… to Someone Else
Snow and Charming weren’t the only ones having an affair. Josh Dallas, who plays Charming, was married to English actress Lara Pulver when he started on Once Upon a Time in 2011. Pulver had met Dallas when he was in the UK, where he studied acting at the Mountview Academy of Theater Arts. The two met in 2003 and married four years later at Christmas.
The wedding of Pulver and Dallas seemed like a fairy tale itself, taking place in a 16th century barn in Devon. They honeymooned in the Maldives. Pulver was known for working in the theater and also had several saucy TV roles, including wielding the dominatrix whip for the BBC’s Sherlock and acting as Sookie Stackhouse’s fairy godmother on season three of True Blood.
So it was all going swimmingly for Pulver. As of September 15, 2011, Pulver was still blissfully unaware that Dallas was shacking up with his co-star Ginnifer Goodwin (Mary Margaret/Snow White) in Vancouver.
NEXT…LARA IS IN FOR A SHOCK
Or was she? “We try not to clip each other’s wings. We give each other the freedom and space to go and pursue things – because I personally don’t see the point of being in a relationship to change someone or to be fearful and try to hold on. Of course, it’s hard when you spend three months apart because of work, but there’s something to be said for being independent entities but great life partners,” Pulver told the Daily Mail back on that fateful September day.
Maybe she had an inkling that her independent husband was stepping out on her? Dallas later tried to play fast and loose with the dates of his separation, alleging that they had already called it quits by the time he had relocated to Vancouver in the summer of 2011. The Daily Mail didn’t report the news until January 4, 2012, long after Dallas claimed that the couple had split.
According to the Daily Mail, Josh’s father is a ballet dancer.
Goodwin was Engaged to Another Kentucky Man
Goodwin also had a Christmas-themed relationship. She was engaged to actor Joey Kern, who popped the question on Christmas Eve. “We couldn’t be happier than to celebrate our engagement over the holidays with our families,” the couple excitedly told People Magazine. The couple had dated for two years before Kern designed an engagement ring himself. They planned to marry in the fall of 2011.
Kern is eerily similar to the man that Goodwin would actually go on to marry. Kern was born and raised in Independence, Kentucky and went to St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. Dallas was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. Like Dallas, Kern studied acting and trained in London. But Kern attended the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
At the time of the engagement, Kern was best known for Super Troopers. The two broke up in September of 2011.
Goodwin and Dallas fell for each other in circumstances as romantic as their characters, while filming a scene from the pilot where Charming must wake up Snow White with a kiss. As in the best fairy tales, things are often a bit messy.
As for their jilted exes, don’t feel too sorry for Kern and Pulver. After their careers stalled a bit, both returned to action. Pulver returned to the stage and won the 2016 Olivier Award (Britain’s version of the Tony Awards) for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical in the West End’s revival of the hit Broadway musical Gypsy. Kern can be seen in TNT’s new show, Good Behavior.
NEXT…JAMIE DORNAN’S DIRTY SECRET!
50 Shades of Sheriff Graham
Little-known actor James Dornan won the role of the Huntsman / Sheriff Graham. Dornan was born in Hollywood, just not the one you had in mind: Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland. Jamie grew up in the suburbs of Belfast. His father is a renowned obstetrician and gynecologist and his mother died when he was 16. Dornan also had four friends die in a tragic car crash as a teen. He overcame his early struggles and studied acting. However, Dornan quickly became a model. His success included being the face of Calvin Klein as well as modelling for Armani.
Dornan had a chip on his shoulder because he said that in the UK, nobody respected models. “In LA, they don’t think that because you leant against walls and looked depressed while someone took your photograph, it means you can’t act.”
Dornan didn’t win many roles until he went up for Once Upon a Time. The show initially hoped to have Dornan as the Sheriff of Nottingham, but they did not take on that particular tale of Robin Hood until later on in the show.
While solid, there was nothing about Dornan that was particularly spectacular on Once, except his looks. After his character was killed off, Dornan read for a minor role of a policeman for a new serial killer show in the UK. Surprisingly, Dornan was called back and asked to read for the lead role of serial killer Paul Spector. To everyone’s shock, he won the role and great acclaim as an actor.
Dornan’s Dirty Secret
Both Dornan and his wife dated big movie stars. Dornan met and dated Kiera Knightly for two years. His current wife, Amelia Warner, is an actress who was married to Colin Ferrell. There’s been trouble brewing in the relationship ever since Dornan took the role of Christian Gray in the fan-fiction-come-to-life known as 50 Shades of Gray. For two years the tabloids have had a field day with rumors of infidelity between Dornan and co-star Dakota Johnson. The heat has been so intense that Dornan has repeatedly blasted the media for their speculation.
The dirty secret is not that the two are having an affair. Privately, Johnson and Dornan can’t stand each other, which may explain their lack of chemistry in the first film. The promotional interviews that feature Johnson and Dornan are exercises in awkwardness, and no one can even imagine how these two managed to get naked and film bondage scenes.
Johnson described having on screen sex with Dornan as “a task.” Meanwhile, when Dornan was asked if the two had good chemistry, he replied: “Well I presumed we did, because they put us together.” Ok.
As for Dornan’s time in fairy tale land, it isn’t quite done with him yet. Dornan had one tie to Disney when he joined the show – his sister works for Disney in London. And Dornan has now been cast in a gritty version of Robin Hood for the big screen, reportedly taking on the role of Will Scarlet.
NEXT… SEE WHO ONCE RIPPED OFF!
Adam and Eddie Ripped Off Other Authors to Create Their Show
Once Upon a Time was created by Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis, producing and writing partners who went to college together in Wisconsin and then moved to Hollywood. They broke into the business by writing on Felicity. To hear them tell the story, that’s where the genesis of Once begins. The men said they both revered fairy tales as the start of the reading and storytelling process of youth and they wanted to do some kind of mashup of fairy tales in the modern world. They knew it would focus on the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White, in a world where the Evil Queen won.
The guys couldn’t quite figure out how to bring the series to life and no network was interested in it. So, the two went on to work on the TV series Lost, which gave them new inspiration on how to structure their planned show. They successfully pitched the show to ABC/Disney, which seemed like a natural home. And to top it all off, they said that advances in technology also made the show a better bet than it was when they had first thought it up ten years prior.
This is a pretty straightforward tale: two men come up with an idea and spend ten years getting the product made. That might be exactly how it happened, except for two major things.
Once Upon a Time Ripped Off Fables and Other Comic Books
“Fables” is a monthly comic book series published by Vertigo Comics that tells new versions of fairy tales. It has published hundreds of issues and was created by Bill Willingham. As soon as Once appeared, fans couldn’t help but notice certain similarities between Once and Fables.
• Fables is set in Fabletown, a hidden place where fairy tale characters secretly live.
• Once is set in Storybrooke, a hidden place where fairy tale characters secretly live.
• Fables is led by Bigby Wolf, the sheriff who teams with Snow White to solve crimes.
• Once is led by Emma Swan, the sheriff who teams with Snow White to solve mysteries.
• Fable’s Ichaboad Crane is the antagonist and the Mayor, who uses the Magic Mirror for nefarious purposes.
• Once’s Regina Mills is the Evil Queen and the Mayor, who uses the Magic Mirror for nefarious purposes.
• Fables uses a pawnshop, owned by the Jersey Devil, to cough up magical items.
• Once uses a pawnshop, owned by Rumpelstiltskin, to cough up magical items.
The first collection of Fables is about the now-reformed Big Bad Wolf, who solves the murder of Rose Red, Snow White’s party girl sister. Grimm’s pilot features Grimm teaming up with a reformed Big Bad Wolf to solve the murdered of girls wearing red hoodies. Once’s pilot included Ruby aka Red Riding Hood, now a party girl.
In some panels, Regina and Ruby are dressed eerily similar to Snow White and Molly Greenbaum of Fables. Despite these similarities, Kitsis and Horowitz claimed they never read Fables… until they later said oh wait, one of them had read it and another one had not. Willingham got so much feedback about the controversy he eventually talked with the creators of Once and then wrote an essay exonerating them of ripping off the story.
Fables is a high-concept novelization that includes dozens of characters, violence, sex and intriguing storytelling.
DC and Warner Brothers had a deal with Disney to bring Fables to the small screen back in 2008. A pilot script was written but never shot. NBC also had a deal to do a Fables TV show back in 2005. It too didn’t come to fruition. However, Fables clearly influence Once Upon a Time and Grimm, an NBC show about supernatural cops and fairy tale characters…which also premiered in 2011. Once and Grimm whittled down the premise into something more palatable to a general audience.
NEXT…YET ANOTHER COMIC BOOK RIP-OFF
Another Comic Book Rip-Off…. Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Although much has been written about Fables, Once’s similarity to another comic book series seems to have flown right by the radar. Grimm’s Fairy Tales is a long-running comic from Zenescope that started in 2005. The story is framed around literature professor Dr. Sela Mathers, who uses fairy tales to help people understand their lives. When this fails because people are dumb, she decides to dispense her own form of justice.
Sela’s arch enemy is Belinda, who has the same special powers as Sela but uses them for evil. She even uses her own version of the storybook to hurt people. Belinda works for the Dark One, “a Satan-like demon who is seeking to conquer not only Earth, but four other worlds from which the fairy tales come from. The worlds include Wonderland, Oz, Neverland, and Myst.” At some point (spoiler alert) Belinda dies but then becomes more of an ally to Sela.
Sela has echoes of Emma Swan, who in season 1 uses a storybook to figure out which of the Storybrooke citizens correspond to the fairy tale characters. Her nemesis Regina, who has a longtime association with the Dark One, who is certainly a Satan-like demon. Of course Regina turns into an ally, friend and more with Emma.
NEXT… THE EX-ONCE STARS WHO HATE THE SHOW
Once Upon a Bad Reputation for Being “Soul-Destroying”
Once has developed something of a bad reputation from its ex-stars. Sean Maguire, who played Robin Hood for three seasons, told Hollywood Reporter he was quite unhappy with the way his character was written out during the fifth season. Maguire was murdered quickly. “In all honesty, no, I wouldn’t say that I was,” Maguire says. “I felt like it was an abrupt end; I didn’t feel the character had any development this year and wasn’t really written for. That was disappointing for people who liked Robin Hood and liked him and Regina together.”
But the harshest criticism was from Michael Socha, the actor who played Will Scarlet on the short-lived spinoff, Once Upon a Time: Wonderland. When that show was canceled, Horowitz and Kitsis immediately contracted for Socha to join the main show. As a full cast member, Socha was contractually forbidden from taking any other jobs.
However, once Socha relocated to Vancouver for filming, he barely worked and hardly had any storyline at all. “I joined the main show and I wasn’t really used, so I found myself in Vancouver for a long time not really doing [it], which fucked me up a bit really,” Socha told Den of Geek. “I thought, if I’m going to be here, fucking do something with me. I’ve got a boy at home and it’s crucifying me being here and not working.”
Socha’s character had a brief fling with Belle from Beauty and the Beast, but that was about it. And much to the fans’ chagrin, the show never explained what happened between Will and his true love Anastasia, who got their happy ending on Wonderland’s finale.
“Originally, they asked me to come and said I was going to be in all these episodes. So the contract was written. The fans are so loyal to the characters that are already there and there’s so much that they have to conclude with the characters that were already there, I think I became more of a hindrance than anything. I didn’t really know what I was doing there.”
“‘Wonderland’ was incredible, but ‘Once Upon A Time,’ I found it quite soul-destroying,” Socha says. “I found it sort of unfair. It wasn’t the fault of the powers that be, it was just the way the cookie crumbled I suppose, but I didn’t really enjoy it by the end.”
The show first courted controversy in casting back after the second season, when they added Megan Ory, who played Ruby, to the full cast. But in what appears to be a pattern, the producers of the show then failed to use the actress.
[Adam and Eddie] wanted to do with Ruby ended up not being able to happen because they decided to take the show in a different way. They are so brilliant, so when they were inspired they had to follow their amazing idea for what they wanted to do with Neverland. I hadn’t been in a few episodes — my last was when everyone came back from New York — so I talked to the boys and asked them, ‘What’s going on? Is everything okay?’ And they said, ‘We love you, but we have this story that’s so huge we don’t know where we’re going to put you at this moment.’ So I said, ‘Maybe I should look elsewhere?’
Reading between the lines, Ory said the creators didn’t even explain why they had jettisoned her character in favor of another storyline and adventure. Although it worked out in the short term for the actress (she was cast in a CBS pilot), in the end it was a career setback (the CBS show was quickly cancelled). Once eventually brought Ory back as Ruby in order to do a one-off show where her character revealed she was in love with a grown-up Dorothy from Wizard of Oz.
Yes, Dorothy and Red Riding Hood are true loves. Unfortunately for fans of the couple, they haven’t been seen or heard from since their dramatic True Loves’ Kiss.