Life in the FAN­TASY LANE

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Cover Story - – Deb­bie Schipp

She plays the reluc­tant heroine in hit US fan­tasy fairy­tale drama Once Upon A Time, but for Jen­nifer Mor­ri­son be­ing scep­ti­cal, cyn­i­cal Emma Swan is a dream role.

And in this week’s episode, writ­ers have used one of Mor­ri­son’s favourite child­hood fairy­tales – Cin­derella – to un­cover more about her char­ac­ter.

Mor­ri­son, best known in Australia for a six-year-run as Dr Al­li­son Cameron on med­i­cal drama House MD, still can’t quite be­lieve she is play­ing out a fairy­tale on screen.

But af­ter a sea­son of Once Upon A Time, she has de­vel­oped a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion of why the Grimm broth­ers’ fairy­tales are of­ten so ... well ... grim.

Once Upon A Time fol­lows the life of Emma, a bail bond agent, and her son, Henry, who dis­cover a small US town called Sto­ry­brooke.

Emma’s yet to be con­vinced, but Sto­ry­brooke is part of a par­al­lel fairy­tale uni­verse. It’s full of char­ac­ters from the fairy­tales with no mem­ory of who they are, in­clud­ing Snow White and Prince Charm­ing – be­cause they have this works’. But it works. I guess it’s like any­thing that in­volves some sort of mythol­ogy and fan­tasy el­e­ment.

“There are things that ob­vi­ously in re­al­ity would be out­ra­geous, but they en­tice you into sus­pend­ing be­lief.”

Mor­ri­son em­braced the role of Emma from a purely hu­man stand­point.

“There’s just so much go­ing on with her,” Mor­ri­son says. “She was raised in the worst ver­sion of the foster sys­tem, and has had a re­ally tough life, and ad­mits to that. She’s been a sur­vivor and she has so much room to grow and change. It’s ex­cit­ing to dive into that.”

Emma may not have seen many fairy­tales in life, but Mor­ri­son was raised on them as a child.

“I was very fa­mil­iar with all the Dis­ney ver­sions of these sto­ries. It’s been fun to go back as an adult and read the Grimm ver­sions. And they’re not called ‘Grimm’ for no rea­son.

“My favourite fairy­tale as a child was al­ways a tie be­tween Cin­derella and Alice in Won­der­land.

“In episode four ( which airs on Chan­nel Seven on Tues­day night) they use Cin­derella’s story to re­veal some things about Emma.

“You have to wait till episode 17 for Alice in Won­der­land. It’s in­ter­est­ing that the two sto­ries I re­ally con­nected with grow­ing up are closely con­nected to Emma’s story.”

Emma is yet to be con­vinced of her fairy­tale char­ac­ter sta­tus this early in the se­ries, but Mor­ri­son says “she’s ac­tu­ally the ul­ti­mate fairy­tale char­ac­ter – she just doesn’t know it yet”.

As the only main char­ac­ter with­out a fairy­tale back­story on the show, Mor­ri­son doesn’t don the ex­otic fairy­tale cos­tumes of Snow White and Cin­derella, but says that is no sac­ri­fice given the rich­ness of her char­ac­ter.

“I love Emma so much that I wouldn’t trade be­ing her for a pretty fairy­tale gown,” she says.

Mor­ri­son says in real life, she shares Emma’s in­stinct for spot­ting lies.

“To sur­vive she has had to be­come acutely aware of peo­ple around her and whether they are be­ing hon­est or not,” been cursed by the evil Queen from the fairy­tale Snow White.

Each episode leaps be­tween the real Sto­ry­brooke and the fairy­tale world.

Emma, although she thinks it’s all a load of codswal­lop, is ap­par­ently the daugh­ter of Snow White – and the only per­son who can save the town.

Mor­ri­son agrees that it all sounds im­pos­si­bly ridicu­lous. She felt like that too, un­til she read the first script.

“It was so beau­ti­fully writ­ten, they made it fea­si­ble,” Mor­ri­son says.

“I re­mem­ber think­ing ‘I can’t be­lieve this works, I can’t be­lieve she says. “In some in­stances I feel I do iden­tify with that – I’ve al­ways been a very in­tu­itive per­son.”

The traits that make Emma and the se­ries re­lat­able are the ones Mor­ri­son loves most.

“The more emo­tions get in­volved the harder it is for her to tap into that in­stinct for know­ing truth,” she says.

“That’s a re­ally hu­man trait for all of us. Our love or our emo­tions can some­times get in the way of us see­ing things as they re­ally are.”

Mor­ri­son doesn’t share Emma’s tem­per, which can flare up in sec­onds.

“She’s the first char­ac­ter I’ve played who has a se­ri­ous tem­per,” she says.

“I have done a lot of work to give vent to that tem­per. I have worked hard to find her trig­ger points and to dis­cover what her dam­age is, so I know what pisses her off and why.”

In con­trast, Mor­ri­son is “def­i­nitely a diplo­mat”.

“It takes me a long time to get riled up. I try to see things from the other side and talk things through.”

Part of the fun of the show for view­ers is spot­ting which fairy­tale is be­ing re­told in Sto­ry­brooke – pick­ing which mod­ern­day char­ac­ter parad­ing as a civil­ian is what fairy­tale char­ac­ter.

Ac­tors on the show played the guess­ing game – just like the fans – as the scripts rolled out.

“Yeah for sure. Some­times they haven’t let us in on what’s com­ing,” Mor­ri­son says. “It’s just like a gi­ant puz­zle. We love dig­ging that out of each script.”

One char­ac­ter she and co-star and close friend Gin­nifer Good­win ( who plays Snow White/ Mary Mar­garet in the show) are des­per­ate to see in the show is Ariel from The Lit­tle Mer­maid.

“We like the idea of the writ­ers hav­ing to find a way to work a mer­maid into the show. Even in Sto­ry­brooke that could be dif­fi­cult,” Mor­ri­son laughs.

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