“Oncers” packed Ballroom 20 at San Diego Comic-Con on July 20th to see the stars of Once Upon a Time. Yvette Nicole Brown returned as host, trying to get show creators (from right) Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, and writer/producer David H. Goodman to spill the beans about the upcoming Season 7.

Returning favorites included Colin O’Donoghue (Hook), Lana Parrilla (Regina), and Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold / Rumpelstiltskin). This year, we were introduced to three new characters: Cinderella (Dania Ramirez from Devious Maids), older Henry Mills (Andrew J. West from The Walking Dead), and Lady Tremaine (Gabrielle Anwar from Burn Notice and The Tudors).

The showrunners shared a gag reel from OUAT Season 6.

Season 7 Reboot

So, what happened at the end of Season 6? Fans asked “Why?!” Henry is grown up. He has a daughter, Lucy (played by Alison Fernandez), and she has another story book. Here is an exclusive SDCC Season 7 Trailer, including the Season 6 finale bombshell:

Edward Kitsis explains. This is a new chapter for UOAT, a new journey. It was time to turn the page. “We had a plan for the original show that ran six seasons. And at a point, we felt like it was time for the characters to get their happy endings. And what we’re going to do now is go on a new adventure,” says Kitsis. “And we hope you come with us on it.”

It is not a final goodbye, though, as favorite Storybrooke characters may ‘pop up from time to time,’ says Horowitz. Their legacy will not be erased, they promise. (See more from our D23 Expo coverage here).

As customary at SDCC, Yvette and audience members asked questions of the cast and producers. Here are highlights from the Q & A.

Regina and the Evil Queen

Lana Parrilla reflected on her dual roles as Regina and the Evil Queen this year, often in scenes together. “What was shooting it like...and were there any tricks you had [to keep them separate],” asked Yvette.

The costuming really helped, said Lana. “It was awesome…a great learning experience. It was challenging on many levels.” She really related with Regina, who had split herself in two. There is Dark and Light in each of us. “We all this possess this darkness within us,” says Lana. In the end, it was redeeming that Regina “accepts her darkness and embraces herself, and accepts who she is.”

Adam and Ed added that Lana really persevered during filming. Everything “had to be shot twice” for Regina, then the Evil Queen. She worked 7 days a week playing both roles, with 3 hours in makeup each time she transformed into the Evil Queen.

Lana shared a special bond with Jared Gilmore (young Henry) off set as well. Lana hasn’t had a chance to teach Jared to drive yet because he wanted to wait. But she took Jared to his first concert: Billy Joel.

Mr. Gold: Choosing Between Good and Evil

Robert Carlyle’s Rumpelstiltskin also had a constant battle within himself between Good and Evil. He credited the writers for Gold’s complex personality: “equal parts kind, equal parts nasty.” It certainly kept things interesting. He admits that “this little bit of Evil is really the heartbeat of the guy.”

And what is Mr. Gold’s first name? Robert: “Mister.” Ed and Adam: “Barbara.”

What Made Hook the Man That He Is?

Is there a story about Hook that Colin wished he knew, that made him who he is? “I would have liked to have known more about Hook’s mother,” said O’Donoghue. And perhaps more about Liam, or other brothers he may have had.

“With Hook, who knows what we’ll see next season” he teases. We look forward to exploring more of his relationships, past and future.

Extended Sneak Peek from Season 7:

Jared Gilmore returns as young Henry in Episode 1. He sets off to find where he belongs, discovering new stories in lands where he is not the Author. Season 7 will follow grown-up Henry’s adventures, as the fight between Good and Evil continues.

Colin: “Where did Henry get the gas for the motorcycle for all those years?”

Ed’s response to this plot hole: “If there is a bean that can transport [Henry] to a new book, don’t worry about fuel.”

Colin: “I’ve just got myself fired.”

Actually, Ed adds: “There’s an Exxon between Agrabah and Neverland. They take a credit card or fairy dust. That will be Episode 5, thanks to Colin.”

They are currently in the middle of filming the second episode of Season 7.

For the new cast: How did you each come to be a part of OUAT?

Dania Ramirez: “It was a fairytale.” Dania has been a fan of the show. While on vacation in Hawaii, she was asked to audition for an undisclosed role on UOAT. She flew in and screen-tested with Andrew (older Henry) for chemistry. When she returned to Hawaii, she got news that she was cast as the new Cinderella.

Andrew J. West: He had worked on another show (“Dead of Summer”) with Eddie and Adam last year. His character was a long-haired, ’80s metal-head… so much like Henry, he jokes. Andrew was asked to come in to read for Henry’s role, and the rest is history.

Gabrielle Anwar found out about the potential role of Lady Tremaine while on vacation. She received a call from her agent, and said ‘Once Upon a Time?’ Her 13-year-old daughter (who recently played Tinkerbell in a school production) overheard. All she could say was “Hook! Hoook! Hooook!... She’s almost in tears.” Gabrielle had to accept the part.

The Audience Wants to Know…

What advice would you give your character for Season 7?

Robert: “Be careful with magic beans”

Adam: (on having only filmed 1½ episodes of S7): “Read the script”

Lana: “To not give up”

Ed: “Never stop fighting for what you believe in, and never give up”

Dania: “I believe. You believe. They believe.” Challenge your beliefs, and perspectives.

Will there be another Evil Queen, Hook, or Rumpelstiltskin in Season 7?

Ed clarifies that these three core characters will not have alternate versions. Henry visits other story books, and falls in love with Cinderella. He ‘gets into some trouble’ and calls out to his family for help. Regina, Hook, and Gold respond.

Also, there will not be two versions of the same character in the same book. Regina splitting herself into the Evil Queen was an exception. Cinderella from Seasons 1-6 (Jesse Schram) will not be meeting Dania (Cinderella, Season 7).

Will there be any Swan-Jones children this year?

Colin: Hook and Emma are married, it’s true love. Yes, it possible…

Ed: …they may get a dog.

For Hook: Guy-liner or leather pants?

Colin: Guy-liner. 

What is your favorite fairytale?

Colin: Hansel & Gretel

Lana: “Hey...that was mine.”

Robert: Snow White

Dania: Ariel, The Little Mermaid

Henry: The Sword in the Stone

Gabrielle: Hans Christian Anderson’s Ariel

How did it feel walking onto the set with veteran actors from the show?
Production started with a cast dinner, and the returning actors were very welcoming. Since the show was starting fresh, there was an emphasis in starting new traditions.

Introducing Other Recurring Characters in Season 7

To wrap up the panel, producers announced a few other new characters to fill out the cast

  • Tiana (Mekia Cox from Chicago Med)
  • A new Alice (Rose Reynolds from Poldark)- “Since no one watched the spin-off,” jokes Ed.
  • ‘Super-wicked’ stepsister Drizella (Adelaide Kane from Reign)

Autographs at the ABC Booth

Panel members signed autographs at the ABC Booth for a few lucky individuals who camped out for tickets. Here’s a picture of the poster they signed for one lucky guest.

Looks like we have a lot to look forward to in the fall! Season 7 of Once Upon a Time returns on a new night: Friday, October 6th on ABC. Meanwhile, Season 6 releases on DVD and Blu-ray on August 15th, 2017.