Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
If viewers of the ABC fairy tale drama Once Upon a Time note certain unmistakable references to a certain iconic ABC show called Lost while watching the pilot, it won’t be much of an accident, critics attending TCA were assured this afternoon during a Once Upon a Time panel. The co-creators and showrunners of the new series, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, were Lost staff writers who grew to become executive producers by that show’s final two seasons. And they made no secret of packing the Time kickoff with homages to their former show. “We can’t help ourselves,” Horowitz admitted. Horowitz and Kitsis, who also wrote the feature Tron: Legacy, also employed their Lost boss Damon Lindelof as an adviser on the pilot. “Damon has been a godfather to us,” Kitsis said. “He’s one of our closest friends. And when we first kind of sold the show to ABC, and they said, ‘Great, do an outline,’ we were like, ‘What do we do?’ We immediately went to Damon’s couch and started crying. So, I mean, his name is not on this show, but he’s in the DNA of it. But he also really wants it to be our show, so sometimes he helps and sometimes he gives us tough love.”
In addition to Lost, the Once Upon a Time team also faced the inevitable comparisons to Bill Willingham’s Fables comic-book series. Kitsis maintained that, while the two projects play “in the same playground, we feel we’re telling a different story.” First off, Willingham “is probably more talented than we are,” he said. “If we get a 10th of the people who liked that, we’d be very happy.”
Later in the panel, 11-year-old star Jared Gilmore was asked about how familiar he was with the original fairy tales being fractured on Once Upon a Time. “I’m really familiar with fairy tales,” the lad said. “When I was a kid …” That’s all Gilmore was able to get out before the room busted up in laughter. Frustrated, he quickly corrected, “No, no, I mean when I was younger I read a lot of them!”