Once Upon a Time original cast member Jennifer Morrison will not return as a series regular if the ABC fantasy is renewed for a seventh season but will reprise her role as Emma Swan as a guest star. Morrison, who announced her departure on Instagram (read the post below), was one of four popular cast members approached by series producer ABC Studios about continuing on the show, which is being reimagined for next season, along with fellow original cast members Lana Parrilla (Regina) and Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold) as well as Colin O’Donoghue (Hook), who has been a staple on the show since joining as a series regular in Season 2. The other three are expected to come back.
The contracts of the original Once cast are up at the end of the current season, so Parrilla and Carlyle need new deals while O’Donoghue has another year left on his. I hear Parrilla and Carlyle are close to new pacts. I hear the revamped Once is expected to center on Parrilla, Carlyle, O’Donoghue and The Walking Dead‘s Andrew J. West, who will debut in the upcoming Season 6 finale before joining as a series regular in Season 7.
“The past six years of collaborating with Jennifer as Emma Swan have been truly magical,” said series creators and executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. “Watching her breathe life into Emma, she accomplished more than we could have dreamed possible — she gave life to a brand-new Disney Princess, filled with strength and intelligence and an incredible closet full of red leather jackets. We’ll miss seeing her every day, but her imprint upon Once Upon a Time is indelible. She will always be a part of the show and its heart and soul. That said, just because Jennifer won’t be back every week doesn’t mean we won’t see our savior again.”
In her Instagram post, Morrison revealed that she has agreed to appear in one episode of Once‘s likely seventh season. Other original cast members, including Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, who play Emma’s parents, also could appear as guest stars.
The two-hour season finale of Once airs from 8-10 PM Sunday, May 14.
Morrison landed the leading role on Once after a long stint on another popular drama series, Fox’s House. She had said in interviews earlier this season that they were not sure whether they would continue. There had been rumors that Goodwin and Dallas, who got married in real life and had two kids while on the show, had approached Season 6 going in as their final year on the show.
In an interview with Deadline in January, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey hinted about Season 7 being envisioned as a reboot, opening a new chapter in the franchise after closing the current one after six seasons. “Regardless of what we decide to do at the end of this season,” she said, “I think [Horowitz and Kitsis] think they would put a little bit of a bow here, and then there is a next piece that comes after that. There will be a little bit of closure in this particular narrative.”
While down in the ratings, Once remains an important series for ABC with strong Disney DNA and solid DVR and digital play. The current sixth season, in which the Evil Queen had been facing her alter ego, has been building toward the Final Battle between light and darkness, between the savior, Emma, and The Black Fairy.
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