There is going to be a massive void to fill when ABC's Once Upon a Time returns for its newly announced seventh season.
Original stars Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White), Josh Dallas (Prince Charming), Jared Gilmore (Henry) and Emilie de Ravin (Belle) are joining Jennifer Morrison and Rebecca Mader by exiting the series after season six, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Set to return for season seven are Lana Parrilla (Regina), Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold) and Colin O'Donoghue (Captain Hook), who re-signed new contracts for the rebooted seventh season, which is said to include a big time jump.
"Words can’t do justice to what Ginny, Josh, Emilie, Rebecca and Jared brought to Once Upon a Time … but we’ll try … Never have we had the privilege of working with a more talented group of collaborators," creators/showrunners Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz said in a joint statement. "Each brought unique talent, incredible intelligence, and their own individual bit of magic as they gave life to these iconic characters. … We can't thank them enough for the hard work, dedication and passion they delivered day in and day out. Without them there would be no Once Upon a Time. As Once continues, this group will always be the beating heart of the show. And even though we won’t be with them every week, in a show about magic and hope, we fervently believe it won’t be the last we see of them." (Morrison is expected to return for one episode next season.)
Goodwin and Dallas met, married and had two sons together during their six-year run on the show. Their departures come as little surprise, as the couple had been expected to exit after season six.
"Ginny reinvented Snow White for a modern audience — there was no way she would be stuck cleaning up after dwarfs, she created an iconic empowered heroine for the 21st century," said Kitsis and Horowitz. "Josh mined the depths of Prince Charming — a character who in myth was just a 'type' but in his superlative interpretation became a complex man fighting for love and family."
De Ravin was a guest-star in season one and was promoted to a regular for season two. She leaves after reuniting with Kitsis and Horowitz following her role on ABC's Lost.
"Emilie took the character of Belle to a deep and soulful place, bringing great intelligence and warmth to the character, making her fiercely independent, strong-willed but also an eternal optimist who saw only the best in all those she encountered," said the producers.
De Ravin opened up about her departure late Friday on Instagram. "While I would have loved to continue exploring Belle's journey, the show has decided to move in a different creative direction," she wrote. "Massive thank you to all the fans for your incredible love & support towards me & this character over the past 6 yrs. It's been an honor & a privilege to bring Belle to life :) Congrats to Adam & Eddy & the returning cast & crew!! I wish you all a wonderful 7th Season!!"
Mader, who also came from Lost, announced her departure late Thursday and said her exit was a creative choice by the show and not something she wanted.
"Rebecca took us on a broomstick roller coaster ride as she reinvented the Wicked Witch of the West by finding the pain beneath the green. She made the character soar to incredible heights while always keeping her grounded and relatable," said Kitsis and Horowitz.
Gilmore, meanwhile, has grown up on the show. His Henry will likely be featured in the rebooted seventh season with The Walking Dead alum Andrew J. West playing an older version of the character.
"Jared literally grew up before the eyes of millions, from a child actor with enormous innate talent to a young man whose abilities continue to astound as he created a character who truly, as we say on the show, has the heart of the truest believer," said Kitsis and Horowitz.
Once is poised to feature a big time jump next season, which will include West and Jane the Virgin's Alison Fernandez, who both will make their debut in Sunday's two-hour season finale.
"There are set endpoints to different stories," Horowitz said recently of the supersized episode. "But that doesn’t mean there aren’t new stories for different characters. I think that by the end of the season finale, a lot of what we’ve been doing for the last six years is wrapped up — we hope in a very satisfying way — and then we move forward in a way that at the end of it, hopefully you’ll see what we’re hoping to do in season seven."
Added Kitsis: "We feel like we’ve completed this story, and the next chapter of Once Upon a Time will be completely different. … Creatively, it's time to end a few stories."