1:45pm PT by Philiana Ng
'Once Upon a Time': Michael Raymond-James on Neal's Mysterious Background (Q&A)
The two-part Once Upon a Time finale will finally answer some questions about Neal Cassidy (aka Baelfire).
Neal's back story will be a major focal point in "Second Star to the Right" (airing Sunday) and "And Straight on 'Til Morning" (airing May 12), which will delve into Neverland as the episode titles indicate. (Watch an extended preview of "Second Star to the Right.")
"These guys are master storytellers, [co-creators] Adam [Horowitz] and Eddy [Kitsis], and you can expect that that quality continues. By the season finale, when they roll the credits, the dust is going to have settled on certain things but other things are going to have a big boom," actor Michael Raymond-James tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Raymond-James talks Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Tamara (Sonequa Martin-Green), Henry (Jared Gilmore) and Neal's history with Captain Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) in previewing the final season two episodes.
The Hollywood Reporter: When you first joined, did you know how integral Neal would be to the Once Upon a Time story?
Michael Raymond-James: When [Eddy and Adam] explained to me how they wanted to do the reveal (that Neal was Henry's father and Gold was his), it was the idea of Neal walking around Manhattan with no explanation as to why. They wanted the audience to be like: "Are we watching the right f---ing show? Wait a second! Who and what is happening?!" They pitched me the whole arc of who Baelfire was for this season and I was hooked.
THR: "Manhattan" was a huge turning point for Neal/Baelfire. How did that episode kick off the rest of your character's journey?
Raymond-James: It was one of my favorite episodes this season for my character. It's an intense episode. To say it was shocking to Neal would be an understatement. Emma and Neal have unfinished business and there's a lot of hurt there. That was the first time they were seeing each other since -- as far as she's concerned -- she was left holding the bag, literally, and sent to prison. There was a lot that she didn't know that Neal couldn't exactly explain to her. This is still the woman that Neal loves so I have to protect her in any capacity that I can; if that means he has to suck it up and look into his father's eyes for the first time in years then so be it. Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin) summed it up best: "It's sort of like waiting for a bus to come and you've been waiting all day and all of a sudden four of them show up at the same time." That's kinda what it felt like.
THR: To say that the family tree is complicated is an understatement. How do you keep track of all the connections?
Raymond-James: This family tree is a f---ing wreath man! You're not going to quiz me are you? [Laughs] It's incredibly complicated. You really do have to draw a map with lines and pictures and it starts to look like an FBI manhunt.
THR: Viewers are aware of Tamara's double-dealing, but Neal isn't. Will his perspective on her change by the end of the season?
Raymond-James: Emma continues down the road of trying to wake Neal up. She has suspicions that are clearly founded -- but she doesn't have hard facts yet -- and she'll continue to try to convince Neal. Neal's going to struggle with being able to accept that.
THR: What's the likelihood of Neal and Emma getting back together?
Raymond-James: My take is that nothing is off the table. What I mean by that is that it's all on the table, anything can happen. These are two people who care deeply about each other and they have a complex history but they also share a child and they have those unresolved feelings and issues that they haven't been begun to address. Anything can happen. They could end up together or they could end up friends who co-parent together or not. It could go any number of directions. I would get in a lot of trouble if I narrowed it down.
THR: How has Neal finding out that Henry is his son affected him?
Raymond-James: Neal was a bit of a rudderless ship for a long time and the thing he coveted was family. It's sort of like getting to the goal line, they move it another 100 yards. When he finds out he has a son, that immediately gives him a purpose that he was always looking for. It's an opportunity for him to be the kind of father he always wanted. It had a huge impact on Neal and this is something that he doesn't want to screw up. He so badly wants to be good at this, at being a father. He's going to proceed cautiously with Henry's best interest at heart. His single biggest motivation is his son.
THR: There is a lot of Internet speculation out there about who Bae may actually be, with Peter Pan being particularly popular.
Raymond-James: You know that song "Cashmere" by Led Zeppelin? [starts to sing] "All will be revealed!" It's coming, it's coming! We're almost there. I think a lot of people's questions are going to be answered this Sunday and some of those answers you're going to get are going to lead to more questions, but that's the fun of a show like this. It's constantly unfolding. You gotta buy the ticket and take the ride.
THR: Also, what can you tease in terms of Bae and Hook's connection?
Raymond-James: That it's going to be really good. [Laughs] The wait isn't much longer.
Once Upon a Time airs at 8 p.m. Sundays on ABC.