'Once Upon a Time' EPs' Guide to Surviving Premiere Night

John Ueland

The co-creators of ABC's Sunday hit detail the celebration and stress, hour by excruciating hour, that they'll go through during the Oct. 10 launch of their "Wonderland" spinoff.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 


8:13 A.M.

BEEP. There goes our iPhone e-mail alert. Ratings [for other shows] from the night before have arrived in a lovely e-mail from ABC. We ignore this because we don't want to think about ratings. No, we just want to think about the glorious party we have planned for the evening to celebrate the premiere of our new show! We're not thinking about ratings. No. Not at all.

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4 P.M.

Any work that's being done ceases. Because let's be honest, all we've been doing all day is probably a waste because our minds are elsewhere. Sure, we've told our writing staff and our cast and crew that we're just focused on the work. The work is all that matters. We're leaders! Strong leaders! (We're weak, oh so weak and nerve-racked.) Yes, it's probably best we call it a day. We're one hour from airing on the East Coast and Central time zones. And well, that means one hour from hearing from the judges who can cut us down to size in an instant. No, not the critics; they've already weighed in. Our parents.

5 P.M.

The show is airing! It's out there! Months and months (and, in the case of Once Upon a Time, years of work) have led up to this moment. Now, all the control we thought we had -- writing, editing, mixing, color-timing, etc. -- is gone because it's out there now. It's no longer our show. It's the world's -- if it wants it.

5:01 P.M.

Twitter. Facebook. Tumblr. Jewishworld.com. We're combing the Internet for reactions. What are people saying? What do they think? We take a moment to reflect on our forefathers here … and the blissful ignorance they lived in when a show would air, and, unless someone called into the station with praise or anger, you didn't know anything until the next morning. Now? It's a real-time event. And it's a beautiful, insane, crazy thing to be able to see what a portion of the audience is thinking in real time. It's also the least healthy thing for a fragile psyche. Luckily, we're strong. (No, we're not.)

6 P.M.

The show is over in the east. Mom and Dad and Mom and Dad have called and said all the things Moms and Dads say. At least they're not telling us dental school is still an option.

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7 P.M.

PARTY TIME! Cast and crew gather before the West Coast airing. The excitement is palpable. Everyone's blood, sweat and tears have finally come to life. There's great food, a festive atmosphere and an open bar. We do everything possible to stay away from that because …

7:55 PM

… the Speech. It's Braveheart time. Rally the troops. Heap (much-deserved) praise on all who've gotten us to this moment. And show no fear. No fear that a cold, hard number in the morning is going to possibly alter the lives of everyone in this room. We're not thinking about that at all. Not one bit.

8 P.M.

The show is on. And you know what? Strangely, the neuroses dissipate ever so briefly -- OK, yeah, we did make a stop at the bar. But just watching the show through the eyes of the cast and crew is an amazing experience.

9:01 P.M.

Everyone is partying. A wave of relief hits. It's really out of our hands now. And whatever happens, at least we can hold our heads up high and say one thing: We threw a good party.

11 P.M.

In bed. Sleep will come easy tonight. No "aids" needed. We're relaxed and prepared for whatever comes. (No, we're not.)

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2:38 A.M.

Sleep will come. It has to, doesn't it?

6:45 A.M.

Wide awake! (Did we ever sleep? Probably not.) And now we wait -- for the e-mails, the phone calls, the phone calls about e-mails.

8:13 A.M.

BEEP. There go our iPhones. There's that e-mail. And there's that number. What does it say? What will it mean? Can we bear it? We look. And then, whatever it says, we realize -- for however long we're lucky enough to be on the air -- we're gonna have to do this again next week. Good thing we're strong. (No, we're not.)