Multiple original cast members are likely to return ahead of Once Upon a Time‘s series finale as the ABC fairy tale drama wraps its run after seven seasons, but one has locked in his reappearance: Jared Gilmore, who played Henry Mills on the series for six years.
Gilmore will guest star in episode 20 of the seventh and final season as his character, the original, younger version Henry (played currently by Andrew J. West), the son of Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla).
“We’re very excited to have Jared back,” co-creator Adam Horowitz told reporters after a screening of the Once Upon a Time midseason premiere Tuesday. “He’s in a lot of ways the heart and soul of the show. He grew up literally on the show and it’s really wonderful to see him back. I hope the audience enjoys. We feel like we have a fun adventure.”
Co-creator Edward Kitsis added that the hour, which Horowitz called a “sweet, emotional mother-son story,” will revolve around Henry’s choices for the future, and that Gilmore had to cut his hair to return to the role.
“He is getting into college and he’s grown up and it’s a crazy thing,” he said. “We’re really excited to have him back. I think in the opening of the year when we saw him get on that motorcycle, it was a like a different Jared. We’re going to show an episode with him before that in Storybrooke with Regina. It’s a college tour. Who doesn’t want to go on a college tour with the Evil Queen? She plays beer pong like nobody.”
Gilmore left the series after its sixth season along with fellow original cast members Jennifer Morrison (Gilmore’s TV birth mother Emma Swan), Josh Dallas (Prince Charming) and Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White). Gilmore returned for an episode at the beginning of the rebooted seventh season, which saw the character of Henry age into adulthood and placed the familiar fairy tale characters in a new city (Seattle) under a new curse, as did Morrison. Rebecca Mader, who has appeared on the series since its third season, returned as Regina’s Wicked Witch sister Zelena, and more cast members will be announced in the coming weeks.
“There’s an open invitation for every actor who’s been on the show to come back in the finale and so we’ll see who’s available,” Kitsis said, adding, “If the real question is will the final couple hours remind us of the first six years, then the answer is yes, but does that mean everyone’s coming back? No, because they’re real people with real lives and we can’t force them to anymore. We try!”
Also returning: the original setting of Storybrooke, Maine.
With cast additions come departures, however, and the final run of episodes will see casualties as Once Upon a Time draws to a close — including in the midseason return. The episode sees the life of Henry’s daughter, Lucy (Alison Fernandez) still hanging in the balance as Victoria (Gabrielle Anwar) sacrificed her to bring her own daughter back.
Once Upon a Time airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on ABC.