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The Disney-owned network has renewed the fairy tale drama for a full 22-episode seventh season amid what is said to be a massive cast reboot. Following news that original star Jennifer Morrison will not be returning, fellow leads Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White) and Josh Dallas (Prince Charming) are also expected to leave the series after its current sixth season.
Meanwhile, co-stars Lana Parrilla (Regina), Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold) and Colin O’Donoghue (Captain Hook) are confirmed to return after inking new deals with producers ABC Studios. Additional departures are expected to come following Sunday’s season finale.
The ABC Studios drama is poised to feature a big time jump next season, which will include The Walking Dead alum Andrew J. West and Jane the Virgin‘s Alison Fernandez, who will make their debut in the May 14 finale. West is rumored to play an older version of Jared Gilmore’s Henry.
The reboot comes as Once remains a valuable property for ABC. The series, whose live viewership has dwindled to a string of series lows in season six, has a massive SVOD deal with Netflix that is said to be in the eight-figure range. As part of the renewal, ABC and ABC Studios have renegotiated to reduce the show’s license fee and profit participation, with creators/showrunners Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis both signing off on the deal. Season six of the drama averaged a 1.0 among adults 18-49 and 3.3 million total viewers, growing 60 percent and 42 percent, respectively, with seven days of delayed viewing. The series remains a fan-favorite with a strong presence on social media as well as an important extension of the Disney brand, having featured a number of iconic characters during its run.
“There are set endpoints to different stories,” Horowitz recently told reporters, including The Hollywood Reporter, of what’s to come in the May 14 season finale. “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 understand that this could be the last year. 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.”
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