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[Warning: Minor spoilers ahead.]
Tinker Bell is back and ready to help the gang on Once Upon a Time.
With Emma and Co. moving forward with their quest to rescue Henry from the villainous Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, they will seek help and advice on doing so — and how to leave Neverland — from the wing-less fairy, a proven expert of the land. In the Nov. 10 hour, “Dark Hollow,” Emma, Neal and Hook find themselves in search of the place where Pan’s shadow rests to capture it.
New Zealand actress Rose McIver talks to The Hollywood Reporter about playing an iconic fairy tale character, Tinker Bell’s “complex history” with Regina, her connection to Hook, getting back her wings and whether she’ll make her way to Storybrooke.
The show is known for putting twists on classic fairy tale characters. Were you surprised by where the producers Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz spun Tinker Bell?
In looking into the original Tinker Bell character that was written by J.M. Barrie, she was considered to have one-track emotions. She would be either completely jealous or completely excited and their understanding of that was that J.M. Barrie had written her as a character that because of her minute size when she’s a fairy, she would only have one feeling at a time. It was fun to play with that in Once Upon a Time, with the idea that while she can excitable and encouraging and good fairy, she also has a streak of jealousy and resentment. When that consumes her, it consumes her entirely. It was fun to bring that to light. It was interesting that that was rooted in the original character.
Are there other aspects to Tinker Bell that we may not be as familiar with?
That’s really the essential one to me, that she’s incredibly moody. She’s very all or nothing. When she’s irritated that [the group] won’t get [on board] with her with finding Henry, she can be completely off and really not supportive of them. But then when they come back and seem interested again and seem to have an option, you’ll be able to see where she goes with that.
What’s the status of her relationship with Regina?
That’s one of the biggest twists that they were able to bring to the original idea of Tinker Bell, for her to be the bad girl’s best friend. For Regina, who never has been able to hold down a friend, it’s pretty cool that Tinker Bell is able to show the compassion and understanding to forgive Regina in a sense and Regina helps her and offers her something in a way that makes it worthwhile for Tinker Bell to be her friend. It’s always interesting to be the character who empathizes and sympathizes with the bad girl, rather than looking at the heroes all the time.
In fairy tale land that was, had Regina made a different choice, her life would have looked incredibly different. Is there hope for Regina from Tinker Bell’s perspective?
What Lana [Parrilla, who plays Regina,] does really is she empathizes with Regina’s choices and she makes some decisions that aren’t just malicious and nasty. The guys have written that into the back story, that it’s born out of a feeling of displacement. When you have reasons to love and believe, even if they’re the anti-hero, you can bring that energy; especially in our stuff, Regina is not an unlikable character at all because you understand where she’s coming from. You hope for the best for both Tinker Bell and Regina, that they’re able to get their happy endings.
With Tinker Bell in Neverland, what’s the likelihood of her and Regina going back to their past friendship?
For Regina, to have anybody who’s really understood her well and has seen her fall, they have a complex history and they shared so much that there’s a real love between them because of that. I don’t know if it’s all smooth sailing, there’s going to be hiccups but they’ve invested enough in each other that you’re certainly able to hope they can keep their relationship moving forward.
How does Tinker Bell help in the group’s quest to rescue Henry and get off Neverland?
They’re not familiar with Neverland; Hook and Tink obviously share an understanding that she has been living there for a long time and she’s their key for Peter Pan. You’ll see in the next couple of episodes how she’s able to bring that to them and offer them assistance and what she’s able to get in exchange for that.
Who does Tinker Bell interact with that may be surprising?
As you’ll see in the next couple of episodes, she has history of varying sorts with several of the characters. Her and Hook have interacted in the past and we get to explore that a little bit. She knows Baelfire. You have to watch and see. There are absolutely surprises about her relationships with people.
It must be interesting from your character’s point of view, coming in as a third party with this motley crew who normally wouldn’t get along in Storybrooke.
Having Henry’s cause be the greater good, everybody does band together and Tinker Bell is able to see that. When her empathy is able to come through, she knows she absolutely has to help them for the greater good. It’s nice having all of the different textures and dynamics together because you’re able to see chemistry between certain people and certain people have tension.
You mentioned chemistry and tension just now. Does she pick up on the Hook/Emma/Neal situation?
Yeah, I think so. That’s something she does very well and Hook is an old friend/alliance of hers and she notices those things. You’ll have to watch and see how she helps or doesn’t help. (Laughs.)
Have the producers informed you of her complete arc?
They have to an extent. Tinker Bell has lost her wings and ideally she would love to have her wings back and be a fairy again. I know some elements of it and am surprised by others.
A big piece of her is missing with her wings. How far does she go to get that part of her identity back?
In the first episode where we meet Tinker Bell, she was ready to just about kill Regina. That’s her identity that’s gone. She’s a fairy and trying to recreate yourself — like anybody in another world — it drives you to a pretty dark place. In meeting all of the team that are on board to find Henry, she’s at least able to get a sense of family and relationships again. She’s able to see some good and some perspective in the perspective.
What’s the likelihood of her getting back her wings?
I don’t think I’m in a position to say unfortunately. (Laughs.) We hope so!
Is there still a question that you have about your character?
Absolutely. We’ve explored parts of Tink’s backstory but not all of them. Her understanding of Pan and the Lost Boys could still very much be explored and where she’s been with them. Because it’s told out of sequence a lot of the time, you’re able to find that as you go along and learn more and more about further and further back. There’s lots still to explore.
Should we expect to see Tinker Bell in Storybrooke?
You’ll start to get a sense of where that’s going with Tinker Bell. Sunday’s episode will give the audience an indication of where she’s likely to be.
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
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