Another star exits Once Upon a Time, even as ABC has renews its fairy tale fantasy drama for a seventh season. Once Upon a Time has been a very successful series for ABC since its debut in 2011, and a natural one for the Disney-owned network to produce given that it has uniquely brought to life several classic fairy tale characters; including, Snow White, Prince Charming and the Evil Queen (though the show has also featured such modern favorites as Elsa and Anna from Frozen). But with viewership down this past season, the writing has been on the wall that changes would have to be made, if the series was to be brought back for another year.
With the show on the bubble, the next chapter for Once Upon a Time has been unfolding rather quickly this week. First came an announcement concerning one of the show's core cast members in Jennifer Morrison, who plays the pivotal character of Emma Swan. Morrison leaving after Once Upon a Time season 6, but is slated to appear as a guest star for at least one episode in the now-confirmed seventh season.
ABC has now formally announced that it's ordering a full 22-episode Once Upon a Time season 7. The caveat, THR reports, is that the show is undergoing a partial reboot that only includes three returning stars: Regina Mills/Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla), Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) and Captain Hook (Colin O'Donoghue). Emma Swan's son, Henry (played in Seasons 1-6 by Jared Gilmore) will also return, but will likely be played as an adult by Andrew J. West (The Walking Dead). The season 6 finale is expected to help set up season 7, as the episode will introduce West and new cast member Alison Fernandez (Jane the Virgin).
Rebecca Mader, who has played the Wicked Witch of the West on Once Upon a Time since season 3, has likewise confirmed that she isn't returning in season 7, as you can from the Instagram post below:
To my Darling Pretties, First of all I would like to start by congratulating Adam, Eddie, Lana, Bobby and Colin on the pick up of Once Upon A Time! I am truly happy for you all and most importantly for the fans that will get to keep tuning in each week to see where they will take us. A lot of you have been asking if I will be joining everyone in Season 7, so I wanted to let you know personally that unfortunately I am not. This wasn't my choice but a creative decision of the shows that I totally respect and understand. The most important thing is that you all know how much you mean to me. I am told frequently both online and in person that by being a part of such a special show I have in some way changed someone's life. This is hugely meaningful to me. I am here to let you know that I am the one who has been changed. Not just by playing such a well written multi-dimensional character but by the fandom itself. I have heard your stories, your pain, your struggles, your achievements and I have truly felt you. I have learned. I have grown. I am a better person because of you, the fans and everyone that blessed me with this opportunity to play such an iconic role. Congrats all and thank you! I look forward to the next. I invite you to come with me on this journey. I am forever changed. And I'm wicked. And Wicked Always Wins. Forever yours, Bex ?
Morrison's and Mader's announcement are no doubt sad developments to Once fans, and in all likelihood they'll be getting more goodbye posts either before or not long after Sunday's season finale, including farewells from Ginnifer Goodwin (Mary Margaret Blanchard/Snow White) and Josh Dallas (David Nolan/Prince Charming). The saving grace is that show co-creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis are returing as Once's showrunners, and with any luck, they'll find a way for fans' favorites to return to Storybrooke, Maine – like Morrison – for a visit from time to time.
The Once Upon a Time season 6 finale airs on Sunday at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.