After months of speculation, Once Upon a Time finally heads to Neverland in Season 2, Episode 21: “Second Star to the Right.” The first part of the epic two-part finale explores what happened after Bae dropped through the portal. Rumpelstiltskin son apparently ended up in in 19th century London where he befriended Wendy Darling... and possibly Peter Pan?
Wetpaint Entertainment chatted with Michael Raymond-James (Neal Cassady) about the episode, and although he couldn’t tell us much about Neal’s identity — Is he Peter Pan, a Lost Boy, or a deckhand on Hook’s ship? — he did reveal something interesting things about Neal’s relationship with his dad, Mr. Gold, and more importantly his baby mama Emma.
Wetpaint Entertainment: What can you tell us about Bae’s relationship with Wendy and the Darling family?
Michael Raymond-James: Well, Bae wakes up in a strange city, in a strange place, with no idea of local customs or culture. He doesn’t know anyone, so as a young child, where do you begin? When you get hungry, you need to eat, so he ends up stealing and living on the street. There’s a scene where he ends up stealing a loaf of bread to survive. It kind of sets up what you see in Neal in the future, some of those same instincts. And then that’s where he meets Wendy, when he was grabbing some food to eat.
And he’s obviously still heartbroken that his dad chose magic over him.
Of course! Wouldn’t you be? It’s rough!
Is that why he takes to the Darling family? Because he’s looking for a family?
Sure. I think those themes are definitely addressed in the finale. It’s a pretty big one for Once Upon a Time — family and that sense of abandonment. He’s searching for a family group wherever he can find it. I think that’s one of the reasons Neal is so determined to be a good father for Henry. He wants to make up for those kinds of things so that Henry doesn’t ever have to feel like he has to seek that out on his own.
We also know that at some point Bae ends up in Neverland. Adam and Eddy have talked about how this depiction of Peter Pan is much darker than previous adaptations. Do you agree?
I can say that this depiction of Neverland is so interesting, and it is very different. I can’t wait for people to see it. It’s so good. Is it darker? Yeah, I would say it’s probably darker.
I love that we’re getting scenes with Bae and Hook because as we’ve noticed Neal and Hook definitely have some sort of past. Is it fun to shoot with Colin [O’Donoghue]?
Colin is my homie, man. We’re buddies. Everyone on this cast is just great. I’m really close with Morrison and Josh and Ginny. Everybody that I work with is just terrific. As far as those scenes between Neal and Hook, as actors on this show, we need to trust that the future will further define the meaning of the present. So sometimes there are going to be things that scene weird or cloudy, but eventually, they get tied together. It’s so hard to talk about this show because everything is so tightly woven. Even I get confused sometimes. In a couple of weeks, we can talk about all of these things with a bit more clarity, and I wouldn’t sound like someone coming out of a hangover.
Let’s talk about the relationship between Neal and his father, Rumpelstiltskin, played brilliantly by Robert Carlyle. What is it that you really enjoy about that relationship?
I really enjoy getting to work with Bobby Carlyle. I’ve always been a huge fan. But in this world that deals with magic and fairies and all of the things that come with fairy tales, being able to stand across from Bobby Carlyle and talk about real issues and abandonment and fears and all of their unfinished business — their baggage could probably fill a 747 — makes it fun for me as an actor.
Well, Once Upon a Time at its core is very much a family drama.
Absolutely. I totally agree. That for me is more fun than all of the magic and fairy tales.
Now, I’m sure you’ve read about all of the rumors about who Neal is and how he fits into this fairy tale world. When you got the role, were you anticipating that Neal would be some sort of fairy tale character?
[Laughs] What rumors are those? I haven’t heard!
There’s something about Peter Pan and possibly a Lost Boy...
I started that rumor. Yeah, that was all me. No, I’m kidding. Here’s the thing: when I had my very first meeting with Adam and Eddy, they told me exactly who I was and exactly where this was all going. So for me, it wasn’t surprising in terms of the overall direction. I knew immediately what I was getting into. There are always some surprises for the actors in terms of how things develop, but in terms of the big direction of the story, I always knew the character I was going to suit up and put on.
Nice! Did they tell you where the arc was going with Emma?
Yeah. That was addressed. What wasn’t addressed was how big of an arc it was. In other words, how long it was going to take to get from point A to point B.
Does Neal want him and Emma to reconcile and work things out?
I think Neal wants to make the right decisions in regard to Henry, and whatever that may be, he sort of is in a stage where he’s getting comfortable being a dad. So it’s not to move swiftly and decisively, it’s “let’s take my time and make sure that I’m doing it the best way that I can with the information that I have available.”
Are there some Neal and Emma scenes coming up that Swan Fire fans can look forward to?
Swan Fire fans? [Laughs] Yeah, I think so.
Don’t you love that name?
It’s great. I think it’s cute. I love all the names that people have made for the show. I think it’s incredible creative.
Would you say that you’re a Swan Fire fan?
I ship them all, baby!
Are you a Swan Fire shipper? And are you excited for the two-part finale? Share your thoughts and speculations in the comments below!
Catch the next episode of Once Upon a Time on Sunday, May 5 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.