Actress Jennifer Morrison, best known for her portrayal of Dr. Allison Cameron on House M.D., returns to television this Sunday, putting a new twist on the idea of a fairy tale life in Once Upon a Time.
Set in the small New England town of Storybrooke, the drama alternates between a land of make-believe, full of princes and evil queens, to a parallel world in modern-day Maine, where townspeople remain unaware they are part of a fantasy world.
Morrison portrays Emma, an abused foster child who is the abandoned daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. Reuters spoke to her about the new series.
Q: Your new show is from the writers of sci-fi fantasy Lost. Are there similarities between the shows?
A: It's not so much that it's similar, but I do feel like they've taken some elements of the structure of Lost and used that to serve the storytelling in Once Upon A Time, kind of similar to the way the viewer gets to know the character in Lost through flashbacks. Everyone is in reality and existing in reality and the flashback element flashes to fairy tale land when these people were actually the characters who we are suggesting that they are.
Q: What do you think will draw fans to the series?
A: The show is incredibly unique and different from anything I know to compare it. I think it's kind of a combination of 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Harry Potter.' It definitely has elements of good vs. evil and there's fairy tale characters involved, but it's also very grounded in reality and focuses on people's very real, very gritty relationships with each other.
Q: How did you prepare for Emma because there's not a lot of people who can claim to be the abandoned daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming?
A: I've been reading memoirs by people raised in the foster system, and trying to take bits and pieces from each memoir of those who have been through that system, forced to move from home to home, who have had abusive foster parents or have really kind foster parents, but did not know how to handle someone being kind to them since they were abused in the past. It's been really quite fascinating and heartbreaking to learn about these stories and how these kids have had to exist in that system.
Q: You trained in theater. How does your theatrical background figure into your work on Once Upon a Time?
A: I've been acting for as long as I can remember. It's all I ever wanted to do. I was very lucky to grow up in a school with a great theater program, and I've been on stage since I was 5 years-old. I ended up going to Loyola University where I majored in theater, and then studied at Steppenwolf. I guess with Once Upon a Time specifically, there is a theatrical element to the storytelling, so I believe I can transfer some of my theater training to the show.
Q: Will Dr. Cameron be coming back to House?
A: Playing Dr. Cameron was life-changing in all the most amazing ways and I loved being on that show and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I haven't been contacted by anyone from the show about it, but it's a door I'll always leave open.
Q: What kind of roles do you hope to play in the future?
A: I feel like I couldn't dream up the great things that have happened in my life so far and I don't like to put restrictions or expectations on what's coming next. I'm always drawn to something different. I definitely feel like I am open from one job to the next and try to find the next adventure that has something new and different, hoping the next project will be even better than I can imagine.
Q: How do you spend your free time when not working?
A: I love traveling, shopping, concerts -- I recently acquired a record player so I have been collecting vinyl albums.
Q: So what's on your iPod?
A: Been loving Bon Iver, and their older album, For Emma, Forever Ago. St. Vincent and Dr. Dog are great, too.
Q: What would you be doing if you were not actor?
A: Probably teaching. My parents are both teachers and I've taught theater and dance in the past, and I do really enjoy the process and experience of teaching, so I guess in the back of my mind, I thought it would be nice to be a professor or teach theater at a college at some point.
Q: Do you have a favorite fairy tale?
A: I have several that I really love. I probably would have to say Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. Those are probably the two I was most fascinated with growing up.