Jack Guy/Corbis OutlineJennifer Morrison isn’t sure she believes in magic. But with a career hot streak that’s taken her from House M.D. to ABC’s current fantasy drama, Once Upon a Time, no one would blame her if she did. The Chicago native plays Emma Swan, a skeptic who has been thrown into a world of princes, evil queens and ogres. She tells American Way how she makes the magic happen.
American Way: What is it about fairy tales that resonates even into adulthood?
Jennifer Morrison: I think the root of fairy tales is about self-identity, and the show has that foundation — every episode is about who you are, what your choices are and what those choices mean. We fill in the backstories of the characters and offer viewers the ability to relate or answer questions in their own lives.
AW: That aspect of your show probably provides a lot of comfort to people these days.
JM: We’re in a time when things feel like they’re falling apart or people don’t feel as stable — they’re searching for self, figuring out where their place is and what their voice is, much like our characters are. So I do think there’s comfort in that.
AW: Your character has gone from skeptic to believer. Which is closer to the real you?
JM: I’m a little bit of both. Emma will always question things to try to protect herself from unnecessary pain and, once she has proof, she’ll commit herself to a belief. But it’s certainly a hard balance for anyone to find.
AW: Were you big into fairy tales as a child?
JM: I grew up going to Disney a lot. My parents still go, even with all of their kids out of the house. When I was little, I had a pretty equal draw between Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. And this season, Emma’s been having her own Alice experience of falling down that rabbit hole, so it’s been fun.
AW: You guys are a very tight-knit cast. Is this partially because you shoot away from home in Vancouver, British Columbia?
JM: When you’re away from home, the people you work with become a really important part of your life. Ginny [Goodwin, who plays Mary Margaret] and I are lucky because we’ve known each other for years. She was already set for this project when I signed on, and part of the appeal for me was to work with her. We knew that if we had to be away from home, it’s nice to have a good friend there.