Welcome back, Sheriff Graham!
Once Upon a Time turns back the clock 28 years in "Welcome to Storybrooke," to the first days of the curse with Regina (Lana Parrilla) in complete control — and the anticipated return of the good sheriff (Jamie Dornan), who met a grisly death in season one (via a Regina heart squeeze).
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For Dornan, returning to ABC’s fairy tale drama after a significant time away was like coming home. "It’s strange, but in a way, I feel like I didn’t miss a day," he tells The Hollywood Reporter.
The actor previews his return to Storybrooke past in this Sunday’s episode, discusses the origins of Graham and Regina’s romance and teases "a big revelation."
The Hollywood Reporter: You’re coming back to Once Upon a Time in a different period. How would you describe Storybrooke?
Jamie Dornan: Storybrooke is pretty much almost identical to how we see it up to this point. It’s the first day of the curse, so essentially nothing really changes from that point onwards. There’s a few references to the fact that it’s 20 years before [the start of the series]. The [producers] have been quite clever with putting in some music that’s on in the background at Granny’s, that lets the audience know that we’re dealing with a different time. It’s fascinating to see, from the first day of the curse, Regina had total control – especially over Graham.
THR: Do we see the beginning of Graham and Regina’s romance?
Dornan: Yeah. In season one, we see the fact that she’s in control of him, to a point, and getting what she wants from him. [In this episode] we get to see it right from the start. We can see just the scale of it, how easily she can get him to do what she wants. It’s kind of sad. It’s kind of tragic – to see someone get used, essentially, like a puppet. We see her at her most evil and controlling. Poor Graham, he’s just doing what’s he’s told. He doesn’t have the conscience to fight against it. It’s kind of hard to watch. I find myself feeling very sorry for him. It’s interesting, I think, for the audience to see the level of manipulation from day one of the curse.
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THR: Is there a glaring difference to Graham from back then to when we saw him season one?
Dornan: Not a huge one. When we filmed season one, he’s almost settled into his role as Regina’s puppet by then. He’s more used to it, in a sense. He’s been doing what she says for so long that by episode seven of season one, he starts to realize some stuff, question it, and talk back to her, confront her and go against her. It ends up backfiring, masterfully, because she kills him. But, it’s interesting when we see it from the start – from day one of the curse – because it’s new to him. He is very much doing what she says, but he’s not quite prepared for it.
When a father (John Pyper-Ferguson) and son (Benjamin Stockham) come to Storybrooke, no one is expecting that. For Graham, there’s that slight moment of hesitation and questioning, "Why are they here?," before Regina takes control, makes him snap out of that and forces him to be the sheriff and control the time and make sure he gets rid of these people. We see the naivete and his want to do the right thing. Then we see that he can’t really do that because he isn’t in complete control.
THR: What was it like jumping back into that character?
Dornan: It was almost two years ago, to the day, that we were filming the pilot. I got to know those people extremely well. I very much feel like I’m part of the makeup of Once Upon a Time. It didn’t feel that weird going back; it felt normal. In a lovely way, you slide back in. I loved it. It’s kind of bizarre to hang that leather jacket up and think that that’s the last time you’ll be wearing that, and then, lo and behold, you’re back in. It’s really sweet. I’m happy to be involved.
THR: There’s a faction of fans who kept your character alive even after his death in season one.
Dornan: That’s nice. Love from the fans is flattering. That’s what makes the show. They are so essential to everything involved with Once Upon a Time. If I have them on my side, that only can be a good thing. I’m not going to take all the credit; Graham’s a well-written and interesting character. The reaction to Graham’s death … I’m pleased that people are so concerned, but [joking] I don’t think we need to be calling the FBI or anything.
THR: Any hints you can offer for Sunday’s episode?
Dornan: There is quite a big revelation, in terms of the strangers – the father and son – [when] they come to Storybrooke. Their role is quite key to other things that we’ve already seen happen in Storybrooke. That’ll all make sense when you see it on Sunday.
Once Upon a Time airs at 8 p.m. Sundays on ABC.