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‘Once Upon a Time’ Creators Talk Series Finale – and Why They Don’t Regret the Season 7 Reboot

Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis tell TheWrap about closing their seven-season fairytale with the return of their OG cast

(Spoiler alert: Please do not read ahead unless you’ve watched through last week’s episode of “Once Upon a Time.” Don’t worry, you’re safe if you haven’t seen the finale yet — that’s tonight.)

We’ve almost reached the very end of the storybook — and what we can only assume will be a happily ever after — for the characters in “Once Upon a Time.”

But before the series finale of the ABC fantasy, titled “Leaving Storybrooke,” airs tonight, creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis answered a few questions for TheWrap about how they plan to close the seven-season fairytale. And that includes one fans (like this reporter) have been wondering since we learned in February that the current installment would be the last: Do they regret rebooting the show last fall after several of the main characters, including Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, exited?

“Well, you know, not really, because we knew three actors were leaving,” Kitsis told TheWrap Thursday. “So we decided that it would be better to honor the first six seasons and try something new, than to just kind of create some excuse about why we’re in Storybrooke and the Charmings (Goodwin and Dallas) and Emma (Morrison) are gone. It’s obvious that, had they not left, then we probably wouldn’t have done the reboot.”

Though leads Lana Parrilla (Regina Mills/Roni), Colin O’Donoghue (Captain Hook/Rogers) and Robert Carlyle (Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold) all stayed to lead the current season, Kitsis added that they knew rolling the dice on a game-changer like that last fall put them in a place to be canceled.

“Going into Season 7 with a new cast as a reboot, you always have to plan for it to be the last season or you would be irresponsible,” he said. “So we knew this was a possibility. And ABC let us know in early December or January, so that we were able to finish out the story that we were telling in Seattle and then transition to the finale. So we had enough time to actually be able to do what we wanted on both sides.”

In March, the series announced that Morrison (Emma Swan), Goodwin (Snow White/Mary Margaret), Dallas (Prince Charming/David), Emilie de Ravin (Belle/Lacey) and Jared S. Gilmore (Henry) — who all departed the series at the end of the sixth season — would be making an appearance in the series finale.

They would also be joined by some recurring stars, including JoAnna Garcia Swisher as Ariel, Tony Amendola as Marco/Gepetto, Lee Arenberg as Leroy/Grumpy, Robbie Kay as Peter Pan, Sean Maguire as Robin Hood, Victoria Smurfit as Cruella de Vil and Keegan Tracy as Mother Superior, who are all set to appear in one or both of the ABC drama’s final two hours tonight.

And that was truly what Kitsis and Horowitz were hoping would happen when it came time to say goodbye.

“For a long time we had a sense of how we wanted to end the series,” Kitsis said. “The end of Season 6 we looked at as a finale for the story we told for the first six years, but we had always had these thoughts about how we’d wrap the whole thing up. So, thankfully, ABC gave us enough notice to really plan it well and to be able to execute what we wanted and we were able to get as many of our legacy characters back as we could.”

And combining those old and this season’s new stars — Andrew J. West (grown-up Henry Mills), Dania Ramirez (Cinderella/Jacinda Vidrio), Alison Fernandez (Lucy Mills), Mekia Cox (Tiana/Sabine) set brought all the feels — in a good way.

“It was really emotional,” Horowitz said of having everyone in one place. “There was just the reunion aspect, the cast members and crew who we’d spent many years with. And then, as far as the new cast members, I think they really slipped into the ‘Once Upon a Time’ world so naturally that they really got along. And it really was a joy and emotional shooting the finale. But everybody was into it and working hard and just really wanting to give their all, wanting to give the fans one last adventure.”

“We just wanted to please ourselves and the fans and be able to look back and say, ‘Yeah, that was the finale we wanted. We left it all on the field. We feel good about the journey. Let’s move on to the next,'” Kitsis added.

The “Once Upon a Time” series finale airs tonight, Friday, at 8/7 c on ABC.