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Once Upon a Time in Wonderland: Naveen Andrews on the Complexity of Evil, Surprises Ahead

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Things get curiouser and curiouser on Once Upon a Time in Wonderland this week, as Jafar ends up pursuing Alice in the mythical land.

Lost alum Naveen Andrews joined the cast as the iconic genie and took the time to chat about the complexity of evil and how Wonderland may just surprise fans when they least expect it.

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As a fan of Once Upon a Time, I love how the show takes these iconic characters that we think we know so well and gives them an entirely new twist. Can we expect the same in Wonderland?
Then hopefully you'll like our show if that's one of the things that you like because that's exactly what we've done. Especially with Jafar because that's the one I'm most familiar with. Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kistis had wanted to create this character and then show the audience something that they've never seen before.

Can you share any back story on Jafar? Am I correct in guessing that he may not have always been evil?
Even the members of the Third Reich, even though they're remembered today and rightly so with an almost supernatural sort of intensity in terms of the level of evil that they achieved, at one point they were all children, weren't they? I mean, they all had a childhood.

Jafar Faces Off

What attracted you to Once Upon a Time in Wonderland?
The most important thing was Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis because I'd worked with them obviously on Lost. And they'd both written one of my favorite episodes where Sayid is made to take LSD with interesting results. I remember really enjoying doing that and also when it comes to writing they tend to be quite dangerous and daring on network TV. So there was that kind of intimate familiarity with their work and the fact that they are prepared to push intrigues me.

Why is Jafar in Wonderland and what's driving him to find Alice?
It should be sort of gradually revealed, the specifics of what he's going for.  In a very general sense I think it's about the nature of power and the acquisition of power. It seems that from the dawn of time people are fascinated by power.

I'd assume there's a fair amount of special effects and green screen work on this show. Do you find that a challenge?
I'd never done as much. I'd done it before but in terms of my spending 12 to 14 hours surrounded by blue or green, that was new. I actually think me and Emma Rigby did it for most of the first couple of days and it definitely strains your eye. Our eyes were watering in scenes where they shouldn't have been. It's strange but you get used to it. And in a strange way it's quite freeing because you get to use your imagination which adds an interesting dimension to the work.

Everything about this show is so opulent and over the top. It's a whole different world. What was your reaction when you first saw Jafar's outfit and that staff?
I'd worked with Eduardo (Castro) twice before in two movies. So I knew creatively that he's one of those costume designers that's very rare. Where they are on board with the actor and it seems that there's a sort of recognition that the costumes that is really, as it should be, a vital part of what you're trying to create. Especially in this show, it's incredibly important how these characters look. So the fact that they have Eduardo was such a relief to me. I think it kind of stands or falls…in order for a piece to work, it is advisable to have good actors at the best of times but in this particular piece I think the costume is vitally important.

Anything else you can tease us about for the upcoming season?
Oh my god! You know, it surprised me in the sense that…I'm not a curmudgeon really but it's difficult to get me to be like…I'll just say that as you move through the season there's a a rhythm or what you think is a rhythm to the episodes and you think you can assess the rhythm and know what to expect. Well, I went back to LA for five days and got this episode we're doing right now and I was genuinely surprised. I was like, this is great! I remember that during Lost as well.

There was an episode, I think it was when the light went on in the hatch and reading it and thinking, that's brilliant. And I got that feeling with this episode and I think that's a good sign. If you can get the actor to say, hey, that's good. That's really f*cking good. I'm sure the audience can feel it too. I will say that it's hard for me to be surprised at this stage so it must be good then.

C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.

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