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Peter Gadiot Talks Genies and Romance In Once Upon a Time In Wonderland

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So much of the success of Once Upon a Time is based on love and romance, so it doesn't come as a surprise that the same holds true for Once Upon a Time In Wonderland.

As we head into the show's third episode tonight, Alice (Sophie Lowe) and The Knave Of Heart (Michael Socha) are busy trying to find Alice’s love, Cyrus (Peter Gadiot), who just happens to be a genie currently being held captive in a cage.

We were on the Vancouver set of Wonderland recently and sat down with Gadiot to talk about Cyrus’s journey and his experience with the new series...

Peter Gadiot Photo

On getting more of Cyrus’ backstory... 

Peter Gadiot: It's been surprising. Basically the surprise is that a lot of the information about Cyrus' back-story actually is going to be held until later in the season. It's an interesting thing. I'm not sure why but I'm sure there's a master plan. We learn more of the backstory of some of the other characters quite early in the season, but Cyrus is kept mysterious…I think he wasn't always the way we see him of being this always the pure hero type.

On getting Alice and Cyrus together sooner than later...

PG: That's the thing. Probably not as much as people would expect or maybe as much as they would have liked. I guess in a way it's clever enough and [we] don't spend as much time together as people want and that increases the desire for us to be reunited. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, so we're not together but it's very clear that the whole drive of the story…like Alice's every scene is about being with Cyrus. When that finally does happen, it's going to be big fun. Think about all that shit that has gone into the journeys and what we've overcome.

On how genies function in Wonderland…

PG: The creators very much said they were going to explore the genie mythology more. We have in terms of one aspect, but in terms of where they originally come from, we haven't got there yet. We haven't found out how Cyrus gets in the bottle yet. We are going to find out for sure, but that's been held back again for the second half of the season.

It's like little bits that they've put forth but it hasn't fully expanded. I hope it will be because some of the questions are meant to ask and have answered by the genies. Where do they come from? What do they do? It's a good opportunity to create a bit more of this mythology.

On whether Cyrus keeps the faith that he and Alice will be reunited…

PG: Yeah, that's a good question. It fluctuates, I think is the answer. I think ultimately there is a sense of overwhelming belief in their love. However the circumstances and the forces against them are very dark and strong. I don't think he necessarily gives up hope, but he might choose, at certain stages, a path that he believes is better for Alice, a kind of self-sacrificing way.

Obviously with each episode things change and they're adapting to the nougats of information that they've got, what they think might have happened to each other, and how that affects them.

On working with iconic characters like Jafar and Alice…

PG: Yeah, they're very different. I think what they're trying to do is very much stay away from any previous incarnation of all the characters. There are subtle hints like Jafar has the serpent's staff and things like this. In terms of how we act, Alice is very different to other Alices. Cyrus is certainly not like that genie.

They very much wanted [Cyrus] to have that wisdom that comes from hundreds of years of seeing humans and their flaws but also to have him be slightly discombobulated by the new arrival of Alice. I think in the first few episodes that is his journey of being someone who has a lot of calm and poise to someone who's shaken up and confused. He almost has a new adolescence in a way, when Alice comes and there are new things. That's an interesting journey.

Then, of course, when they're separated it's a new place for him to try and keep that wisdom but also this fear of losing someone he loves. It's a fine line and he crosses between the wisdom and this very humanlike fear and confusion.

On whether Cyrus and Jafar have a relationship…

PG: Yes. They do. It's mentioned. I definitely have spoken to Alice about Jafar. She knows about him through me. But we haven't seen the origins of their relationship yet. That again will come in the second half of the series.

On getting used to working with green screen…

PG: At first it's very tricky. It's a really unique skill, you know? I guess in very simple terms, a kind of thing you want to do as an actor is just to believe in yourself and in the situation you're putting yourself in. If you've got a huge green box that you're in, your mind is saying this is green. This is weird. This isn't real. What are you doing?

So you have this extra thing in your mind that you have to say shut up. Forget about it. Don't look at the green. Just focus on them. It's a skill, which is definitely something that I'm improving on. A lot of the big productions now have elements of green screens. It's a good thing that I'm working on it because I'm sure at some point I'll be doing some big movie where I'll have to fight off a dragon or something. I'll be like got it.

On the mystery of Cyrus…

PG: I think what's important is that Cyrus doesn't try to be mysterious. He's not like ‘oh no, I'm not going to answer those questions.’ It's just the fact that we genuinely don't know about him and what's going to come. Even after episode seven [which they were shooting at the time of this set visit] we still know very little about Cyrus. I 'm hoping by the end of it, by episode 16, we will know everything. It's very much a slow burn.

It also helps create that singular focus that Alice and Cyrus have, because both of them hadn't had anyone. But Alice is very much alone as well. She has this family in England but they've essentially discarded her and she's alone with her thoughts or the reality of Wonderland. Cyrus is alone and that's why they're like we found each other, now…there's a very strong connection between them, which is very pure and simple. All the shit that come in the way, the Red Queen, the Knave and Jafar, they try to get in the way.

That's what's genuinely cool about this series is that other series are actually too complicated. There's just too much shit going on. This one has a very simple dynamic that we can follow and each thing we know what's going to happen. It's a benefit.

Once Upon a Time In Wonderland airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Great interview! Hope the show gets to go all 16 episodes cause I'm really enjoying it!

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Cyrus's brother and sister?
Alice's mom?
Jafar's dad, mom and love interest?
Red Queen's mom , sister and love interest?