2:00 pm EDT, April 28, 2012

Exclusive: ‘Once Upon a Time’ actor Raphael Sbarge talks ‘The Stranger,’ season finale ‘blowing the roof off’

In a Hypable exclusive interview, Once Upon a Time actor Raphael Sbarge talks about the upcoming Pinocchio-centric episode “The Stranger,” Archie’s love life, the season finale, and Storybrooke characters that need professional help. Beware of mild spoilers for the remaining episodes in season 1.

When Once Upon a Time premiered last year, one of the earliest sneak peeks giving us a glance into the world of Storybrooke was the scene where Emma meets town psychologist Archie Hopper, who is walking (presumably) one of the 101 Dalmatians. In the fifth episode “That Still Small Voice,” we finally saw how his fairytale character became Jiminy Cricket, while in Storybrooke Archie broke free of Regina’s hold – and Raphael Sbarge blew fans away with his heart wrenching performance.

Now, after having been pushed to the background for a number of episodes, Jiminy Cricket finally returns in a big way in Sunday’s episode “The Stranger,” which Raphael Sbarge explains as being, “Primarily devoted to Pinocchio, and also obviously his relationship with his father Gepetto.” But luckily for Jiminy fans, “he factors into that; you’ll see a whole bunch of Jiminy. There’s a critical moment to the story moving forward, and he helps that along.”

Blowing the roof off

Sbarge also previews what we’ll see in the remaining episodes in season 1, and reveals that Jiminy will start to be “a part of the action” in a much bigger way.

He says, “Gepetto and Jiminy’s relationship plays into what’s going on in this coming week; some of the wounds in their relationship play into what’s going on. And those will be revisited for sure.”

And on that all-important season finale, Sbarge teases, “I can say that what’s going to happen – and I have to sort of tip-toe on some of this – but they kind of blow the roof off by the very end. That is what I can tell you.”

Archie’s love life

In terms of what Sbarge hopes to see in season 2 – which the actor confidently predicts is “in the bag” at this point – he admits that he’d like to see more of Archie’s personal life.

“We have a whole bunch of information about him in the fairytale world, but in Storybrooke he’s really been there in service of a lot of other folks,” he says. “The main trajectory of the story obviously has been about defining all of us and sort of getting the landscape of Storybrooke and this curse, and also obviously Operation Cobra, all laid out.”

But now that the foundation stones have been placed, what is there left to explore about Archie? “What we don’t know yet about Archie is what his home life is. It would be really interesting to see where Archie gets into his own trouble, outside of the office.” He asks, “What’s his daily life? Does he live alone? Was he married? Does he have any kids of his own? Does he have a love life, does he have a wife that died, we don’t know any of that. But I think that’s to come. That’s not in this season, but that’s to come for sure.”

However, while Sbarge is very keen to see the show explore Archie’s backstory and in particular the character’s love life, he admits that this may not be what the writers end up doing. “But wouldn’t that be interesting to explore?” he says, laughing. “There seems to be potentially an endless array of stories and directions that they can go, or go back to. Which just makes it very exciting.”

Who is next on Archie’s couch?

After both Mr Gold and David having come to visit the psychologist, Sbarge says he would also like to see Regina Mills on Archie’s couch, saying, “That would be fascinating, to have those things, begin to open that up.”

And giving another small hint about the finale, it seems like we can probably expect some more characters to seek out Archie for help after everything goes down. Sbarge teases, “I mean, based upon what’s going to happen which you will see, I would say that Archie has some job security ahead.”

He continues to preview the struggle he faces with Henry and Emma:

“I began the season being Henry’s therapist, but now obviously I’ve worked with Prince Charming, I’ve worked with Mr Gold, I’ve also, you will see in the coming episodes that there’s a battle between the two mothers. And being that Archie is obviously also kind of Henry’s counsel and support as well as being his voice and his champion, you will see a bit of stepping up and trying to help Emma as well and trying to counsel that situation. Because of [what is] evolving between his birth mother and obviously Regina.”

Prince Charming is the toughest role

Aside from Archie himself, Sbarge says that Mr Gold is his favourite character on the show, explaining that “he’s just spectacular.” When speaking about the other characters on the show, Sbarge defines Jiminy as “the conscience,” Emma as the “tough single mother trying to do the right thing,” and Snow White as “somewhat of a badass, and tough, not this sort of sweet, lily-white, sit-in-a-castle-and-knit-all-day sort of character.”

But out of them all, Sbarge reckons that Prince Charming is probably the hardest part to play. “They’ve created a character that, while he’s charming and all those things, he actually is a real guy,” he explains. “Josh [Dallas] has an amazing way of grounding him, and making him seem so real. But I think he’s one of the most difficult characters… because of his name. I told him once, ‘You gotta know, you have the most difficult part. That name is kind of the kiss of death.'”

A world to escape into

While Sbarge admits that when he tells people about playing the fairytale character Jiminy Cricket, “I hear myself saying it and I wanna giggle,” he finds that fans have a really personal connection to the show. When asked why that is, he reflects:

“One can say that we all miss the fairytale way of telling a story, and the way to understand ourselves though the story. If you think about people like Joseph Campbell who did early research on myths and the truths about who we are that’s contained in these myths, I think that’s what resonates in these stories: that we recognise something about ourselves that we are very excited about. Also – and gosh, this is gonna sound corny – there’s a lot of love and heart and passion.”

Sbarge thinks that one of the main things which makes Once Upon a Time resonate with audiences is because it gives them, “a world to escape into. I mean I loved all the JRR Tolkien books and I love Harry Potter and those kinds of things which had those fantastical, wonderful magical elements to them. ” In the world today, “Going someplace else that’s magical and wonderful is good medicine.”

Why Once Upon a Time stands out

“I have such admiration for Adam [Horowitz] and Ed [Kitsis] and what they’ve done,” Sbarge says of the Once Upon a Time writers, speaking about how much potential he thinks the show has in season 2. “The fact that they have actually been able to create a world that’s both intact, has its own very, very clear laws and rules to it and that people are so emotionally attached to is remarkable. The fact that we can make some kind of sense of this speak to these writers, and I think it could have been done so poorly in lesser hands.”

As for all the other fairytale film and TV shows out there, “Clearly there’s a theme culturally going on around the world, where people are looking to these stories and going back in their memories, and I think it makes people feel good. And feel perhaps better about their lives as well.”

And what Once Upon a Time does particularly well is create those layered, three-dimensional characters while staying true to the iconic figures of the stories. “The Evil Queen, now as we come to understand her… even though she’s doing all the wrong things, she seems to be doing them in her own mind for the right reasons. And it makes her so appealing,” Sbarge says. “This is the miraculous thing that they’ve done: they’ve set a table of characters that we both recognise in their strengths and their weaknesses. And in doing so we recognise our own.”

Once Upon a Time returns tomorrow night with “The Stranger,” which airs at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. The episode centers on Pinocchio, and we can look forward to Raphael Sbarge reprising his roles of Archie and Jiminy Cricket.

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