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Once Upon a Time's Jennifer Morrison Opens Up About Her Exit: 'Emma Had Reached a Really Beautiful Place'

TVLine logo TVLine 5/8/2017 Matt Webb Mitovich

The honeymoon was short-lived for Once Upon a Time fans.

Not half a day after Emma and Hook exchanged vows at the crescendo of the ABC series’ well-reviewed musical episode, Jennifer Morrison announced that if there is a Season 7, she will not be back as a series regular. That said, she has promised to come back for a singular episode, as needed.

Shortly after Morrison shared her news and TVLine relayed series creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis’ heartfelt statement, we hopped on the phone with the actress, who’s in the midst of rehearsals for The End of Longing, an Off-Broadway play written by and also starring Matthew Perry. In Part 1 of our conversation, Morrison delves into her decision — and expresses her regret over sending fans on a roller coaster the past 24 hours!

TVLINE | When did you first let Adam and Eddy know that you might not be re-signing this spring?

It’s one of those things where until there was a decision on the table to make, I had no idea what my instinct was going to be. You can’t assume that they’re going to invite you back, and you can’t assume that there’s going to be a Season 7.  So until I knew that there was even a decision to make, I kind of pushed it out of my mind a bit. And then once the decision was real, I did have strong feelings right away, that I had to sort through.

Obviously I love the show, I love the character, I love Eddy and Adam, I’m very close with some of the cast…. It’s a tricky decision to make, because all those things are very attractive. But the other side of that is I did six years on House, I did a year on How I Met Your Mother, I did six years of Once Upon a Time — that’s collectively 13 years of network television back-to-back, which is a-ma-zing and the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but it’s a grueling schedule. I don’t know if everybody realizes that we work 16 to 18 hours a day, and being in Vancouver for the show meant flying every weekend trying to barely see my friends and family every once in a while. For six years, I was on average taking 100 flights a year.

It’s worn me down in a certain way, and it made me stop and think about where I was at in my life and what I wanted and what my priorities were. As much as I love the show, I ultimately had to do what was right for me, and I need to be home. I need to be in New York in L.A., I need to be around my family and friends and have a chance at a personal life, and to have opportunities to do new things creatively. So I’m ready for the new challenges.

TVLINE | Does a part © Provided by TVLine of you feel that Emma’s story is complete? That she might have been servicing something else, something perhaps smaller, moving forward with this Season 7 “reset”?

I don’t know; it wasn’t like they pitched me a story that I declined. The decision wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in a storyline; it was a truly personal decision. But I do feel like Emma had reached a really beautiful place. By the time we get to the musical episode, I felt like we were coming to a very natural culmination of her story, that we were facing her happy ending. That’s always what I’ve hoped for for her, that we could take her on this journey, where she has had ups and downs, where she’s had to fight very hard not only to protect her family and herself but also to be vulnerable and to be open, to be a better version of herself. I feel like she’s really reached a new place in her life, in a way that felt like a good place to leave her.

TVLINE | Of course a lot of our readership this morning has said, “No Emma, no Jen, no Once for”—

[Interrupting] I hope that’s not true! I have no interest in this being the end of the show. I care about everybody involved so much. I want to see it continue, and I really meant it when I said [on Instagram] that I will watch the show and I hope everybody watches with me. It’s very sweet, the loyalty—

TVLINE | Their reaction Once Upon a Time Wedding Spoilers © Provided by TVLine Once Upon a Time Wedding Spoilers may have been in part due to the roller coaster they’d been on in the past 16 hours. They get the wedding, they get the musical, and then….

I know. I hate that that’s how the timing had to work out, but unfortunately this information was in the world and it was going to come out sooner rather than later. We all felt like we wanted it to come from all of us, not come from a “source “that we had to confirm or decline. I felt strongly that it should come from all of us, because we do all care about and appreciate the fan base. It would have been lovely to have waited until after the season finale, in certain ways, in terms of the storytelling, but I felt like — and I think everybody, from ABC and Eddy and Adam’s side felt like — we wanted it to come from us.

TVLINE | Was the season finale written knowing that you wouldn’t be returning, or will it merely allow for that?

I believe they knew [my decision] by the time that they were writing that. The other thing is, the show still hasn’t been picked up for Season 7 officially, so they had to write kind of not knowing if it was the end for everyone or not. So there was a delicate balance that they had to keep, which I am impressed by and I am sure put a lot of pressure on them. Because there was a chance that this is the end for everyone, and there was a chance that this was a “pause” before then the start of something totally new. But that question might be more for Eddy and Adam; I don’t know where they were in the process. But as soon as I was sure how I felt about [leaving], I let them know immediately.

TVLINE | The one Season 7 episode you have promised to return for, is it necessarily the premiere? Or could it come later down the line?

I believe it’s the season premiere; I can’t remember contractually if it was slotted as exactly that, but I believe it’s the season premiere.

TVLINE | In their statement, Once Upon a Time Spoilers © Provided by TVLine Once Upon a Time Spoilers Adam and Eddy gave you props for bringing to life “a brand-new Disney princess”

Awwww….

TVLINE | How does it make you feel to read something like that?

I love that, it makes me so happy. I love those guys so much, I really do. They’re such incredible human beings and such great writers…. They’ve been by my side every step of the way in terms of putting it all on the page and giving me the chance to breathe life into it. It means a lot to me. Disney is quite the corporation, in terms of their princesses. It’s fun to shift people’s perspective of what it means to be a princess. We started this show with Disney concerned about Snow White holding a sword! And we’ve come a long way from there. So I am very proud to have been a part of that change, and to be a part of that journey. I am absolutely privileged to be considered among the “new guard” of princesses.

NEXT WEEK, IN PART 2 OF HER EXIT INTERVIEW: Morrison revisits her favorite storylines, shares her leading man’s reaction to her decision, and more.

Want more scoop on Once, or for any other show? Email InsideLine@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

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