Just when you thought it was safe to close the book on Thanksgiving 2011 comes one more reason to be thankful. When ABC’s increasingly addictive fairy tale adventure ONCE UPON A TIME returns on Sunday November 25 at 8PM, the focus of which will be the much-anticipated origin story of our favorite green critter not called Kermit: Jiminy Cricket! And here to preview what sure sounds like a fantastic hour of television is his portrayer Raphael Sbarge, who was kind enough to take time away from shooting to tease why it really isn’t easy being green.
After a handful of episodes primarily spent in the background, just how excited were you to get a script that focused on your character’s origin story?
Raphael Sbarge: It was both exciting and daunting. When I first read the script, it made me cry because it really moved the hell out of me and then I went, “Oh Crap!” I mean you go on Wikipedia and look up Jiminy Cricket there’s a whole story and at the very end of the entry is now, ‘Currently being portrayed as Raphael Sbarge.’ Oh my God, I’ve become a Wikipedia entry for this character that has been around for over 100 years. That said, the writing is so strong, the story is so wonderfully told, I mean you’ll be the judge of it, but I think it’s a magical episode.
According to the very ambiguous episode description, when we first meet Jiminy Cricket he wants to leave the family business. Which raises the slightly obvious question as to just what is the family business?
I’m actually not allowed to tell you that! But what they’re [ONCE UPON A TIME Creator’s Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis] doing is taking an iconic Disney character and really trying to define how it is he came to be. We see him in Pinocchio but we don’t necessarily know his backstory. In this case, what they tried to do is take a character, age him — there are two actors who play him younger and me as a young man — and show him struggling to kind of figure out how to do the right thing. And through his journey we get to see the definition of who Jiminy Cricket is.
From your portrayal in Storybrooke, particularly Archie’s relationship with Henry, one really is left with the distinct impression that the darkness in Archie/Jiminy’s own childhood is his impetus for trying to protect Henry. Is that a safe assumption?
Yes absolutely. By making Archie a therapist, what they’re trying to do is show Jiminy Cricket as not just a guy who says “No,” just because you’re supposed to, he actually feels wounded and that he sort of suffered a bit with his own decisions and there’s a struggle and genuine desire to sort of help this young man. What this episode does is sort of illuminate what some of that struggle has been.
This might actually turn out to be a stupid question and one that we should know the answer to from our childhood, but do you get to play Jiminy as a human or is he just a cricket?
Not a dumb question at all! Yes we see Jiminy as a person and we also see him as a cricket, but the majority of the show is really him as human and how he came to be a cricket.
And finally, one last question you probably can’t fully answer, would the Evil Queen have something to do with Jiminy’s transformation into an actual cricket?
What I can say about that is that if you remember the second episode, where I gave the file away — after which by the way I got a lot of phone calls and emails from people being very upset — what you will find is that Sunday’s episode is sort of a larger context of what the relationship is between the Mayor/Evil Queen and Archie. It sort of ruminates that in a broader way. What they’re doing — which is somewhat unique on television and sort of exciting— is that they’re giving each character an opportunity to kind of re-learn and sort of do a deep dive in kind of the motivational aspects of who these people are. So if they show up in a scene or two in another episode we have all of that context and backstory that sort of informs the foreground and background of what’s going on.
ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8PM on ABC (CTV in Canada) Catch up on past episodes you may have missed for free online at clicktowatch.tv