'Once Upon a Time' Star Ginnifer Goodwin on Snow's Latest Quest

Actress spills on ABC fantasy-drama’s third season

Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White on Once Upon a Time
Kharen Hill/ABC via Getty Images
Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White on 'Once Upon a Time.'
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This Sunday night, before the world says goodbye to Walter White forever, at least we can take comfort in the knowledge that our favorite fairy-tale characters aren't going anywhere. That night, Once Upon a Time returning for its third season on ABC.

For those who need a quick refresher: last we saw Snow White, Prince Charming, Rumplestiltskin, the Evil Queen, Captain Hook and Snow and Charming's real-world-raised daughter, Emma Swan, they were departing Storybrooke, Maine on a magical ship to retrieve Emma's son, Henry, from Neverland. Why is Henry in Neverland you ask? Two disgruntled humans who have personal vendettas against Enchanted Forest immigrants kidnapped him. As you do.

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Ginnifer Goodwin, who has previously charmed in Big Love, Mona Lisa Smile and Walk the Line, has seamlessly embodied the dual role of Snow White and her Storybrooke counterpart, Mary Margaret Blanchard, since OUAT's premiere two years ago. But despite this being a Disney-approved series, her Snow White is a way darker, more nuanced character than the one-dimensional angel of innocence we've come to know from the classic 1937 animated version. For example, this Snow is handy with a bow and arrow, and she's killed people – namely Cora, the wicked mother of Snow's nemesis, the Evil Queen Regina.

As the second season wrapped up, Snow's heart was literally beginning to blacken following Cora's murder (those with magical abilities have the power to rip the hearts out of still-living bodies in the OUAT universe, FYI). She was engaged in a constant inner battle between good and evil – though, as Goodwin tells Rolling Stone, if you're capable of evil, it doesn't mean you are evil. "Goodness is a choice," she says. "You're only truly light if you're capable of dark. And don't you have to have both extremes to be a full human? You have to choose light."

Still, just because Goodwin recognizes the struggle in balancing good and evil, it doesn't mean she thinks Regina's misdeeds should be swept under the rug. "I find myself very defensive when, [at] panels talking to fans or doing a Twitter Q&A, people will start getting on me because I called the Evil Queen a murderer," she says. "And I was like, 'Wait, wait, wait, how are you getting past the fact that she has not only murdered hundreds upon hundreds of people, and also has tried to murder my character several times? There's no way I'm not going to feel defensive about this!' I cannot sympathize with this character because I inhabit another character that she has tried to kill on occasion. So it's funny how these stories can manipulate in that way and really blur the lines."

But now that Snow and Regina must team up for the common goal of saving Henry, the apple-loving princess has a multitude of new challenges this season. She must work alongside her enemy, deal with the guilt she feels over killing Regina's mother and figure out how to balance her past as Snow White and the 28 years she spent as average American schoolteacher Mary Margaret in Storybrooke. "This season, for me," says Goodwin, "I think is going to be about [creating] a character that can make it all work. Because clearly, I'm going to have to let go of certain qualities in order for my character to achieve what she needs to achieve. So it's not going to be that I can keep blending everything together, it's that I'm going to have to start picking and choosing who this person is, so she can rise above what she did with Cora."

It's a good thing Snow's got a band of merry men and women to help her in her quest. "She still is not able to let go of the guilt," says Goodwin. "At the end of last season, it was about trying to heal her heart, and I think we're going in this direction that her working on her relationships with other people is what's going to make that happen. It can't just be a solo journey."