Once Upon a Time faced its latest test at Comic-Con panel on Saturday, when it presented its "rebooted" season seven for the fans in San Diego -- the first without several of its departed original series regulars.
But things got off to a rocky start when a vocal fan yelled out at the top of the panel, "Why?!," likely referencing the cast shakeup, which saw the exits of Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas and Emilie de Ravin. Moderator Yvette Nicole Brown shut down the fan, warning the passionate audience that negativity was going to be condoned.
After the hiccup, executive producers Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz echoed their remarks at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, last Saturday, reassuring fans that this new season -- which introduces several new actors to the fold -- isn't a redo but "a new adventure" and promising that the last six seasons will "not be erased."
"It almost feels like we're starting the show afresh because it's a new version of the show, so it's almost like we're starting over," said star Colin O'Donoghue, who plays Captain Hook.
Attendees in Ballroom 20 were treated to an exclusive screening of the first two scenes from the season seven premiere, which opens with young Henry (Jared Gilmore) saying goodbye to Regina (Lana Parrilla) as he leaves home -- on a new motorcycle ("August taught me how [to ride]," he says to a worried Regina) -- in search of new adventures.
In the next scene, it's "years later" in "another realm," and we see adult Henry (Andrew J. West) riding through the woods on the same motorcycle, nearly crashing into Cinderella's (Dania Ramirez) carriage, whom he will later marry and have a daughter with. Oops! Adult Henry takes a look at her glass slippers and it all starts to click: "Cinderella?"
After the screening, O'Donoghue had a gripe about the second scene shown, asking this fair plot question: "Where did Henry get the gas for the motorcycle from?" Kitsis hilariously feigned annoyance, joking that there's an Exxon in between realms and that it'll be written into "episode five, thanks to Colin!" "I've just got myself fired," O'Donoghue adorably quipped.
Fans also met three of the new stars, West, Ramirez and Gabrielle Anwar, who plays Lady Tremaine. Though West had a previous relationship with Kitsis and Horowitz through their Freeform show, Dead of Summer, Ramirez and Anwar auditioned.
Kitsis provided more details on how the returning regulars, O'Donoghue, Parrilla and Robert Carlyle, join the fold. "The three people that you see on this stage come to [Henry's] rescue. It's really these three and Henry on this epic adventure and that's Once Upon a Time," he shared.
Additionally, it was revealed that Mekia Cox will play Princess Tiana; Adelaide Kane will play Drizella, one of Cinderella's evil stepsisters; Rose Reynolds will play a new version of Alice in Wonderland "since no one watched the spinoff [Once Upon a Time in Wonderland]."
As for plans for a "prominent" LGBTQ storyline, Kitsis promised that it will come sooner, rather than later. "We are planning to do it this year," he said.
Once Upon a Time premieres Friday, Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.