Peter Pan is back! And he just might be a changed man this time around. Robbie Kay, who plays the iconic role of the Once Upon a Time’s most twisty villains has returned to reprise his role… in the Underworld? When the show revealed it would be heading to a darker side, we just knew Pan, a fan favorite, would be making an appearance, and boy were we excited for it. He’s had a lot of time to think about all of those dastardly things he’s done on Skull Island and perhaps purgatory will help him see the light. Or not? One thing’s for sure, he’s sporting some Mr. Gold-like digs and we are totally on board with this more mature, mysterious look. Step up from leaves and green tights, eh? Whether Pan 2.0 is good, bad, or maybe in between, we’re eager to see this iconic fairytale back in action on Sunday nights on ABC.
The young actor recently came off of his stint playing Tommy Clark in NBC’s revival miniseries Heroes Reborn. There he was coined with the task of saving the world against catastrophic events, as well as the meddling of some pretty shady people. Villain or hero, Kay nails them both and had some great things to say about his time spent on both of his projects.
Kay was enthusiastic about getting to portray people who both save, and try to destroy the world and even teased at what’s coming up for Peter Pan on ABC’s hit series. From luring a group of lost boys to an eternity of servitude, to literally carrying the weight of the world on his teenaged shoulders, the English actor jumped at the chance to take on these two very different, but important roles.
In the words of Peter Pan… “There’s only one place you’ll be reunited. In death!”
To the Underworld!
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Obviously you’re a busy guy. You’ve played the villain on Once Upon a Time and you’ve played the hero on Heroes Reborn. Which side do you enjoy playing more?
ROBBIE KAY: Yeah, there’s quite a lot and I think my two different shows are kind of incomparable because the experiences are totally different. Playing a villain was quite fun. I get to play around with a lot of elements and I feel like you just have a lot more freedom with that, but there was definitely something very satisfying as well playing a hero and actually accomplishing something inside the show.
MM: It’s been awhile since you’ve played Peter Pan, but did you expect the fans to react that way and just love him so much even though he was this evil guy?
RK: I mean, I was looking at the reaction in general to the whole show and it seemed like it was the kind of show where it didn’t really matter if you were a villain. You know, people love those characters that have that duality and have an interesting background to them. You look at Rumpelstiltskin’s character, for example, and he was seen as a bad guy in the first season, but everyone loved him and it was interesting to see—he’s good, bad, good, bad—and everyone loves it. I was expecting a bit of a mixed response but I wasn’t expecting it to be as positive as it was.
MM: Oh, definitely. And you took on the character of Tommy Clark in Heroes Reborn and he got to do all this really cool stuff and save the world. Was it daunting coming into that already kind of established show, considering the large fan base the original Heroes had?
RK: Yeah, it was a little bit daunting because it was an established show and it had been off the air for a while so there were all these expectations to come back and really justify the original. But it was equally exciting and I was just really looking forward to getting onto a really great show and that’s what we did and we had a lot of fun.
MM: Is there any other character on that show you would have liked to switch places with for a day?
RK: On Heroes? I’d probably switch characters with Ryan Guzman’s character for a day just because that exoskeleton suit he had was really really cool. I could have a lot of fun with that.
MM: That’d be awesome. Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing a second installment of Heroes Reborn, despite—you know—there was a nice little set up for it to continue if given the chance. How do you think your character would have progressed if we saw the show wasn’t a mini series? Do you think he would have really come into his own or continued to struggle a little bit?
RK: I think that he’s learned a lot from what went on in the first season. He’s dealt with loss and he’s learned a lot about his powers and I think with a dark element to this character going into the next season that you’d see him be a lot more affected by what’s going on—a little more hardened. I think that it would be definitely a more interesting character moving forward and I think just a lot more mature in general.
MM: Definitely. Well, we’ll put it out there. Maybe one day we’ll get to see more of the show. Talking about darker elements—in terms of Once Upon a Time, you get to play this twisted spin on a classic fairytale. What was that like—did you do any research? Did you watch a lot of old-time films?
RK: I was looking at, obviously, the original story of Peter Pan and kind of researching through that and that in itself—parts of that were quite evil. He actually killed kids when they grew too old, so there was an element of darkness to that character in the first place and I kind of took it to a different place where it was more sadistic and more cynical. It was actually fun because I did the research, but I also kind of had a blank canvas and I really got to play around with a lot of things and just come up with different stuff and create the character and do my own thing.
MM: Yeah that’s got to be amazing. I loved Pan, I think he’s probably one of my favorite characters throughout all the seasons. What has been your favorite thing about playing him? Do you have a favorite scene or maybe a moment where you were just like, ‘wow, that’s a good story,’?
RK: Yeah, I think there were a lot of really good moments with him. There was a scene in episode eight where he’s confronted with Rumpelstiltskin on Skull Island, I think and that whole scene was just filled with tension, it looked great and it was just really, really cool. It’s nice when you see a little bit of backstory to them and a little bit more about his part to really get to grips with why he is the way he is.
MM: Do you have any favorite fairytales or stories that you grew up reading or listening to?
RK: You know, not necessarily grew up on, but I must admit—having been in Once Upon a Time now, I do feel more connected to fairytales as a whole. I think all of those characters I can relate to more as a result of watching the show and then comparing them with the typical fairytale stories that everyone else is used to. I just feel more connected with that world in general now.
MM: The Once Upon a Time gang is headed to the underworld and we get to see Pan again. Will he remain true to his darkness or will we kind of see a different Pan moving forward?
RK: I think a long time has passed between then so you’re definitely going to see a different Pan. Whether he’ll stick to his old ways or not, you’ll have to wait and see. But there are things that you would expect to have affected him and things that you’ll kind of go, ‘well maybe he’s had time to reflect on what happened’ and maybe he has changed his ways a little bit.
MM: Well, that should be interesting! It’s been awhile since you’ve played Pan, what did you do to get back into it? Was it odd reprising that role?
RK: No, I feel like getting back onto set just kind of flipped a switch and it all really came back to me. It has been a really long time. I didn’t really watch anything from previous installations—I did all from memory, but it was kind of instinctive because I was playing that character for a while. So, I kind of just jumped back into it.
MM: Nice. People probably ask you what your favorite superhero power would be if you were one, but let’s kind of switch gears and ask you which one you wouldn’t want to have.
RK: I probably wouldn’t want to have the ability to hear people’s thoughts just because ethically that’s quite a messed up thing to have. To have a crazy invasion of privacy into people’s minds I think is quite awful. And I think hearing what everyone else is thinking all the time might be quite a burden as well, especially if you can’t quite control that.
MM: No, that might drive you a little insane. Now, say you were kidnapped. If you have to pick one show to come and save you, which one would you go with?
RK: Probably Heroes to be honest. They’ve all got powers; I think they’d be able to get the job done pretty quickly.
MM: Right? They’ll just go—‘oh, he’s right here. We’ll bring him back now.’ So, obviously you’ve got an accent since you’re British and all. When it comes to acting, do you prefer to be yourself when you’re acting or do the American accent, or maybe another kind?
RK: Well, you’re never really yourself when you’re acting, but in regards to the accent—I kind of like both to be honest. It’s fun to switch it up and vary it. I’m really happy that I got to be American on a show for a while as well as British, so I think I’m just happy that both are available.
MM: That’s great. Now, it’s the age of social media and everyone’s pretty connected to their phone. If you had to give up using Instagram or Twitter which one would you choose?
RK: I’d probably give up Twitter just because I quite like taking photos and sharing photos and I feel more connected to Instagram than I do Twitter, so probably that one.
MM: Ooh, interesting. You attended Heroes and Villains Fan Fest in my neighboring town of New Jersey. We had a blizzard, but you guys really made the best of it and everyone was still having a blast. Do you have a favorite or most memorable moment from attending that convention?
RK: I think the most memorable for me really was just kind of being stuck in Manhattan for all of Saturday. I was in the city and by mid-morning they kind of closed all the roads and the tunnels so I woke up and looked out the window and there was nothing. All of the streets were just covered in snow, people walking in the middle of the streets. I went and had a walk around and it was just the most amazing thing I’d ever seen, to be honest. Just a city that’s usually so busy and so crazy and so full of people—to just have it totally desolate with no cars or anything like that—it was really quite special.
MM: That’s crazy. So once you found a jacket and you were able to explore, did you run into anybody? Did people notice you on the streets or were people just hunkering down?
RK: [laughs] No, I think people were too busy trying to get to where they were going. The blizzard was quite bad, I couldn’t even see where I was going.
MM: [laughs] Now, in terms of the convention, obviously there were a lot of other great shows and actors and actresses. Were you a fan of any of those shows represented that weekend?
RK: I haven’t actually seen Arrow or Gotham yet. It’s on my list to catch up; there are a ton of TV shows I have to catch up with, but I haven’t seen them yet.
MM: What kind of shows are you watching right now? What’s your all-time favorite?
RK: The last couple months I’ve been watching shows like Fargo, Man of High Castle, Mr. Robot, all those really really great shows. They’ve all been really good.
MM: If you could guest show on a comedy or a post-apocalyptic demon-y thing, which one would you choose?
RK: Probably the latter. I think it’d be more interesting.
MM: [laughs] Now, would you want to play a hero again or would you want to be a zombie trying to eat people’s brains?
RK: Probably a hero. [laughs]
MM: Right, that wouldn’t be fun, just grunting around, trying to kill people. To wrap things up, can you tell us anything project-wise that’s coming up or maybe just a message to the fans for people that are excited to see you again on Once Upon a Time.
RK: I can’t say much to you about what’s coming next, but I’ll say to the fans that are excited about the return—yeah, it is going to be a refreshing take on the character and I think it’s going to be exciting to see the character again and to see how he’s kind of changed a little bit.
MM: Well, we’re really excited. We loved Heroes Reborn and we’re excited to see more Pan and whatever is coming next for you.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8|7c on ABC