Adding to the ever-growing roster of new and returning characters, Sebastian Roché (most recently of CW’s The Originals) has joined the cast of Once Upon a Time. Due to appear in the second half of season four, Roché will play King Stefan, the father of Sleeping Beauty herself, Princess Aurora.
This is a welcome casting development as it indicates that more Sleeping Beauty – and presumably Maleficent – backstory is coming. OUAT‘s take on the Sleeping Beauty story only addressed the end of the tale, opening with the True Love’s Kiss between Phillip and Aurora and diverging wildly from that point on.
Maleficent (played by Kristin Bauer van Straten) had already been dispatched(?) in Storybrooke, so no villainess tried to thwart the reunion (there was a soul-sucking wraith on hand, however, so it all balances out). It will be intriguing to discover what happened earlier in that timeline and hopefully to find out what provoked Maleficent to afflict Aurora with a sleeping curse.
The casting of King Stefan raises some interesting questions about the story. Will this version of the king be a hero or a villain (as OUAT is so fond of classifying people these days)? In the Disney animated Sleeping Beauty, King Stefan is a good man, but never thoroughly developed. He’s a standard Disney dad: doting, kindly, and silly. In the recent reimagining of the story, Maleficent, Stefan is a conniving and wicked ruler who comes to power through harming Maleficent. Roché is coming off a stint as a very intense baddie on The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, and one wonders whether he was cast for his ability to be very evil… or perhaps the Once writers will play against expectation as they so often do.
In a season that will feature a lot of “The Queens of Darkness,” including Maleficent, I hope we will finally see what set off the Sleeping Beauty saga as well as some compelling and original backstory for Maleficent. I might also be hoping that Maleficent will be the Black Fairy that was so briefly mentioned in season three. When Maleficent is involved, anything is possible; the woman was slain as a dragon and defeated as a phantom (Zombie? Ghost??) and yet she is returning for more. I look forward to it.
Once Upon a Time will return to ABC in March 2015.