ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland has called upon a very cool cat and voice work veteran, Keith David, to voice its Cheshire Cat.
Alice’s feline foil will first “appear” (or, you know, not) in the premiere episode of the Once spin-off’s freshman season.
Elsewhere “behind the scenes,” John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun) voices Wonderland’s White Rabbit, while The Who’s Roger Daltrey is reprising his Once role as the hookah smoking Caterpillar.
In addition to David’s on-camera work on TV series (such as the upcoming Fox comedy Enlisted, The Cape and ER) and on the big screen, his extensive voiceover resume includes the Saints Row and Marvel’s Heroes videogames, narrating History’s The Bible miniseries and Community‘s “Pillows and Blankets” episode, and the animated series Gargoyles and Spawn.
Wonderland premieres Thursday, Oct. 10 at 8/7c.
ABC entertainment president Paul Lee conceded to reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Assoc. press tour in Beverly Hills that Revenge “stumbled a bit” in its mythology-heavy second season, adding that new showrunner Sunil Nayar (who replaced series creator Mike Kelley) will “bring to us a slightly less complicated” storyline in Season 3. “The first episode back is a fantastic episode starting with a magnificent hook.”
Other highlights from Lee’s exec session:
NASHVILLE | Lee defended Nashville‘s super-soapy Season 1 car crash climax, calling the twist a “sweet cliffhanger… There’s an impending doom that leads you toward the car crash that is very Nashville.” In Season 2, Connie Britton’s Rayna will “really drive plot,” Lee added. “That particular rivalry with Connie and Hayden[‘s characters] is coming to a head. We’ve only seen a couple of outlines and a script, but we’re really happy with it.”
ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND | On the decision to launch the Once spin-off in the fall as opposed to at midseason as a bridge between the first and second half of Once Season 3, “We just fell in love with it. We were looking to build a real block on Thursday of empowered women… This is Alice like you’ve never seen Alice before. She’s a truly kickass Alice.”
DANCING WITH THE STARS | On Maksim Chmerkovskiy returning for the next cycle, “Maks is part of the family; he may well be back [next season].” As for how the competition series will manage with no more results show, Lee would only say that Monday’s two-hour telecasts would “build to a climax at the end” and still involve some combo of judge and viewer votes.
HAPPY ENDINGS | Lee called the beloved comedy’s untimely cancellation “very upsetting,” but noted that the show failed to “attract an audience on its own” after it moved out of the post-Modern Family slot. “We never found in the places that we put it [that] we could [bring] an audience to it. We couldn’t find its sea legs away from a strong lead-in, so that’s how we ended up on that decision.”
GREY’S ANATOMY | The long-running medical soap is not heading into its final season, Lee maintained. “[Shonda Rhimes] is planning a number of [season’s] out… We would like to see it on the network for many years to come.” Lee declined to comment on the future of original castmembers like Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey (whose contract expire in May), saying, “If I commented on who is coming in and out, I think Shonda would yell at me.”
CASTLE | When asked about Nathan Fillion’s recent unauthorized “day off” from Castle in the midst of a contract squabble with ABC, Lee deflected, “Nathan and Stana [Katic] are fantastic actors. We feel super-optimistic” about Castle‘s future.
SCHEDULING | ABC detailed its split-season schedule for its heavy hitter dramas, revealing that Nashville will return from its winter break on Feb. 26, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal will resume their runs Feb. 27, and Once Upon a Time and Revenge will come back March 9 — with all of the above finishing their seasons with few or no repeats. (Lee told TVLine that midseason programs such as Tricia Helfer’s Killer Women will fill those midseason gaps.) The new reality series The Quest, meanwhile, will at least temporarily replace Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Thursdays at 8) starting Jan. 2, while Resurrection will take over for Betrayal (Sundays at 10) on March 9.
If you were among those who at last month’s Comic-Con saw the 20-minute “drama presentation” that sold ABC on Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, you basically laid witness to the first half of the new series’ premiere.
After Alice breaks out of the asylum into which her father had her committed, “We’re going to actually go [back] into Wonderland” in that first episode, cocreator Eddy Kitsis explained Sunday at the Television Critics Assoc. press tour in Beverly Hills. There, “You are going to meet Jafar (played by Lost‘s Naveen Andrews), get more of the Red Queen (Emma Rigby) and get more a sense of that world.”
Co-showrunner Adam Horowitz meanwhile clarified the scheduling plan for what he and Kitsis dubbed a “psychedelic romance,” seeing as an ABC press release suggested Wonderland would finale by the time the reality series The Quest claims Thursday’s lead-off spot on Jan. 2.
Working off an order of currently 13 episodes, he said, “The plan would be to tell a whole string of episodes in the fall, and then we come back after The Quest to finish up the story for this season.”
Other hot topics from Wonderland‘s TCA panel:
* The plan stands to have Barbara Hershey at some point reprise her Once role as the Queen of Hearts, in flashbacks. As for Rigby’s frosty Red Queen, she will share “an uneasy alliance” with Jafar, seeing as they each have specific reasons for keeping Alice from reuniting with the genie Cyrus.
* In addition to the hookah-smoking caterpillar (again voiced by Roger Daltrey) and the White Rabbit (a series regular character voiced by John Lithgow), “You will see the Cheshire cat in the pilot,” Kitsis shared. Explaining the casting of Lithgow (who replaced Paul Reubens) as the time-conscientious bunny, Kitsis said, “John brings an incredible depth. There are layers to the character and his backstory that we want to reveal.”
* Although Sebastian Stan is in high demand and currently unavailable for an encore on either Once series, Kitsis said, “We’re never going to have a Mad Hatter not played by Sebastian.”
* The EPs explained that the events of Wonderland take place concurrently with original Once — which raises the question of how then Alice can live in Victorian England. “It’s not historical Victorian England; it’s fictional Victorian England,” Horowitz said. As with other realms visited on Once, Wendy Darling’s England, Dr. Frankenstein’s world and such “are lands of story” removed from time.