Once Upon a Time likes to keep fans guessing by telling its characters’ stories in a non-linear fashion. We first met Baefire in season 1  back in Fairy Tale Land as the son of the Evil One, Rumple. He was next seen when introduced as Neal, the guy whose car Emma tried to steal.

In “Second Star to the Right,” the show goes back in time to show us what happened to the young boy after he went through the portal. While in Storybrooke, Neal refuses to believe Emma’s suggestion that Tamara is up to no good.

BuddyTV spoke with Michael Raymond-James who plays the adult Baefire/Neal about this pivotal episode for his character. This is an edited version of the interview.

After having a less-than-stellar relationship with his own father, how does Neal’s past play into his relationship with Henry?

When he finds out he’s a father for the first time, he’snot sure that it’s so much a do-over, but it’s the direction he’s been looking for. Finally after years, now, he has an opportunity to build the family that he’s always wanted, but was denied for one reason or another. And, he has an opportunity to be the sort of father to his son that he wishes he had had. And I think that’s Neal’s single biggest motivating factor is his sort of quest to capture this sense of family.

He has some rough edges to be sure and he had for a long time lived on the periphery of society, but he’s always had a longing for what he’s discovered in being a father. He’s always wanted that.   

He’s always had a good heart. That hasn’t gone anywhere despite whatever outward appearances on the package. On the inside, he’s a guy with a lot of pain and internally optimistic about reconciliation [with his own father].

Does Neal’s optimism play into his reluctance to see Tamara for who she really is?

Absolutely. It absolutely has to do with that. It also has to do with the eye sees what it wants to see.

In this case, Neal is absolutely — he believes that there’s no way a second betrayal on the level of what happened with his dad could be on deck. He has been so completely fooled by — he can’t wrap his brain around that being a possibility. I think that sort of the eternal optimist, a street-wise optimist, but at the same time deeply wounded in things like love that he can’t — there’s no way it’s possible. It couldn’t happen again. That’s where Neal is coming from. 

One of the interesting relationships, even though we’ve only seen a glimpse of it, was between Neal and August. Was it a bummer that August reverted to being a child for Neal?

As far as Neal goes, it’s really kind of a bummer because the one person who can really collaborate — there was more to that “Tallahassee” episode that hasn’t been seen. More to the discussion that Neal had with August around that typewriter and that alley than has been seen. There’s a whole other side to it. 

And, the problem is that the only person collaborate that is now a little boy. So, for Neal that’s a bit of a bummer. At the same time, he knew about the flaws that August had, he knows that August stole the money he wanted to give to Emma and the opportunity for this person to start over again and maybe do better, be happier — Neal recognizes that as an incredible gift and probably for the better. 

Now that Once Upon a Time has finish filming, what are you working next?

I’m on my way to South Africa soon to work on a cowboy movie starring Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffery Dean Morgan — who will play my brother, Ava Green. So, I’m really excited to play a cowboy. Every little boy wants to play a cowboy and be in fairy tales. I’m doing both in the same year.

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 pm ET on ABC.

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(Image courtesy of ABC.)

Carla Day

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Contributing Editor and Writer for Collider, BuddyTV, TV Fanatic, CliqueClack, and other publications. TV criticism, reviews, interviews with actors and producers, and other related content. Founder of TV Diehard.