Once Upon a Time: Karen David on Jasmine and Aladdin’s Chance at a Happy Ending

Jack Rowand/ABC
Jack Rowand/ABC

The Evil Queen’s (Lana Parrilla) reign of terror in Storybrooke has just begun in Once Upon a Time. With the Charmings stuck in an endless sleeping curse and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) desperate to find a way to prevent her terrible fate, all our heroes can do is take on each curveball the EQ and Gold (Robert Carlyle) throws at them.

On Sunday’s episode, titled “Changelings,” Belle (Emilie de Ravin) enlists Emma and Hook’s (Colin O’Donoghue) help to prevent Gold’s plan for her unborn son. Meanwhile, Aladdin (Deniz Akdeniz) and Jasmine (Karen David) set out to discover how a Genie-less magic lamp can help them save Agrabah from Jafar’s (Oded Fehr) grasp.

The TV Junkies had the chance to speak with David to discuss the journey ahead to save Agrabah, what it was like to be cast as a Disney princess and whether Jasmine and Aladdin still have a chance for a happy ending.

The TV Junkies: What is the casting process for becoming a Disney princess?

Karen David: You know, this was actually serendipitous because the timing could not have been more perfect. I had just come off the back of doing Galavant and I thought, as any actor when you’re finishing one job, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen next.’ Literally as soon as I had that thought, my agent calls me and tells me, ‘we have a casting for you to go in for Once Upon a Time.’ My heart jumped a bit; I was really excited because I thought it would be the Jasmine role, but when I first received the breakdown and scene to read for my meeting, it didn’t say Jasmine, it said another character, Scheherezade, which is tied into the Sinbad storyline. I thought it was cool they were doing that, but a part of me thought, ‘Oh, what a shame they’re going to do this storyline and not the Jasmine and Aladdin storyline.’ What I didn’t know was that everything was incognito and of course they had to keep everything hush hush, you don’t want any leaks or spoilers coming out.

It was only when I got to the audition did I realize when I was in the room that it was for the role of Jasmine. I have a feeling every other girl in the waiting room knew it was Jasmine because they were all dressed like these beautiful princesses. I’m there amongst all these gorgeous girls, dressed up in these dresses, tiaras, with their hair—they all looked so perfectly put together—and I’m in these tomboy trousers, horse-riding boots and a paisley top with my hair pulled to the side because I thought it was for Scheherezade, who’s more of a warrior girl, who they described as not afraid to fight in a battle. I felt a little bit out of place, and then when I went into the audition room that’s when I found out. I had a fangirl moment and had to take a couple seconds to catch my breath because I was so excited, but at the same time very nervous because it was something I had always dreamt of playing since I was a little girl. In that one moment it all came crashing down on me: this is it, this is the moment where I get to read for this iconic character, so—no pressure!

TTVJ: If anything, it sounds really fitting for you to come in with street clothes. It’s much more reminiscent of Jasmine when she was trying to be incognito.

KD: Yeah, maybe that was the right thing to do? As we all know from the original storyline, she does want to explore the world and she wants to know exactly what’s happening in her kingdom, and try and see how the people feel about Agrabah and Jafar. She wants to see reality. Perhaps that was a blessing in disguise. [laughs]

TTVJ: Not only have you been able to play a Disney princess, you’ve also had the opportunity to sing original songs from Alan Menken when filming Galavant. What was that experience like?

KD: Galavant was such a magical experience in itself. Each show that you do, each of the cast, crew and creatives, they’re all different in their own wonderful way and Galavant allowed all of us to bring out our inner child where we could play—we were playing all the time, getting dressed up and playing make believe like you would as a kid. We got to laugh a lot and sing these incredible songs written by Disney king himself Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. It doesn’t get any better than that for that type of show. They don’t make shows like that every day. I’m just so happy and so honored to have been a part of something so special.

Working with him, I remember going to school in Toronto and being in choir and singing these Alan Menken songs and “A Whole New World,” and all the others songs from The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. I never thought in a million years I’d be sitting at the piano with the great Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, and him writing songs for me and my voice. One of the highlights of my career is being able to work with them, and we all became one big, happy family, so to go from being in that show to such a wonderful show like Once Upon a Time, I just feel so lucky and so blessed.

Jack Rowand/ABC
Jack Rowand/ABC

TTVJ: There are a few similarities between Galavant’s Princess Isabella and Princess Jasmine—they’re both headstrong and opt to take the future of their kingdoms in their own hands. Did you find yourself taking inspiration from Isabelle when playing Jasmine?

KD: I did. I mean, it’s funny, because a lot of people mention the similarities between Isabella and Jasmine, and they do, for all those reasons that you mentioned. They do have obligation and duty to their kingdom and a responsibility on their shoulders to look after their people and the well-being of their kingdom. In that respect, yes, there is a lot of inspiration from Isabella, but at the same time it was very important for me to separate the two princesses and make them very much their own characters in themselves.

There are a lot of differences too because Jasmine is based off, obviously, the iconic Disney princess, so there’s a lot to live up to that as well. But also adding in that Once Upon a Time twist, which they do so well, where they take these iconic characters we’ve all grown up with and place them in modern day life and seeing how they deal with the everyday challenges of the common people, or normal people. [laughs] It’s really, I find, so refreshing and exciting to play. They really humanize these iconic characters and we get to see them deal with everyday problems. It’s wonderful to see how Jasmine faces adversity—yes, she’s got these big, heavy problems of trying to find her kingdom and rid Agrabah of Jafar’s influence, not only on her kingdom but her father—but, at the same time, she’s just a girl who has met a boy and feels very strong for him. It’s so wonderful to see how she melts every time she sees Aladdin, but, at the same time, she’s got to balance her affections and her friendship for Aladdin with her responsibilities as a princess.

TTVJ: A big theme this season Once Upon a Time keeps circling back to this season is this notion that being a hero or a savior means having to sacrifice, and even making the ultimate sacriface. Do you think that’s true?

KD: I think, in this case, both Jasmine and Aladdin are feeling very guilty of the decisions they made in the past. They’re desperately trying to make up for that and are willing to make whatever sacrifice that is needed for the greater good because this is a kingdom with millions of people’s lives at stake. That’s a huge weight on Jasmine’s shoulders and Aladdin’s too. He’s no longer the savior and Jasmine now knows this and has to find other ways of trying to maybe find a side door to Agrabah to try and rescue her people and her father. There’s a lot of pressure on both of them right now and they’re very distracted by that.

I know a lot of fans have been asking, ‘well, what about the love story?’ I always think that if two people are meant to be, if they can go through thick and thin and face adversity together and come out of it stronger then that’s the true test of love and commitment and friendship. This is what lies ahead for both of them and I think that’s going to be really interesting and exciting to see how they both deal with all these pressures and challenges ahead of them. Hopefully it will bring them closer together.

TTVJ: I’m glad to hear there’s still a chance for a happy ending between the two of them.

KD: I mean, Adam [Horowitz] and Edward [Kitsis] always said that they will explore the relationship between the two of them and I love that they have gone to the beginning of their story, of how they met and the journey that they both embark on. It’s really exciting. I mean, none of us even know yet what’s to come. For me, I love a romantic story and I hope they have a happy ending, but I have a feeling it won’t come without a few challenges along the way. So, let’s see what happens, but if Jafar has anything to do with it, he’s going to make sure that there are no happy endings. He mentioned that in the beginning, where he does say to Aladdin that saviors do not have happy endings. So, you wonder, is it possible or not? We’ll soon find out.

TTVJ: Last we left off with Aladdin and Jasmine, they found the magical lamp. What can you preview about what’s to come for them?

KD: I think there’s huge significance with the lamp coming in to play. They both want to know what is possible with the lamp—we left off in the last episode where, of course, Jasmine immediately asks Aladdin if the Genie is in the lamp, because that’s their biggest ally and friend. He’s not, and I think it was a wonderful homage to Robin Williams and his portrayal of the Genie, but we don’t know what the lamp can still do or can’t do. Aladdin says that maybe this could help us—we don’t know yet. It will be interesting to see if that can be a huge significance of where we go in the future, but it’s so wonderful to see how Aladdin is trying to make up for his decision to use the shears in the past, where he’s no longer the savior now, so he’s now trying to do everything he can to step up and be the hero that Jasmine knows he is. In a way it’s good to see Aladdin where he doesn’t need to have these powers, he’s just himself. It’s wonderful to see him in very a humanizing way, as any other guy who cares for his friends and wants to do anything he can to help them.

 

Will the lamp help Jasmine and Aladdin find their way to Agrabah? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and CTV.