"I am H-A-P-P-Y" – An interview with Once Upon A Time’s Michael Coleman

Actor Michael Coleman has made quite a name for himself throughout his career.  Not only is he Artistic Director at the renowned Vancouver Acting School, but he’s also been a coach to scores of other actors as well as starring in a slew of well-known shows such as  Supernatural, Stargate: Atlantis, Fringe and Smallville, to name a few.

Michael’s latest gig has been playing Happy on the ABC hit show Once Upon A Time.  He took some time off from the rock face to answer a few of our questions about the show, his role and precisely what makes Happy (and Michael) tick.

Can you tell us a little more about the audition and selection process for the role of Happy?  Did you audition for him specifically, or would you have been content to play any of the dwarves?

“Great question out the gate! I was not in the first few rounds of auditions as I was brought in for the final callbacks only. I like to think they were just saving me for last, like dessert, but likely I was a late consideration. (laughs). I actually auditioned for the role of HAPPY using GRUMPY sides; now THAT was an experience. Say these negative words… but happily! It is an honor to play any role on this entire series. Grumpy and Dopey have the coolest toys out there so those roles are pretty cool… but honestly? I am a pretty happy guy and this role fits right. Kind of like an old high school sweatshirt that always seems to feel “just right”.”

The dwarves in Once Upon A Time are much more kickass than the ones in the Disney movie. Did you know this going in or did it come as a surprise?  What are some of the main similarities and differences?

“We had no idea we’d be this kick axe! But with Adam and Eddy steering the ship we knew ANYTHING was possible. I am also a writer and have been a fan of these fellows from that perspective long before my chance to act in one of their projects. Episode 21, where we were fighting countless guards with swords, axes, crossbows, etc. is still my favorite days on set in over two decades of work. I SHOT A FLAMING ARROW!!! How cool is that? All of my brothers and I have done our homework on these characters and want to be completely respectful of these iconic roles but also like the opportunity to put our own little flavors into the mix. Season one had so much betrayal, confusion and sadness… when your name is HAPPY you really have to find your moments. I remember shooting episode 10 and the director yelling at me “Stealthy just died, quit being so happy!” and I’m like “but… but… that’s my name!” (laughs).”

The episode “Dreamy”, which focused on the dwarves and their origin, seems to be heavily entrenched in the notion of a lifetime of servitude under the hands of the fairies.  What are your thoughts on the purpose of the dwarves and who they really work for?

“Interesting take. I always considered the relationships more symbiotic. After all we do play a big part in making the magic happen. Truthfully, I am still jealous of Grumpy. How beautiful and amazing is Amy Acker? I’ve been a fan since Angel and Dollhouse and she was everything I hoped and more on the day. All of the cast is great. I remember meeting Emilie for the first time. My daughter (who was only a few months old) is named Belle and I loved her in Lost… and again, she was more amazing in person than one could hope. She is truly lovely and I am looking forward to seeing her again.”

We haven’t seen much of Happy in Storybrooke.  Do you think that Happy is happy in the new world?  Have you been given his backstory and, if so, how much detail can you give us about who he is in Storybrooke?

“I think Happy is happy wherever he is. Our back stories are still pretty hush hush… but as seen in the final episodes of season one… Happy is incredibly happy… until you threaten one of his friends. You wouldn’t want to meet Happy when you’ve made him UNHappy. He has an axe, sword, crossbow and shoots flaming arrows – and he is very protective of his friends.”

Happy’s ‘brother’ Grumpy fell in love with a fairy and it didn’t end well.  Do you think the fairies are a force for good in Fairy Tale Land?

“I do. There’s an old saying “If you truly love someone, let them go. If they come back it was meant to be.” The magic’s back and we’re all looking for happy endings… so who knows? (Any chance Happy and the Little Mermaid might…? Naw. Just wishful thinking I guess!) (laughs).”

In “Heart of Darkness”, we saw that Happy wasn’t very…well, happy when Snow turned to the dark side.  Can you talk a little more about his relationship with Snow and the significance of the dwarves in her life?

“Snow was going through a rough patch but the dwarfs will always be there for her and her family. She does have to be a little more careful with mugs and stuff though… I mean really? You can’t use one of the generic mugs? just saying’…”

Finally, what makes Michael Coleman happy?

“The two things that make me most happy are my wife (Michelle) and my daughter (Belle). In addition to that the following things make me happy (in no particular order):

Playing hockey

Board games

Video games

Tweeting with #Oncers (I am @1MichaelColeman)

Tea time with Ginny Goodwin

Macaroni & Cheese mixed with Baked Beans on Buttered Toast

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Handsome contests against Josh Dallas (Surprise, surprise he is winning LOL)

Great stories (watching and telling)

Meeting people from around the world who share my love of Disney and some of the other roles and shows I’ve been a part of in my career.”


You can see Michael reprise his role as Happy when Once Upon A Time returns in the fall on ABC.

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