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Why The Role Of Robin Hood Was Recast In Once Upon A Time

ABC's fantasy adventure drama "Once Upon a Time" generated a lot of praise for its creativity and ambition during its 2011 to 2018 run. Fans found themselves invested from the start in following fairytale characters who are cursed to live in a "Land Without Magic": Taking up residency in the fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine, each character must learn not only to coexist but survive in a world they were never meant for.

While the series had skeptics at the beginning, it drew in many fans with its charming sets and refreshing takes on beloved childhood stories. Creating a world that allowed multiple fairytales to collide into one narrative under an entirely new setting opened up a world of possibilities. The vulnerability of each character in figuring out their new life made them relatable, and the drama series format gave the writers ample time to flesh out the overarching plot while also deep diving into each fairytale.

Despite the ups and downs of the show, "Once Upon a Time" managed to keep an overall positive reputation among fans. Constantly introducing new characters and new fairytales meant that there would eventually be something for everyone — maybe even an old favorite. Inevitably, Robin Hood made his debut in the latter half of Season 2: With many films dedicated to or inspired by the character already under the hood, there was no way "Once Upon a Time" wouldn't include the lovable thief. But the outlaw's road wasn't exactly linear, with the initiator of the role only appearing in a single episode before being recast.

Tom Ellis appeared as Robin Hood in Season 2

"Merlin" actor Tom Ellis first took up the mantle of the iconic thief in Season 2 of "Once Upon a Time." As many fans anticipated, Tom Ellis' Robin was smart, charming, and handsome — everything that a good Robin Hood should be.

While Ellis' stint in Season 2 was brief, it made a powerful impact. In the episode "Lacey," Robin Hood decides to go up against on-again-off-again antagonist Rumplestiltskin (aka Mr. Gold) in hopes of stealing a powerful magic wand. Whenever anyone faces off against Rumplestiltskin, they're playing a risky game, but Robin doesn't care about the consequences. After being captured, set free by Belle, and then pursued as he makes off with the wand, Robin is finally forced to reveal that he needs the mystical relic to help Marian, his sick and pregnant partner.

This introduction to Robin Hood hit all the marks. The episode showcased him as a risk-taking thief who usually steals with good intentions and highlighted that he was as much a lover as he was a fighter. It even included Robin's canonical love interest, Marian (via History). With such a moving performance under his belt, many fans hoped to see Tom Ellis reprise his role as Robin Hood. In Season 3, the character did make his triumphant return, but sadly, Ellis had been replaced.

Once Upon a Time recast Sean Maguire as Robin Hood

After Robin Hood's introduction in Season 2, he became a recurring character in "Once Upon a Time." With such a positive reaction to the character (per Yahoo), it came as no surprise that the series' creators decided to give him more screen time. Robin popped up throughout the show until his abrupt death in Season 5, but Sean Maguire filled the role after Tom Ellis' brief appearance.

The news of the recast was surprising, but co-creator Adam Horowitz spoke about the change to clear up any confusion. "Although we love Tom Ellis, unfortunately, he wasn't available. We remain huge fans of his, but because we have an arc planned for the character, we had to move forward," Horowitz revealed to TVLine.

Some fans were disappointed at the news of Ellis' departure, but it was reassuring to know that there was no scandal or any ill will behind his exit and only scheduling conflicts prevented his return to the show. At the time, he played Gary Preston on "Miranda" and would soon take on the title role in USA's "Rush." These, among other projects, left little time for any other long-term obligations. But departing from the series didn't slow Ellis' fantasy career down; he went on to star as Lucifer in the eponymous hit series.