Sean Maguire would appear to be having a fairy-tale career. The English-born actor, who shoots arrows into swooning viewers’ hearts as Robin Hood on “Once Upon a Time,” was recently promoted from guest star to cast member. The high-profile gig follows success as a washed-up footballer on the internationally beloved soap opera “EastEnders,” racking up eight top 40 singles on the U.K. charts in the mid-’90s and bossing around Martin Short as the title character in the 2001 TV movie “Prince Charming.”
But fame isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, the 39-year actor told us recently from Vancouver, where he was taking a rare day off from shooting the ABC hit. The series, which also features iconic characters such as Rumplestiltskin and Merlin trying to negotiate the real world, returns for its fifth season Sunday.
Q: Is this a good time to talk?
A: It’s an excellent time. I’m just here tending to my 8-week-old baby, so you may hear some goo-goo, gaa-gaa-ing.
Q: That would still make him more articulate than a lot of celebrities I’ve talked to.
A: Yes, he’ll probably be more articulate than me.
Q: Robin Hood is such a familiar figure in TV and film. Did you draw on other interpretations?
A: Not really. I didn’t approach him as an iconic figure. I saw him as a single father and a leader of men with a dark past, although we haven’t gone into that yet on the show.
Q: Do you have a favorite past portrayal of Robin Hood?
A: I thought the movie Kevin Costner made was fabulously silly. I really enjoyed it. I’m glad he didn’t attempt to do an English accent. I think Russell Crowe is wonderful, and, I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but when he did it, I couldn’t figure out what accent he was trying to do.
Q: Your Robin Hood, and the series in general, isn’t terribly violent or graphic. That’s kind of the exception on TV these days. Why is it working?
A: This might sound like a cliché from a new dad, but I think there’s something to be said for sitting on the sofa with your kids or grandparents and not having to worry about something being too racy. There used to be “The Wonderful World of Disney” where you could have a cup of tea and watch with the whole family. That kind of stuff doesn’t really exist anymore. I travel around the world meeting fans, and I’m surprised by how passionate they are about the show.
Q: You got more than a taste of fame during your year on “EastEnders.” I’m not sure Americans understand how big that show is in the rest of the world.
A: At the time when I shot it, there were about 60 million people living in Great Britain, and 25 million of them were watching twice a week. But being recognizable has its ups and downs. In England, there are two forms of adorations: “I love you” and “That’s the [expletive] on TV. Let’s get him.” I got punched in the face on an almost weekly basis. It put me off fame for a bit.
Q: Is that one of the reasons you retired from singing?
A: The truth is I wasn’t particularly good at it. I was offered a record deal because of “EastEnders,” and I turned it down. Then I was in a bad motorcycle accident, nearly died. While I was in the hospital, I thought, “Well, maybe I should take this opportunity. I might learn something.” It was only supposed to be one single, but I ended up doing it for three years. I enjoyed the adulation of being a pop star at the age of 18, but deep down inside it didn’t sit well with me. I was never a fan of that pop-factory stuff, anyway.
Q: Your role as “Prince Charming” gave you a chance to work with Martin Short. What was that like?
A: One of the most wonderful men I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He’s the rare example of a big Hollywood movie star who stayed married, raised his kids and remained an all-around good guy. I bumped into him a couple of months ago, and, without skipping a beat, we were back to our old silliness. There’s not enough adjectives to describe how great he is.
Q: You also worked with Laurence Olivier in one of his last films, “A Voyage Round My Father.” But you were only 5 at the time. Any memories of that?
A: Very little. What I do remember is that it was the first time away alone with my father. We stayed in a hotel and had dinner in a restaurant the night before shooting started, something you don’t commonly do when you’re one of six kids growing up in a working-class family. I remember my dad explaining that I was about to work with the best actor in the world. At the time, I was mildly obsessed with “Star Wars” and when I finally met Olivier I distinctly remember thinking, “Who is this old guy? This isn’t Luke Skywalker.”
Q: You may not want big-time fame anymore, but because you work for ABC, that must mean you have free access to Disneyland, right?
A: I think we get some kind of special deal, but it’s not like they’re giving away the golden key.
Q: But you’re Robin Hood!
A: I know, I know. But they have a lot of other characters. I can see them at the gate, saying Snow White and the Seven Dwarves are coming in first.
Neal Justin • 612-673-7431 • Twitter: @nealjustin