By Chaz Lipp
Actress Lana Parrilla plays the Evil Queen on Once Upon a Time, ABC’s quirky, complex hit series. She also plays Regina, the mayor of Storybrooke, Maine. That might sound confusing if you’ve never seen the show, which alternates between flashbacks set in a fairytale world and the present-day town where the characters have found themselves transported. And it was Parrilla’s Evil Queen who sent them all there without their knowledge (just part of why she earned her title).
The brilliantly inventive show takes every fairytale character you remember from childhood – Snow White and Prince Charming, Rumplestiltskin, Pinnocchio, Red Riding Hood, just to name a few – and mashes them all up in unpredictable ways. Each has a present-day counterpart, allowing the actors to really sink their teeth into roles that skirt cliché while growing deeper throughout the series. With an ensemble cast that includes Jennifer Morrison (House), Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love), and Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla in very good company.
Season two of Once Upon a Time gets underway September 30 on ABC. The first season is out on DVD and Blu-ray for those who need to catch up (check out our review here). I was lucky enough to have Lana take a few minutes out of her busy shooting schedule to chat about the show. There’s much more of my interview over on The Morton Report, click here to see it, but we wanted to give our Cinema Lowdown readers some stuff you’ll only see right here.
Do you ever meet younger fans who are scared of you, thinking you really are the Evil Queen?
Yes! I’ve actually had even some people I work with – they have children that never want to meet me. They come to the set and hide behind their parents. And I’m very nice to them and tell them it’s a role, I’m not really evil.
Do you ever stay in character, just to see their reaction?
I do initially as a joke, but then laugh it off and, you know, shake their hands and try to make them feel comfortable.
That was my thinly-veiled way of asking if you really are like the Queen and/or Regina. You’re so convincing in the role, I can imagine even an adult feeling a little intimidated at first.
I just starting working with some new makeup and hair people, and one of the makeup guys said to me, “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I met you – but you’re so funny, I mean you’re so unlike your character!” Regina’s very serious. She has a vendetta against these women on the show, Emma Swan and Snow White. But I’m actually a really nice person. [laughs]
I love Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin and Mr. Gold. I’ve been a fan of his since he played Begbie in Trainspotting. How is he to work with?
Oh that’s funny, I was just going tell you, Robert Carlyle and I have actually talked about how some of the nicest people in person are actors that play villains. They’re usually really, really nice. [laughs] I really love and enjoy working with him, I really do. He’s so talented. He’s a very generous actor, and I try my best to always be a generous actor as well.
If you don’t mind, being a hardcore 24 fan, I would love to hear about your experience playing Sarah Gavin on season four.
You know, 24 was such a phenomenal show to work on, on every level, because I started as a fan just watching the show. When I got the part, I had no idea who I would be playing. I just went in there and read. I think they created a role for me, actually. I felt very honored. Joel Surnow was just a pleasure to work with. I really enjoyed working with him.
You didn’t have a lot of screen time with Jack Bauer himself, Kiefer Sutherland, but what do you remember about working with him?
Kiefer couldn’t be more professional. He shows up on set and the energy shifts completely. Everyone works at their best when he’s around. There was a great camaraderie on set. And I got to work with Aisha Tyler, who I think is a phenomenal woman and leader in this industry. It was great. You know, I wish I could’ve gotten out more. I was supposed to be working in CTU. But it would’ve been fun to get out more and do stuff with Kiefer out in the field. I didn’t get to, but the times that he was visiting CTU it really was a joy working with him.
It must have been quite a thrill to be on that show, which was THE show to be on at that time, right?
Yeah, it was. It was a huge hit right up until the end. I would say the only frustrating thing about 24was wearing the same costume for months. The same hairstyle, the same costume. [laughs] The only thing that was frustrating about it, you don’t realize that when you start. Shooting started in the summer, so you think, “Oh, I’ll be wearing a nice skirt and top and that’ll be fine.” It’s warm and you’re shooting in the valley so you want to stay cool, but come December you’re still in that skirt. After a while I was like, “I just want pants! I want a jacket!” [laughs]
I know there’s a lot of cool stuff coming in season two of Once Upon a Time, from what I’ve been hearing. And I know you have to keep a lid on most of it. Do you have a preference between playing scenes as the Queen versus as Regina?
No, I mean, depending on the day, sometimes you want to get dressed up with elaborate hair and makeup. I don’t really have a preference. Sometimes it’s just really nice to put on a simple suit with simple hair and makeup and play the mayor. But I love both roles equally, I really do.
Thank you to Lana Parrilla for taking the time to talk to us. Remember, there’s more of my conversation on The Morton Report (nothing from here repeats over there, so click the link and check it out)!
Watch the season two premiere of Once Upon a Time September 30. For more information about the show, visit the official website.