Actress Lana Parrilla has a great role in ABC’s hit series Once Upon a Time. Not only does she get to play the strong, powerful mayor Regina Mills, she also gets to play the one of most evil female fairy tale villains ever created—Snow White’s Evil Queen. The queen placed a curse on all of Fairytale Land at the beginning of season one, banishing all its inhabitants to Storybrooke, Maine, where they have lived for 28 years without magic and stuck in time.
But along comes Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), the birth mother of Regina’s adopted son Henry (Jared Gilmore), and by the end of the first season, the upstart has not only gained Henry’s affection, but she’s broken the curse! So as we get ready for the start of season two, viewers wonder what’s to become of Regina when the entire town is probably shouting “off with her head!” What of her relationship with Henry, whom she loves and has raised for 10 years?
Parrilla was perfect casting for the role; she exudes intelligence and confidence, and has made a career of playing strong women. She has had major roles in several television series, including Boomtown, 24, Swingtown and Miami Medical after playing opposite Charlie Sheen as a recurring character in Spin City. Named by TV Guide as “Fan Favorite Villain” and nominated for a Teen Choice Award for “Choice Villain,” she has also received a prestigious ALMA Award nomination for her performance in Once.
I had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with Parrilla last week about acting, influences, and of course, the upcoming season of Once Upon a Time.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. And congratulations on Once Upon a Time. It is wonderful show. I look forward to writing about season two.
So you’re a nice girl from Brooklyn. How did you get into this crazy business? Who were some of your early influences?
I knew I had a love for it at a very young age. I think I was partially influenced by my aunt who is an actress who I just looked up to and I still do. But I thought she was just so glamorous and beautiful. When I would see her perform, I was just in awe. I just loved watching her. She kind of…I think she planted the seed, not intentionally, but just by example. My father was a huge movie viewer, loved films. On Sundays we’d go to church and then we’d go to the movie theatre and see three films back to back, and then go home and watch movies. It was just our thing. So I saw every classic film growing up, every western. I loved film. I loved telling stories. I loved reading. I loved all of that.
It wasn’t until I was about 14 years old that I knew that I really wanted to study this and learn the craft and make it into a career. It didn’t happen until I was about 19 that I really enrolled in a professional school. And told my mom “This is it, this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.” I don’t think I realized until I was older how rewarding it is to be in this field, the performing arts, on so many levels. Anyway, that’s where it all originated. It originated from family, but it’s become kind of its own thing for me over the years.
Was there a particular actor or actress or movie that just sort of said, “Okay, I’ve got to be like her. I’ve got to be doing that thing.” Was there anything like that? Or was it just a gradual …
One of the ones that really stands out has to be is Bette Davis. All About Eve is one that I really loved. And also Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. That one really stood out. I mostly feel the classics, I think, had more of an influence on me. To Have and Have Not—it was a film I loved watching when I was younger and growing up. And Bogart and Lauren Bacall. I just, it was—I think that all my studying of old films kind of—I just bring into the Queen a lot. I think that there’s a ‘40s kind of quality to her.