THERE must be magic in the air.
That, according to Once Upon a Time star Lana Parrilla, could be why her latest ABC series is a hit, while her previous efforts Boomtown (2002-2003), Windfall (2006), Swingtown (2008) and Miami Medical (2010) – more conventionally crafted to be hits, one and all, than the one-of-a-kind Once Upon a Time – quickly vanished from the television landscape.
“I really think Once Upon a Time is a magical show,” says Parrilla, the ravenhaired beauty who plays the Evil Queen and Regina Mills. “It has magic built in on so many different levels, from a very talented cast to extremely talented writers, and the concept is very unique.
“A very unique concept, like we had with ‘Swingtown,’ can really hurt a show sometimes,” she concedes, “because it’s just so out there and so broad that an audience has a difficult time catching on. This show, you have very familiar stories, fairy-tale stories that we’ve all grown up reading and that we loved. We have characters that we’ve all loved and want to emulate. These stories date so far back that we can bring in viewers who are 75 years old, who loved the fairy tales and Disney movies and all of that. And then, because these stories and characters are still so popular, we can also bring in a very young audience. So I just think Once Upon a Time appeals to everyone across the board.
“Then, even beyond that, the writing and storytelling are so good,” Parrilla adds.
“(Producers Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis) had six years of experience on Lost (2004-2010), and they know how to flesh out characters and tie in worlds.
“The show can – and does – go in so many directions,” the actress continues.
“It’s endless, the stories we can tell, and that keeps an audience interested. We’re not stuck in the same hospital all the time, and everything shifts and changes, and the characters are going through so many different layers of emotion.
“That keeps me interested as an actor working on the show,” she says, “and I can only imagine, as a viewer watching it one hour a week, how it could be so captivating.” Now in its second season, Once Upon a Time continues to follow the lives of its many characters, fairy-tale figures living as normal, everyday people in the real-world, modern-day town of Storybrooke, Maine.
They’re in Storybrooke thanks to a curse cast upon them by the Evil Queen. The show veers back and forth between Storybrooke and the Fairy Tale World, revealing the back stories of Snow White- Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin), Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), Prince Charming-David Nolan (Josh Dallas), Rumplestiltskin-Mr Gold (Robert Carlyle), the Wicked Queen-Regina Mills and more.
Mills is the mayor of Storybrooke and the single mother of her adopted son, Henry (Jared Gilmore), whose birth mother is Emma. At the end of Season 1, the curse had been broken and Mills had been exposed and rendered powerless. Now, in Season 2, she’s got her powers back, but her relationship with Henry has been damaged and she must contend with her own powerful and evil mother, Cora (Barbara Hershey).
“I love Regina,” Parrilla says, speaking by telephone from the show’s set in Vancouver. “I love that she’s still discovering so much about who she is, that she doesn’t quite have it all figured out yet and that it’s a constant spiritual journey. I love that she’s impulsive and temperamental and makes mistakes, and then has these moments of revelation where she discovers she needs to take a different approach, not only with herself, but maybe with others around her. She’s complicated and not just black-and-white.
“What we’re doing now is really interesting,” she continues, “because she’s now summoning magic in a different way than we’ve seen her use it in the past, which is that she’s dependent on this book. Then, in using this book and in using its magic, she’s becoming the one person she hates the most, which is her mom. So Regina has a choice, and she’s chosen to put all that aside and to really redeem herself and win her son’s love back, more or less magic-free.
“It almost feels like she’s in magic AA” But, really, how long can this reformation possibly last? “Exactly,” the actress says, laughing.
“We all know that she’s not going to stay in this place. There’s just no way. She ended up here for a reason, and I don’t know what this new newfound revelation means for her. Does she need to become a better person or rise above all this? I have a feeling that it’s going to serve her to a degree and then something will turn. Something at some point will turn, and we’ll see flashes again of who Regina was before the redemption.
“I have to still play with that,” Parrilla says, “because I haven’t quite done it yet, but I have some ideas of how I want to play her once she becomes the Evil Queen again.”