Lana Parrilla: The Villains She Loves And Fears

Parrilla parading in black.
(Photo courtesy of ABC.)

On ABC’s hit series Once Upon A Time, Lana Parrilla plays the deliciously mean Evil Queen, who in her alternate life as Regina Mills now presides as the Machiavellian mayor of Storybrooke, Maine, a town that is home to fairy tale characters under the influence of a curse that has made them forget who they are and where they come from. But over the course of the first season, they have begun snapping out of it. I spoke to Parrilla for American Way about getting in touch with her inner Evil Queen, and we chatted about many other topics for A.D.D., including her inspirations for the role and the bad guys that make her shiver. Her answers were fun and revealing.

Glenn Close as Alex Forrest
in Fatal Attraction:
Her pain is the Evil Queen's gain.

Since you are playing a classic villainous in this series, I’m wondering if there are other villains that you have drawn from for your portrayal?
I would say Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction for sure. My heart breaks for a woman who is that desperate and lonely. She’s much more complex than that, but she did a very beautiful job and pulled me in. When I was working on Regina, I watched that. I don’t know why, but her face kept popping into my mind and I kept seeing the movie flash before my eyes. Obviously my creative source was telling me something, so I started watching it and was able to pull some stuff.
        That’s when I realized that Regina is a sociopath. I don’t know if the writers see it this way. This is a collaborative art, so this is my take on these characters, but I learned it from watching that movie that all her behaviors are not understood nor should they be because I’m not crazy like that. I just love Glenn Close. I think she’s phenomenal, and I also loved her in 101 Dalmatians, even though she’s just so animated, which worked for that kind of film. There was something fun in that performance that I was able to pull from and help with the Queen.

“It took me a good 10 years to really
overcome that fear of Freddy Krueger.”

Are there other characters that you’ve pulled from?
Something I like that has nothing to do with the show is Jack Nicholson in The Shining. He’s phenomenal. Then Kathy Bates in Misery. These characters are just on the cusp. It’s so convincing that you think that maybe there’s nothing wrong with them. They lure you in on a level that makes you question exactly how kooky crazy they are and think that their behaviors and feelings are somewhat justified. I think that’s what is really compelling about these three [performances] specifically. Jack is on a completely different level, but with these women, while I don’t understand why she [Glenn Close] boils a rabbit [in Fatal Attraction], when I think of their dynamic — not that her behavior is justified on any level — I understand why she would fight for this love. He did bring her in and was just as committed in that weekend of having that experience and loving her as deeply as he did and connecting with her on an intimate level, letting himself go. That brought her in, and she fell in love with him in that short amount of time. I can get carried away and talk about this for way too long, but I understand her behaviors. I understand the Evil Queen and why she hates Snow White as much as she does. I get why she wants to destroy this woman’s life. I’m not saying I would do it — obviously I would not, I leave that to the higher powers that be — but I get it.

Freddy Krueger would love to crawl around inside the Evil Queen's head.

Is there another villain that you pull from or have been inspired by?
[giggles giddily] You know who? Freddy Krueger. I fucking love him, but he scared the shit out of me. When I was eight, I saw the third Nightmare On Elm Street at my Mom’s friend’s house – my Mom let me watch all these crazy movies — and he scared the living hell out of me. I would have nightmares about him forever. I would spook the living shit out of myself. I would create him in a wakened state at night or if I was walking outside or parking the car, and it took me until I was about 18 years old to get over it. It took me a good 10 years to really overcome that fear of Freddy Krueger. Now I watch him and just laugh, but at that time there was something about him. I think it was his sense of humor and also just the way he looked. You couldn’t help but laugh at the things he said. He’s funny. I know it’s a different kind of villain, but it is one that has really impacted my life for a long time on a totally different level. I never used him creatively from any of his performances. Maybe I will. Maybe I’ll go back and start finding something in those movies. I’ve been able to bring a sense of humor to the Queen, so maybe  on a subconscious level he has inspired me, but I love that guy, Robert Englund. Even if I just see him he freaks me out. He’s such an odd guy, he’s just odd looking. I just dig him — just the way he moves his body and that costume.

Regina Mills grows her own brand of apple: Evil Delicious.
(Photo courtesy of ABC.)

Have you used anything from Jack Torrance for the Evil Queen?
No, I haven’t yet. Horror/thriller films are my favorite genre of all time. It’s really interesting that it’s taken me this long to play a villain. Any cool scary film that comes out I want to go check out. The last one I saw that was really great was The Orphanage. It’s phenomenal. I love psychological thrillers. I wanted to make one actually. A part of me still really wants to make a good horror-thriller film.

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