When fans watch Lana Parrilla as Regina Mills (aka the Evil Queen) in “Once Upon a Time,” they may think of several adjectives: Beautiful, talented … maybe even frightening or scary.
But, one that might not immediately come to mind is “Puerto Rican/Sicilian.” And that has a major influence on what makes the Evil Queen as fierce — and sweet — on the hit ABC series.
“I grew up in Brooklyn and was tough — kind of loaded with attitude — and then I came here,” Parrilla told The Los Angeles Times. “I’m sure people found me kind of intimidating.”
That ability to intimidate has made Regina Mills the perfect bad guy, but also one you might be able to empathize with because of her soft approach as well. In fact, we saw that good side of her, until she had a bit of a bad run-in with a young Snow White, and even more when she met White’s daughter, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison).
In the current season of “Once Upon a Time” on ABC, Parrilla’s Regina Mills has softened. She is trying to win back the affection of her adopted son, Henry (Jared Gilmore), who is also Emma Swan’s biological son. Regina ends up torn between her addiction to power and magic and her love for this young boy. She feels that if she uses magic, “she’s going to lose Henry forever,” but events continue to tempt her to use her immense power.
The softening reflects Parrilla’s own life path.
“I didn’t fit in on any level when I moved from Brooklyn to Burbank — on any level,” she said. “And then I met a bunch of hippies and I became a little hippie myself — a Brooklyn hippie.”
While the Regina side of her character grows more human, the Evil Queen has devolved into an even more evil character, if that is possible. Parilla’s Regina Mills character may be on a redemptive arc, but flashbacks involving her fairy tale world persona show a much different person. Especially when it involves Snow White.
The dichotomy between her characters fits what fans have become accustomed to on “Once.” Several other characters, such as Robert Carlyle’s Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, also are on redemptive arcs in the Storybrooke world, while masterminding thoroughly evil plots in the fairy tale world.
“I love the contrast,” Parrilla said.
And fans, do, too. It remains network television’s top genre show, averaging a 5.5 rating/8 share in Fast National overnight ratings from The Nielsen Co. through the end of December. That’s down just 4 percent from its freshman year, and remains in television’s top 25.
“Once Upon a Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.