“Once Upon A Time” star Lana Parrilla talks SwanQueen, fan art and Season 4

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AE: In the beginning of the series, death would have been on the table as something Regina wanted for Emma; she’s grown so much as a character. What can you tell us about Regina’s journey this season, since it seems like she could be taking a step back?

LP: Thus far—we’re in episode six right now—and in the last episode of the last season, we had Elsa, who magically appeared, so now we’re really heavy in the Frozen arc. And where Emma fits in with that is she kind of created this huge problem, right? She traveled back in time and she brought some things back and some characters back with her that she wasn’t anticipating, so she’s really focused on how to resolve that problem. And Regina’s pretty caught up with the whole Robin Hood/Marian storyline. I think that this is something that she was not expecting; she finally found her happiness and now it’s been ripped away from her, so she’s really dealing with that in the first part of the season, and dealing with the broken heart and the repercussions of having Robin Hood’s dead wife come back [laughs] and what that means for their relationship, and really how are Emma and Regina going to continue being civil in each other’s lives now that Marian is back? So that’s really the main focus for Regina’s arc in the first part of the season.

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AE: Will Regina and Elsa interact? Will there be an Evil Queen vs. Ice Queen situation?

LP: Yeah there’s a little bit of that, there’s a little bit of interaction between them. I can’t tell you too much, I have to stay employed. [laughs]

AE: Fair enough! What’s your favorite thing about playing Regina?

LP: Regina always keeps me on my toes. She is a very complex character, she is constantly surprising me. I love how she has this sort of fervent desire for change and growth, and she’s not content—she used to be, when she was Evil Queen, she was adamant about staying who she was, she was relentless, heartless, extremely impulsive and now she’s redeemed herself and all of that really was borne out of her love for Henry. And I think through that discovery, she’s actually enjoying this new path of being good and trying to do the right thing. And yet, we love the Evil Queen in her, we love the snarky Regina, we love the one who lashes out, is impulsive and sarcastic, and old habits die hard, she’ll always have a bit of that. But I think what I love about her is that she’s constantly searching for growth, and that’s a beautiful quality in any human being, and to be able to see that in a fictional television character is even more compelling, at least for me to play. It’s entertaining as well, extremely entertaining.

AE: I asked some of our readers what they would want me to ask you and one thing that came up a few times was, whether they’re shipping SwanQueen or other relationships with two females, a lot of the pushback they get are responses about lesbian relationships “not belonging” in fairytales or on “family shows.” Do you have advice for people who feel like they are being attacked for wanting to see a relationship like this on a show like Once Upon A Time, for people who are being bullied for being LGBT or for supporting it?

LP: I don’t support bullying, period. I think everyone has the right to feel whatever they want to feel and to voice it. I support freedom of voice and freedom of speech, I support that. I find that if anyone has a sort of fantasy for any characters that they are affected by or inspired by, no one has a say in that. No one does. I think everyone has the right to feel whatever they want to feel. I don’t necessarily believe that the characters are going to move into that direction, because it’s just not the vision of the producers or writers; they didn’t create Once Upon A Time with the hopes that Regina and Emma would be a couple. So, unfortunately, I just don’t think that’s what they’re going to do. However, if the show ever did move in that direction and those two did become a unit, I would totally support that, I would. I would have zero objection to it. I’m a storyteller, that’s what I do. I portray characters. And if that was what would end up happening between Emma and Regina, then that’s the story I would tell, and wholeheartedly tell it in every way I have since the beginning of playing this character.

AE: I think possibly a small part of some people’s tendency to ship Regina and Emma is because you are such a huge LGBT ally and people see that support and really appreciate that and know you would do well by us in a queer role.

LP: Well, you know, I’m a huge advocate. I love the LGBT community. My cousins are gay, some of my best friends are lesbians, it’s a community I’ve grown up in my whole life, so for me it’s one I’ve supported since I was—I mean, my cousin Cesar, who is gay, walked me down the aisle when I got married. He did. He’s my best friend aside from my husband, and I love the community, I’ve always been an advocate. I’ve been going to gay and lesbian bars since I was probably too young and had fake IDs. [laughs] I’ve always had gay and lesbian friends, and transgender friends, so I love the community, I really do, and as often as I can be there to support the community, I will. From NOH8 to the GLAAD awards to the HRC to, you name it. And sometimes shooting up in Vancouver I miss a lot of the events, but I’m always a supporter.

AE: Even you agreeing to do this interview with us at AfterEllen after the femslash competition, people have been really excited you wanted to talk to us.

LP: You know, for all those SwanQueens, by the way, there’s a pretty fascinating thing that I found the other day, and I took a picture and sent it to Jen Morrison because it was such a great cashmere sweater, but Red Valentino has come out with this—it was SO awesome—it’s this swan with a crown! [laughs] I took a picture and sent it to Jen and I was like, “Oh my God, I saw this and thought of you!” and she’s like “We should both get one!” and I thought it was awesome. We both support the SwanQueen ship, we do. Unfortunately, they only had one extra-small. [laughs] But if anyone out there wants to get us one, we would wear it. I couldn’t believe it—I was like, “Oh my God,” and I wondered, “Did Valentino make this for SwanQueen?” It was almost as if it was fanart that I’ve seen before in the past, so it was really quite the coincidence, it was really cool. I don’t even know, I can’t remember the question you asked, oh! That they were happy we’re doing this—I’m SO happy to do this interview! Like I said, I love the SwanQueens and I even have SwanQueen jewelry and stuff that people send me, I think it’s great. I think it’s fantastic, and like I said, I love all ships and support all ships.

AE: And I thank you so much for talking to me. Are there any teasers for Season 4 you can give me before we go?

LP: Hmmm. I did have something but now I’m spacing on it. I would say, it is heavy in the Frozen arc, we are focusing on a lot of that, in the opening episode, the premiere episode, we pick up where Frozen the movie ended, so we’re at the end of Frozen and it sort of moves forward from there. We start in Arendale and we become that story. Back in Storybrooke, we’re trying to figure out why is our town frozen and who is this Ice Queen. I can’t give you many teasers, I’m so sorry! I wish I could! We have the Rumple and Belle relationship and what Rumple has done as far as killing the Wicked Witch and that she doesn’t have the real dagger to control the Dark One, so that storyline will develop for them and you’ll see a lot on that. We have a lot of new characters this season, and I think we’re gonna be surprised. Elsa isn’t who we think she is. And I think that’s the biggest teaser I can give you. And stay tuned.

AE: Excellent! Will we see more Evil Queen costumes this season? We love those Fairytale Land costumes.

LP: I know, so do I, even though I can’t breathe or eat in them. [laughs] They’re great for when you’re dieting, just throw on a costume. It’s great for when you need to diet for a few days. Yes. We will be!

Once Upon A Time returns on Sunday, September 28 at 8pm EST. Tune in for those Evil Queen costumes, SwanQueen subtext, and more! Tweet along with other AfterEllen readers (and me!) using the #queerytales hashtag.

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