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This week’s Once Upon a Time reveals the backstory of the simple miller’s daughter who grew up to be the terrifying Cora (Barbara Hershey), the woman responsible for making The Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) the villain she is today. Rose McGowan is the actress tasked with showing us Cora’s humble beginnings, portraying the character when she first made the outrageous claim that she could spin straw into gold.
HuffPost TV caught up with McGowan to find out how it felt to step into Barbara Hershey’s shoes, the highlights of working with Robert Carlyle (Rumplestiltskin) and whether Cora is actually capable of love.
What are you allowed to reveal about this week’s episode?
I can reveal that it was certainly an honor getting to play Barbara Hershey, younger, because she’s a tremendous actress. If you’re going to play a part she was playing, that’s a good one. I love people that are operatically evil — the interesting part is that young Cora is not. She does not start that way; most people, unless they are true sociopaths, do not start off at evil, so to speak. She starts out dirt poor. So she really claws her way to the top and Rumple helps, a lot. He saved her life.
How was the experience of filming with the excellent Robert Carlyle?
Beyond. When Eddy [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz], the creators, called me and they asked me if I would consider doing a part on the show, I said, “Absolutely,” the caveat being that I really want my scenes to be with Robert Carlyle because he’s such a tremendous actor. So then, I got my wish and then I was like “Oh no, just kidding — it’s Robert Carlyle and he’s a tremendous actor, I’ve got to step up my game!”
So it was thrilling and terrifying and fun and scary and everything all at once, but we had a fantastic time together. When you work with an actor who is that good, it’s like being professional tennis player. You’re playing with a pro at that point and you’re a pro yourself. So, it’s really nice, high-level tennis that you don’t often get to play with people
Were you a fan of the show beforehand?
I was a fan of the show. I didn’t really watch it regularly, just because I travel all the time and I’m a very irregular TV watcher, period, but I certainly knew the story and the storyline. I thought this was an amazing way to introduce me into that world. What better way than playing somebody who is one of the coolest people on the show, one of the coolest characters? I love evil. I think there is something operatic and wonderful about it. I figured out that it’s not really much different than having comic timing. It’s very similar. You have to hit almost the exact same beat as if you were doing a comedy, but you’re doing something else. It has very specific beats. This was so well written. They did a really tremendous job. There is a scene that I have with Robert Carlyle, later in the show, that’s probably one of my favorite pieces I’ve done in a long time. It’s a very emotional scene and it was really beautifully written and beautifully acted by Robert, hopefully I did it justice.
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“Most people who are on the evil side, there are things in their lives that happen to make them that way,” the former Charmed star tells THR. Plus, a sneak preview at Sunday’s “The Miller’s Daughter.”
Who was Cora before she became Regina’s evil mother?
On Sunday’s Once Upon a Time, “The Miller’s Daughter,” viewers will be introduced to young Cora (Charmed star Rose McGowan), banished to a tower and ordered to follow through on a promise that she can spin straw into gold, with the aid of Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle).
For McGowan, it was crucial that she not copy Barbara Hershey’s portrayal. “You’re playing someone that’s alive, that the audience knows really well; they know her mannerisms, they know her voice,” she explains to The Hollywood Reporter.
McGowan talked to THR about jumping into an established show like Once Upon a Time, how young Cora is introduced and the one scene to look out for.
The Hollywood Reporter: Were there nerves jumping into an established world like Once Upon a Time?
Rose McGowan: Absolutely. There were quite a few nervous-making factors. You’re playing someone that’s alive, that the audience knows really well; they know her mannerisms, they know her voice. What I tried to do was watch a lot of Barbara Hershey’s stuff and then I kind of just forgot about it. I didn’t want to go and try to imitate somebody. I immersed myself in it and then completely disregarded it. Hopefully it tied together and fans won’t be too mad at me. [Laughs]
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Very exciting news on this beautiful morning! According to E! Online’s Watch with Kristin, Rose McGowan might be back on Once Upon a Time for the show’s next season!
Read on for details – but beware for some potential spoilers.
Nicole F.: Can you tell me anything else about Rose McGowan’s character on Once? I’ve been obsessed with her since Charmed!
That’s a great question, which is why we posed it to McGowan herself. We already know she’s playing a younger version of Cora in an origin episode airing next month, but did you also know she’s part of a love story? “I fall madly in love, and then it ends tragically,” she tells us. “Most of my stuff is with Rumple. And it was an amazing experience and I’ll see them again next season.” Next season? Does this mean we’ll see her character again? “It’s in the works,” McGowan tells us coyly.
Rose McGowan recently went platinum blonde for the first time ever, and to complete her hair makeover, she really needed to commit.
“All told, it took about 27 hours,” McGowan told InStyle.com at the Humane Society of the United States’ To The Rescue! New York benefit. “The first day alone was 14 hours,” The dye job was done by celebrity colorist Tracey Cunningham—much loved by stars like Natalie Portman, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Drew Barrymore—and was inspired by Michelle Pfeiffer’s iconic locks in Scarface.
“I’ve just been in a little bit of a rebellious mood, what can I say?” McGowan said of her decision. ”It was a big transition.” Indeed!
ABC’s Once Upon a Time regularly goes back in time to Storybrook residents’ former lives in fairytale land. Now the show will jump even further back in the past with an origin episode that will explore the backstory of Regina’s own Evil Queen’s evil mom. According to Deadline, Rose McGowan has been tapped to guest star as a younger version of the evil mom Cora (Barbara Hershey) in a flashback.
The origin episode will air next year.