Rose McGowan is coming to Once Upon a Time this Sunday, March 10, as the young Cora in Fairytale Land, the titular “Miller’s Daughter.” She tells Zap2it that it was a joy to work on the OUAT set and that she loved being part of an origin story.
First off, we tell McGowan that we’ve seen the episode and we must commend her on how much she looks and sounds like Barbara Hershey, who plays the older Cora. So, did Rose study Barbara’s clips from the show?
“No. I watched like three or four clips and then I forgot all about it,” says McGowan. “I realized that this is an origin story. I already look very similar to her, and in real life, I have a voice that’s pretty deep, so it matches pretty well. So that took care of that.”
“The rest of the story is very different in how she’s ended up, so I have actually an open palette to play with. I approached it that way,” she continues. “I wasn’t try to imitate her in any way because the physical aspect was already taken care of.”
“That’s the cool thing about being an origin story and not a later story, you get to create what the person was before.”
And what Cora was before is not that dissimilar to what we’ve seen of older Cora. She may not have been evil, but she was definitely always ambitious.
“I think she started out as somebody with a lot of burning intensity to be more than she is,” McGowan observes. “She hated being looked down upon by the swells, so to speak. All the swanky people looking down on her while she’s laying in the dirt did not work well for her. She knew she was meant for greater things.”
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.
“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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