EXCLUSIVE: ‘Once Upon A Time’ Star Lana Parrilla Says Hollywood Told Her: "You Don't Look Latina Enough"

Half-Puerto Rican actress Lana Parrilla has one of the most exciting roles on TV this fall—the part of the evil queen in ABC's fantastic new drama, Once Upon A Time (premiering Sunday, Oct. 23rd at 8/7c). But Lana's highly coveted new role is one she may not have gotten—if she hadn't made the drastic decision to chop off her long locks a few years ago. 

When we asked the proud Puerto Rican actress why she seldom plays Latina characters, Lana explained: "I played Latina in the early stages of my career and everyone would say, 'you don't look Latina enough,' she said. "I kind of understood that," she adds, "because in this industry when they're casting a Latin, they want darker skin, and longer hair—there's a look that they're going for and I just never quite fit that look."

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Parrilla recalls sitting in casting rooms opposite women who looked much more like the Latinas Hollywood was interested in casting, and says that's when she realized she needed to make a big change. "I said 'you know what, I'm just going to cut my hair and see what happens,' she says. 'I chopped all my hair off, and four days later I booked a lead role for an NBC show. And it was like, 'well, that worked!' {Laughs}. "Doors just flew open in a diiferent way," she explains, "and I've been playing nondescript characters."

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Although Lana notes that she's played Latina characters on shows like Miami Medical, Covert Affairs, and Chase, she says casting agents don't usually think she's Latin. "I have the wide set eyes and the full lips and those are very distinct Latin features," Lana says. "But there's something about me where people don't automatically think I'm Latin—they think i'm like, definitely European, but they don't think I'm Puerto Rican at all."

Parrilla says her haircut brought her more opportunities in Hollywood. "Chopping off my hair was mostly an expirement," she explains, "but it opened up my casting to play different roles. I bcame more versatile," she says.