EXCLUSIVE: 'Once Upon A Time' Star Lana Parrilla Reveals Her Favorite Fairy Tale Characters

Whenever she watched Snow White as a young girl, half-Puerto Rican actress Lana Parrilla always rooted for the evil queen. Now, the 34-year-old actress is making Snow’s life a living hell as the classic villain in ABC’s spellbinding new series, Once Upon A Time (premiering this Sunday, October 23 at 8/7c). Lana spoke exclusively to Latina.com about her new show (which we recently named one of the 5 Best New Shows of the Fall)!

Tell us about your Latin roots!

I’m half-Puerto Rican and half-Sicilian. My father was [Puerto Rican]. He [Major League Baseball player, Sam Parrilla] played for the Phillies and the Indians. He passed away when I was 16—I was very close to him. My parents separated when I was younger, but I was raised with both families. I ate all the arros con gandules and chuletas and pernil and on my mother’s side—all Italian cuisine. Arros con Gandules is my all-time favorite.

Tell us about your new show, Once Upon A Time!

It’s about a lost princess who’s trapped in an alternate world—who’s destined to save our world. It’s nice that you’ve got the Latina up in here! I’m happy that they hired me! [Laughs]

You play two seemingly evil characters in the show—the Evil Queen and Regina, the callous Town Mayor. Are they both completely evil?

I can answer for both characters. The Queen—yes, she is evil, hence her name. But there’s a pain that exists inside of her and that’s why she does the things that she does. She is extremely wounded. She’s not just like, ‘I want to hurt people for the sake of hurting people.’ She’s been hurt and now she’s getting back at everyone. And Regina, I mean—of course there’s a side of her that I think likes to fu** with people. {Laughs}. She’s a trip! Sometimes I think she’s a sociopath and sometimes I’m like, ‘well, no, she’s just a really overprotective mother.’ But I really think that she loves her son more than anything and she’s really trying to protect the relationship that she has with him. And when another person comes in to threaten that relationship—it’s not going to bring out the best side of her. She doesn’t want to lose him. So if you come from that place—which for me is more human—I can’t think of her as being so evil. I can think of her as doing evil acts—but it comes from a place of fear.

Did you read fairy tales as a child?

Yes, I did.  I loved Hansel and Gretel—that was probably one of my favorites.  Cinderella was a beautiful story for me. I never wanted to be Cinderella, but I just liked the story. But you know, I wasn’t ever into princesses. I’m not a princess. I never grew up with one and I don’t consider myself one. I’ve always liked villains and still find them much more interesting.

So it makes sense that you’re playing the evil queen!

Yeah, I know. {Laughs}.

Did you read Snow White as a kid?

Of course I did. But it wasn’t one of the ones I was drawn to as much. When I would watch the movie, it was kind of slow for me. But I loved the evil queen—every time the evil queen came on, I was like ‘OK!’ She was just so fascinating to me.

What is your dream role in Hollywood?

I feel like I’m really getting the great roles right now at this point in my career. But if I were to craft one on my own, I would continue down the path of these really strong women that seem really complex and layered and have strength to them. I’m learning more about myself from playing these roles. I’m like, ‘OK, well, what is it about me that I keep playing these women? I guess I have like this inner strength as well. I’m pretty bold in my expression and very daring in how I live my life. I think of Glenn Close a lot—she has the career that I would love to have. She plays these really complex characters but then she also has this sweet, beautiful side to he and is also very sexy in her own way. The characters I’m playing right now kind of fall in line with the roles that she’s had in her career. And I hope that one day I can achieve as much as she has.