10:45am PT by Alyse Whitney
'Once Upon a Time' Star Talks "Vulnerable" Zelena, "Mind-Blowing" Family Reveal
Once Upon a Time has saved all the drama for one evil mama.
On Sunday’s episode, “Sisters,” Zelena (Rebecca Mader), Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Cora’s (Barbara Hershey) past finally will be explored in what Mader promises will be a “mind-blowing” reveal.
The sisters also will battle in the present day, as Regina tries to sabotage Zelena’s happy ending again to keep the Wicked Witch from running away with possible true love Hades (Greg Germann), but don’t expect bloodshed.
Mader also spoke with THR about how Zelena’s “heart is starting to soften” for Hades, whether Dorothy and Belle are still in her crosshairs and how she was “blown away” by Regina and Zelena’s past.
Can everyone trust Zelena? She’s been wishy-washy for the past few seasons.
It’s been sort of hard to say because, ultimately, Zelena is wicked, but she’s also just had a baby. So it’s a very interesting time in her life, in terms of her own identity, and her endgame is shifting as her heart opens up by having a child. Also, the storyline of having Hades around has sort of awakened things inside, and it’s a really confusing time. I don’t know if she even trusts herself right now.
Hades is very convinced that she’s his true love, but is she convinced that he’s her true love? Is she trusting of him or skeptical?
It’s very difficult for her to believe it or accept it because she’s been alone her whole life. … She’s definitely more skeptical. Even in [episode 16], there were so many moments in the stage directions that said, “This is the moment where they should kiss!” And then they don’t. The music swells, and there’s that moment — like when they were on the bike or when he was kneeling below me at the dinner — that in real life, you would lean in and kiss, but that was when Zelena was pulling away or backing away because she’s ultimately terrified of getting hurt because all she’s known is pain. She doesn’t know what’s on the other side because she’s never experienced it, and that’s incredibly terrifying for her.
In their last scene together, she says she’s willing to take a chance. Does that give hope for Zelena and Hades in their post-Underworld future?
Her heart is starting to soften, and she’s thinking maybe she should give him a chance. … She came to the point where she realized she’s just resisting for resisting's sake, and she hasn’t given him a fair chance, so maybe she’ll try just a little bit. When she says she’s willing to try, that was such a monumental thing to even say. It’s the most vulnerable thing she’s ever said. You’ll discover in next week’s episode how much she’s willing to do and where that’s going to take her.
What were her intentions in giving Belle that sleeping curse? Was that for her benefit, to keep Belle and Rumple in her back pocket?
Giving up your child is the most difficult thing a woman or man could ever do, and she was so deflated that, when Belle was so despondent, it felt like more of a mother-to-mother thing. That was how she was trying to connect, to me, because Belle is obviously in such a pickle, in such a hideous predicament. It was more like, “Maybe I can just do the right thing for a change and actually help another mom.” I think if Zelena wasn’t a mom, she would have been like, “Listen, if you’re not going to have a drink with me, bugger off and get out of my house.” She’s evolving, which is nice.
There’s been a shift with Zelena and Regina’s relationship, where they grow closer, and then Zelena pushes her away. What’s the dynamic as Regina tries to quash Zelena’s happy ending again?
You’re gonna learn so much, I don’t think people are going to know what to do with themselves. It’s so exciting, in terms of the exploration of this relationship. It’s one of my favorite relationships on the show, with Regina and Zelena, and we’re going to learn a lot about their past. There’s a lot of evolving and a lot to learn. It’s really, really, really good. When I read the episode, I was just really moved and really blown away. It’s interesting to find out. … I really can’t say too much. Regina is ultimately trying to stop Zelena and Hades getting together. The fans are going to lose their minds.
A big family secret from Cora comes forward. Can you tease the effects on Regina and Zelena? Zelena has never met Cora. Will there be any moments with Cora and her lost daughter?
The only thing I can really say is "#mind-blowing." … I literally fell off my sofa, so when you do find out, you’ll probably fall off yours. You should probably wear a seatbelt. It’s pretty mind-blowing.
Compared to some of the other big reveals throughout Once Upon a Time’s history, would you say this is the top of the top of secrets coming out?
Yes. It is up there. It is absolutely up there and also because it’s about me, obviously, as an actor, it’s going to be my favorite. (Laughs.) It’s definitely my No. 1.
Zelena always has had someone in her crosshairs to take down. Is anyone on her bad side? Dorothy got true love’s kiss before her.
She’s less concerned about Dorothy now because it’s more about her daughter. Becoming a parent has really changed everything, and she’s less concerned about revenge. The jealousy and turning green with envy was about Regina getting everything, but now, what "everything" means to Zelena has changed. She isn’t angry or jealous about losing her child because it was her decision, and she was trying to be the bigger person. In this episode, she’s annoyed and frustrated because, now that she’s trying to potentially give Hades a chance, her sister is trying to ruin that. That’s the friction there.
How far will Zelena go to stop Regina? She’s tried to kill her before. What are the lengths she’ll go to to save her daughter and her happy ending?
I definitely think she’s less murderous, now that she’s become a mum. It’s more about, "How do I get what I want in a way that is true to my wickedness but less bloodshed on my fingers? Because what kind of lesson is that going to teach my little green bean?" To me, wicked doesn’t mean, “I’m going to tear you down and destroy you.” Wicked means being authentically yourself and getting what is right to you. The meaning of what being wicked is has changed for her, ultimately, now that she’s a mum.
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.