'Once Upon a Time': Barbara Hershey Teases the Evil Mother's 'Warped' Ways (Q&A)
"The good side to her, as strange as it’s become, is her love for her daughter [Regina]," the actress tells THR of her character Cora.
The Evil Queen wasn’t always the scheming, malicious person Once Upon a Time followers have known her to be. As it’s revealed in Sunday’s episode, the Evil Queen’s mother is far worse.
Oscar nominee Barbara Hershey stops by fairy tale land on the ABC drama as Cora, the mother of the Evil Queen, a.k.a. Regina (Lana Parilla), in “The Stable Boy.” And as Hershey tells it, Cora “has great ambition for her daughter” as every mother does. The only catch: Her desires for Regina aren’t exactly coming from a place that’s pure.
“Evil in and of itself, when you open the door and invite it in, it has a party. It starts taking over,” Hershey tells The Hollywood Reporter. “By the time we meet Cora, she’s been devoured by evil.”
Hershey talks to THR about Cora’s specific view of the world, whether she ultimately has the best intentions for her daughter Regina and if she’ll make an appearance in present-day Storybrooke in the near future.
The Hollywood Reporter: Can you describe Cora?
Barbara Hershey: Cora is the Evil Queen’s even more Evil Mother and she has great ambition for her daughter, of her own love which is quite warped. She wants her daughter to do well and to be happy and she’s convinced that her happiness will come if she marries a king than if she marries a stable boy. There are hints at what is driving Cora in terms of her own history but it’s not embellished at this point. It’s the kind of thing a lot of mothers would want for their daughters, it’s not far off, it’s just that my character is evil and consumed by it and can wield very mighty magic, which was very fun to play.
THR: One of the producers said that Cora “has a specific viewpoint about the world.” Can you offer some insight into what that is?
Hershey: [Executive producers] Eddie [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz] say that evil is made not born and I think that is probably true. I don’t know, maybe evil is also born, like you’re missing a limb and instead you’re missing empathy. Definitely there are specific things that turn Cora. Evil in and of itself, when you open the door and invite it in, it has a party. It starts taking over. By the time we meet Cora, she’s been devoured by evil. Whether she started out like that, I don’t know; I think not. She’s not in the drivers’ seat in terms of the way she projects herself.
THR: You don’t have an idea as to where she came from?
Hershey: I have my own ideas. Oftentimes as an actor, you create your own history for your character, which I did, and I sent it Eddie and Adam and they agreed with it definitely. The details of it, they probably would like differently. I’m not sure of the specifics, but I know what turned her, what happened.
THR: Is there a possibility that we’ll see a good side to Cora at some point?
Hershey: You might, you might. The good side to her, as strange as it’s become, is her love for her daughter [Regina]. That is the one area where she’s let herself feel, but because she is so warped with evil, it comes out in very strange ways. [Laughs] I do think Cora loves her.
THR: Cora and Regina’s relationship is contentious at best. (Watch a preview from Sunday’s episode between mother and daughter below.) How will that affect future developments?
Hershey: They’ve left [the story] open-ended and I’m open to it; I have no idea what they’re planning but that’s the fun of doing a TV series, you don’t know what they’ll write for you. I know there are enough going on and enough in the fairy tale world for interesting story. How it would manifest, I have no idea.
THR: Is there potential for Cora to appear in present-day Storybrooke?
Hershey: Not in this episode. If it goes on …
THR: At the end of the day, does she have her daughter’s best intentions?
Hershey: I guess that’s to be disputed. I think she thinks she does. You’d have to make your own decision about that. I personally think she’s too warped to really see clearly what’s best for her daughter. People will have different reactions as to what they think is right.
THR: Will there be standoffs with Regina and Cora?
Hershey: Standoffs? Oh yes, absolutely.
THR: You’ve had a storied career, recently with a role in 2010’s Black Swan. How does this role compare to previous parts you’ve had?
Hershey: It is different. I don’t think I’ve ever done a fantasy before and I’ve always loved them. I always think they’re essential, that’s why they’ve lasted. I’m attracted to it and it seemed to be a juicy, fun role to be able to wave your hand flying away. I like this series a lot. Why wouldn’t I do it?
Watch a preview of a scene between Cora and Regina below:
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.