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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]
THR: You mentioned that you watched Barbara’s portrayal of Cora before you jumped in. Were there aspects to the character that you knew you had to make sure to highlight or include?
McGowan: No, I was lucky because it was an origin story, so it’s how she got to how she is now. So I didn’t have to play how she is now. I got to disregard her character. I’m actually informing her character. In a weird way, it was really freeing. Before someone becomes, say, “evil,” there are usually a lot of reasons that go into it. Most people who are on the evil side, there are things in their lives that happen to make them that way. Nobody’s 100 percent one way usually.
THR: What did you find interesting about the way Barbara has played Cora?
McGowan: The thing with how Barbara plays the character — she’s such a tremendous actress — is that she really relishes her villainy, if you will. That’s sometimes the most fun about playing a villain. When you’re playing a villain, it’s almost an operatic thing. You’re not over the top all the time, but there are elements that are over the top, grandiosity to the character. I was inspired by Barbara’s way of playing that for sure.
THR: How is young Cora introduced in “The Miller’s Daughter”?
McGowan: She starts very, very poor. She does not start in fabulous gowns, let’s put it that way. Fabulous gowns not until later for her. She doesn’t come from a charmed life, so to speak. She’s not a Prince Charming. She’s someone who’s come from the dirt, literally. For her to claw her way up is inspirational.
THR: How does she move her way up the ladder?
McGowan: Rumple plays a big part in that. He shows her how to get ahead. You have to watch the episode to see. It’s not Hollywood; it’s Once Upon a Time, so it’s a little more layered.
THR: Is there a scene we should look out for?
McGowan: There is a scene where it turns out I can’t give Rumple what he wants. It was an incredibly emotional scene for both of us, and it was really beautiful. That scene stood out for me, probably my favorite.
THR: The costumes are extremely ornate.
McGowan: Not subtle, which is great. [Costume designer] Eduardo Castro, who I worked with on an Elvis miniseries, is tremendously talented. His team, the stuff that they do, it’s insane how quickly they [create everything]. The [costumes] harken back to old Hollywood days when people would go all out. They didn’t skimp on the inside or the outside, and that’s how the Once Upon a Time costume-design crew approaches this, which is refreshing. You walk differently, you do become a queen while you’re in such a stately costume.
THR: Did you have a favorite outfit?
McGowan: They did a wedding gown that was spectacular.
Once Upon a Time airs at 8 p.m. Sundays on ABC.
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