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Performers Of The Month - March Winner: Outstanding Actress - Lana Parrilla

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Good versus evil, that’s the premise of many movies and television shows. It is intriguing and entertaining to watch the heroes persevere over the villains. But what if the villains weren’t pure evil? What if there was some smidgen of good in them that could be redeemed? Audiences love a good redemption story almost as much as they love an epic good versus evil showdown. Now, throw all of that into a single character and what comes out of that blender is an extremely complex and difficult character to portray. That is what Once Upon A Time’s Lana Parrilla has been tasked with this season portraying Regina Mills and also portraying Regina’s former alter-ego the Evil Queen. That’s all on top of the redemption arc that she’s embarked on since having evil purified from her heart. Throughout this complex storyline, Parrilla has been exceptional, but that’s to be expected from her. When taking all this into consideration, and factoring in her outstanding acting in dual roles, it’s no surprise why Lana Parilla was named the Most Outstanding Actress of March for her phenomenal performance in Page 23 (6x14).

Lana Parrilla has been delivering tour de force performances in Once Upon A Time since the very first moment she appeared on the screen. By the time Regina’s redemption arc started to ramp up it was clearly established how exceptional Parrilla was at playing evil. While it was wonderful to see Regina finally start to get the things she so desperately wanted it was also a bit sad for viewers to have to say goodbye to the Evil Queen. However, in true Evil Queen style, the perceived end was just the start of a new chapter in her story, a chapter that would give Parrilla such rich material that she would deliver some of the best performances of her extraordinary career.

Page 23 brought Regina and the Evil Queen head-to-head in several memorable confrontations. Performers often take their acting cues from their scene partners to know how to respond to something or when to jump in with their line. In scenes where one performer is playing multiple characters, they encounter this odd situation where they are essentially acting opposite themselves. Scenes like that are remarkably hard to film and not every performer can make them believable. There are continuity crewmembers and of course the director trying to keep the performer on track, but once the camera rolls it’s all up to the performer to pull off the near impossible.

With this story arc, Lana Parrilla joined that very elite club of the unrivaled performers who have mastered this very tricky acting skill. Oftentimes these performers are acting opposite a double, which is the ideal scenario, or more often than not, they are acting opposite nothing more than a tennis ball or tape marking a sight line. No matter the techniques Once Upon A Time employed, there is no question that Parrilla excelled at bring dual characters to life in the same scene with absolutely seamless precision. While it was almost certainly a grueling process, one wouldn’t know based off of Lana Parrilla’s work. As Regina and the Evil Queen were having it out in the Mayor’s office there was never a time where it seemed like a single performer doing it all. That is all down to Parrilla pulling off an intense acting feat and the production team supporting her by piecing it all together into a near perfect scene.

Not only did that showdown require a lot of precision it also required an immense set of emotions. Regina and the Evil Queen battled it out, literally, all leading to the beautiful conclusion where the two women once again became one despite being separate. Thanks to Regina’s ingenious idea to give the Evil Queen part of her light and take back some of the dark, a part of Regina will always be with the Evil Queen and vice versa. These two are rare characters in that they’ve now both been heroes and villains. They are the perfect blend of light and dark and that conflicting blend works solely because of Parrilla. When Regina almost crushed the Evil Queen’s heart the tears that Parrilla shed and the tension in her body spoke volumes. She was at a crossroads and chose the high road as she saved both of them. While the acting was on point the emotions are really what made this scene a standout in a truly unique, heartfelt, and smart episode. Lana Parrilla deserves praise for all she does in bringing the writers words to life with such vivid intensity.

Page 23 also gave the Evil Queen the chance to have the happy ending that Regina herself felt that she lost forever when Robin (Sean Maguire) was killed. Regina may never get to have that particular happy ending, but the Evil Queen just might. Instead, Regina got an entirely different happy ending, one of her own making. She gained a son and a family in the process of making her own destiny. The scene where Regina and the Evil Queen talked after the fight highlighted this. There was also a bit of an interesting acting choice in this scene. Lana Parrilla played Regina as soft spoken and content while she chose to play the Evil Queen remorseful but clearly still longing to find her place in the world. Her performance showed that while Regina had her happy ending there was still something missing for the Evil Queen that was keeping her from being at peace in her new existence. There was a sadness in the Evil Queen’s eyes that was absent prior to the blending of their hearts. In contrast, there was a bright light in Regina’s eyes while still expressing a tiny bit of pain over losing Robin Hood yet again. Except for this time, she knew how to allow them both to find closure and peace.

The Regina and Evil Queen showdown was the ultimate battle of light and dark, good and evil, hero and villain, and yet it ended in an unexpected way with both winning. It is a true testament to Lana Parrilla’s unparalleled talent that this ending felt earned and right. She valiantly led each character to this point of convergence where their destinies came to a head. The acting throughout this arc has been some of her very best, a strong statement given that she’s never once delivered a performance not worthy of being called near perfection. Her immense skill, depth, and range allow the writers to throw just about anything at her - and they definitely have - with full confidence that she will pull it off. It’s a quality that only the best of the best poses.

From the start of the series she always played the Evil Queen in a way that showed her vulnerabilities despite how hard the character tried to keep them hidden. At times she let a longing look linger a second longer than necessary or would allow tears to build in her eyes. The Evil Queen did a lot of horrible things, but it all came from a place of fear and pain, and with Parrilla’s extremely expressive eyes the pain was always evident and a clear driving force for her character. Even though it took a long time and a lot of sacrifices, she eventually came to accept the error of her ways. Thanks to Henry (Jared Gilmore), Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin), and David (Josh Dallas) never fully writing her off and giving her love despite all she did, she came to remember what it was to love and be loved. That last part, if not the most critical part that helped her cross that final threshold into being a hero, was her love for Robin Hood. That was only possible because of the love she’d been shown by the others. They made her believe she was worthy of Robin’s love and Parrilla made the audience believe every second of this often heartbreaking journey.

Robin was a very big part of Regina’s story for a very long time. That is until he was mercilessly ripped away from her. She could have easily reverted back to her evil ways, but unlike with Daniel, this time she chose a different path. Regina chose to honor Robin’s life by living her life the way she knew he’d want her to. It wasn’t an easy journey for her, she made many missteps, but thankfully she always had the Charming family to lean on. Ironic, since there was a time when she had made it her whole purpose to wipe the family out. As Regina slowly came around she started to get more quality scenes with the likes of Emma and Snow. Both brought out very different sides to Regina and challenged her in unique ways.

In her mind, Snow was the root of all her problems, though she eventually came to terms with the truth that it wasn’t all on Snow. Then there was Emma, who she saw as a threat to take away her son, the one person she felt she had ever been able to truly love. All of this gave Parrilla exceptional scenes opposite Jennifer Morrison and Ginnifer Goodwin. The chemistry these three actresses share has brought a really emotional depth to the overall story. They are now her family, with she and Emma sharing their son, Henry. The bond between all of them is complicated, yet these actresses have perfectly navigated the complicated relationships with incredible grace. There was a lot of weight on Parrilla, who for the longest time, had to play the foil to Morrison and Goodwin’s characters. When Snow and Emma started to break through to Regina it was truly wonderful watching these three actresses get to work together in a new capacity. The work she did with Morrison was of particular note. The ease at which they work together has infused such a beautiful depth between the characters that it has become very believable to see Regina constantly fighting to save Emma where she was once the one trying to get rid of her. All of this has also put her in the unique position to now pay it forward to her sister Zelena (Rebecca Mader) allowing Parrilla to get to delve into another wholly unique relationship for her character.

Parrilla has this incredible ability to adapt to any scene partner no matter if they are a long-time co-star or just a guest star. In her performances, she treats them all the same way, as was displayed in this episode by the appearance of Tinker Bell (Rose McIver). In the Enchanted Forest, when the Evil Queen was on her rampage to find Snow, she was acting her normal evil self. Then, her stone cold evil face firmly in place, she encountered Tinker Bell who challenged her. Tinker Bell pushed the right buttons and some of the façade fell. This scene was as impactful as anything she has shared with her other co-stars. She had an easy rhythm with McIver as though they’d been working together for the whole run of the series. The level of intensity in those scenes was off the charts as the Evil Queen threatened lives and dished out unhealthy doses of fear. Still, it was evident under it all, that there was still a smidge of good in her. It’s the same very fine line Parrilla always had to walk with the character and she proved that she still walks that line with flawless balance. It’s a pleasure to watch her work and pull off one incredible performance after another.

Lana Parrilla has a very large and very loyal fanbase something only reserved for the best that the acting profession has to offer. Most performers have fans, but it takes a truly special one to garner the sort of loyalty that Parrilla has. It’s because, like many winners of this feature, she truly cares about her fans and takes the time to interact with them. That is a critical part of building and maintaining a fan following and something that she does very well. She is a true class act, an exceptional actress, and an all around good person. In the realm of fandoms and television viewers that is worth more than gold.

Author’s Note:

My editor, Donna Cromeans, happens to be a long time fan of Once Upon A Time and Lana Parrilla, so I offered her up the chance to add some of her own thoughts to the article:

Aimee graciously asked if I would like to add my thoughts on Lana Parrilla’s win as March Performer of the Month for her work in episode 6x14 of Once Upon a Time – Page 23. As the SpoilerTV staffer who nominated Lana, I am thrilled at her victory and welcomed the opportunity.

I have watched Lana Parrilla take Regina Mills/Evil Queen on this journey with interest from the first episode of the series. And no matter how mean, or wicked or evil the two were at the time in their own separate worlds, there was always some quality she exuded that made you feel great empathy for them. This, in and of itself, was a treat to watch as she took two characters that could have easily become clichés or caricatures and turned them into complex, watchable women.

However, when the decision was made for Regina to cast out the Evil Queen and the two women began to exist in the same realm in Storybrooke, Parrilla’s work has been outstanding, elevating the story tremendously. As Once Upon a Time is so adept at pointing out there is good and evil in everyone, it’s just a matter of which side you choose. The difference here is that since the Evil Queen came to Storybrooke and has been brought to such vivid life by Parilla’s work, Regina is getting to see the consequences of her evil first hand. Regina has had what many of us will never experience, a ringside seat to watching her evil side do despicable things to the people she’s grown to love, and ultimately learned that the person she hurt most was herself. It has been a delight to watch her on this journey.

While all her work in Page 23 was exceptional, for me there was one defining moment in the episode that earned my nomination. As Regina was about to crush the Evil Queen’s heart in her hand, Regina looks down into the broken shards of the mirror that lay at her feet. Images of both Regina and the Evil Queen looked back at her, and you easily realized the moment she truly saw herself for the first time and thus chose good over evil and wisely realized there was good and evil in everyone. It was a masterful acting stroke.

Congratulations to Lana Parrilla on being named Performer of the Month – Actress for March for this amazing performance, can’t wait to see where Regina’s journey takes us next!

All of these things, and so much more prove why Lana Parrilla was more than deserving of this win. She has been phenomenal throughout this story arc and deserves all the recognition she can get for all the hard work she’s put into her performances. Page 23, in particular, was a Regina/Evil Queen heavy episode and there was no way to cover every single powerful moment in this single article. Please, use the comments section to discuss all the moments that this article couldn’t cover.

PLEASE READ: Please keep comments on topic and just discussing the performances of the winner.

Special thanks to Donna Cromeans, freelance editor/proofreader (@DJRiter on Twitter) for editing this article.

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