The wicked witch wasn't always wicked. Or a witch!
Sunday's new "Once Upon a Time" takes fans back to see a young Cora before she grew up to become a power-hungry sorceress (played in the present day by Barbara Hershey).
If anybody knows witches, it's Rose McGowan, who played one for five years on "Charmed" and guest-stars as the young Cora. When we first meet her, Cora is a poor miller's daughter living in humble circumstances. Then, one day, she's offered a deal by Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle).
McGowan chatted with Yahoo! TV about Cora's journey to the dark side, working with Carlyle, and possibly returning to TV full time.
How did you get involved with "Once Upon a Time"?
Eddie [Kitsis] and Adam [Horowitz], the creators, who are just the most amazing guys -- I mean, what comes out of their brains is very impressive -- they called me in and asked me if I would ever consider doing a part of the show. I said yes, with the caveat that I'd get to do my stuff with Robert Carlyle. And then several months passed and I forgot all about it, and out of the blue, they said, "We'd love for you to play young Cora."
It's an origin story, which is amazing because that just frees you up to do whatever you want to do because nothing's been set in stone yet. All I had to do is honor her in the future, but I don't have to play her.
Did you study Hershey's performance at all -- her mannerisms or anything?
I did to an extent and then just put it all out of my mind. I have a fairly deep voice in real life, as she does, and we look very similar, so that part of it was kind of taken care of. She's very different from what you see today, because what you're seeing today is the result of years of hard work to be fabulous [laugh].
Cora, when she starts, is literally somebody in the dirt. Rumple is really the one who helps her on the way. … Between her own gumption and Rumple, that's how she gets to be who she is.
She starts out as a miller's daughter, right?
She sells flour. And it's not a swanky environment. You see her father; I wouldn't say he's going to win Dad of the Year. She kind of reminds me of me in one sense, not in an evil sense -- and I didn't grow up that way at all -- but you know that you're stronger than your environment, and that pushes you forward in life, and it's exactly the same way with her.
What kind of deal does she make with Rumple?
It's actually Rumple that asks her!
So will we see the seeds of what makes Cora turn to the dark side?
Absolutely. It's completely all about that. It's a really interesting ride in that sense. Because people wind up the way they are for many, many reasons, and there are quite a few reasons she becomes the way she is. And as long the fans are happy with the origin story, then I'll be happy.
Will we feel more sympathy for her?
Yes, I think that there definitely is going to be some sympathy for her, and there is definitely going to be a more layered understanding.
How was working with Carlyle?
Ohhh, it was tremendous. It was really a gift. He was thanking me; I was thanking him. It was pretty special, actually, to tell you the truth -- it was one of the more special experiences I've had working as an actor. Which was a gift on top of just getting to play a great role.
Any chance we might see young Cora again? Are you open to returning?
I hope so. Her and Rumple have quite a thing for each other.
I had such a brilliant time, and I love everybody on that show so much. The crew was so fantastic; the costumers were beyond. Everybody on that show was just so great. It took me a long time to want to set foot back in the TV world, and after doing that show, I was like, 'OK, I think I can do another show.' It literally restored my faith to that point.
So you think you could return to series television?
Yeah, I'm thinking I'm ready to do more guest-stars -- just putting my foot back in the water. Because five years on "Charmed," I didn't get to see my friends, my family. "Once Upon a Time" is different because there are so many characters, so the actors have more time off. I was doing like 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 hours a week for five years, and it just breaks you down. And I just couldn't do it anymore. I was just not interested in not having a life. And this kind of showed me you can do both.
And you have other projects going on as well, right?
I'm about to direct my first piece! I'm starting Friday. Black Dog, which is Ridley Scott's company, is producing it. … They're producing a short that I'm directing with some fabulous actors, and it's set in 1961 in a world that kind of looks like the original "Parent Trap." And I'm really excited. And then I have a feature that I found to direct as well, so it's all good.
Do you hope to get into directing more?
I've directed a lot. I've just never gotten the credit. I've worked on things where directors walked off set, so I just take over, I was like, OK, I'll do it. But I just never get the credit. So I was like, I'm actually going to do this and take the credit for it this time -- bad or good, I'll take the credit!
Watch an extended preview of Sunday's "Once Upon a Time" featuting McGowan:
"Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 9 PM on ABC.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Robert Carlyle