America is hurting for a happy ending. That's Lana Parrilla's theory regarding a renewed fondness for fairy tales in Hollywood.
"There's just so much negativity in the world right now," the actress says. "Maybe we need these lovely stories as an escape from everything that's bringing us down."
If she's right, we're about to be inundated with the remedy. Parrilla plays the Evil Queen in ABC's Once Upon a Time, an out-there drama that premieres at 7 p.m. Sunday. In this series, fairy-tale characters such as Snow White, Prince Charming and Jiminy Cricket have been cursed by the Queen to lead more humdrum existences.
Now they have bleak, workaday lives in the same world we inhabit, and they have no memory of their storybook pasts. Meanwhile, NBC launches a quasi-detective series next week called Grimm, as in Grimms' Fairy Tales.
There also are two big-budget Snow White movies currently in the making, one starring Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, the other with Charlize Theron as the villainess.
"I'm not quite sure where this trend started," Parrilla says. "But I think it's about bringing us a sense of hope again, about allowing us to dream again." Her explanation makes as much sense as any.
Once Upon a Time also stars Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin and Robert Carlyle. The show's very complicated setup introduces Emma Swan (Morrison's character, a jaded bail bondsperson) to the 10-year-old boy she gave up for adoption and to the town of Storybrooke, Maine, where the fantasy-land types have been banished.
Emma, who is the daughter of Snow White and the Prince in an alternate fairy-tale world, ultimately will have to square off against the Evil Queen to set things right.
The show doesn't make a whole lot of sense right away, but it's visually striking and it's peppered with fun, over-the-top performances from Parrilla and Carlyle (as Rumpelstiltskin).
Parrilla is walking on air, sometimes literally, as the Evil Queen.
"It's very liberating for me," she says. "This character is so bold and super-confident."
Parrilla says she goes to work now, channels all of her anger and frustrations into her performance, then goes home and sleeps like a baby because there are no dark impulses still lurking in her psyche. But it wasn't easy at first to get a handle on the character.
"When I played a paramedic on Boomtown, I stayed at a fire station for a few shifts so I could see how the actual paramedics did it," Parrilla recalls. "When I was a surgeon on Miami Medical, I spent time at a trauma center in Miami to see how it was done. But with this, I was like, 'Where do I go to research this? The Enchanted Forest doesn't exist!'"
She eventually figured out what she needed to know by reading medical texts about sociopaths.
"She's the kind of girl who will give you a poisoned apple if she doesn't like you," Parrilla says. "She has figured out that it feels good to be bad."