As shocking as it sounds, Once Upon a Time fans may find themselves having “Sympathy for the De Vil.”
Sunday’s aptly titled episode finally delves into Cruella de Vil’s (Victoria Smurfit) troubled past, in which her oppressive mother used her Dalmatians to terrorize her. But a stranger empowers Cruella to take charge of her life once and for all. Could this stranger be the Author (Patrick Fischler), who appears in Cruella’s flashbacks? EW caught up with Smurfit to get the scoop on Sunday’s episode, including why Cruella takes Henry (Jared Gilmore) hostage:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tease about Cruella de Vil’s backstory?
VICTORIA SMURFIT: You’re going to get two Cruellas in many ways. You’re going to see her before, and you’re going to be taken back to 1920s England and brought into the world of the flapper, and the Charleston speakeasies, and that kind of era, which was astonishing. Then [we] take her all the way up to present day, and find out what her secret agenda has been this entire time—that she has separately of the Queens of Darkness.
What kind of person was she before?
She has a terrible mother who is a renowned dog trainer. The mother is pivotal in her life and her story, as is the Author. You’ll see that play out, and what the Author has that he holds over her in a sort of very threatening way. The Author might be somebody that Regina is looking for, but he’s most certainly somebody that Cruella has been looking to find, and that has been part of her journey, which she’s never told anybody else. She’s going to rise from the ashes with her terrible dog breath and her coat, and you’ll find out exactly where she’s come from, where she’s going and her plans.
Will we also see how she got her powers?
You’ll see how she gets her powers. You’ll see how she gets her hair. You’ll see how she gets her clothes. They’ve unraveled her so beautifully; it’s so intertwined, so simply and easily. This back story that they’ve used for Cruella, there’s much more of a blank canvas with her because we know less about her. We just have the cartoon, really, so they’ve had more of a license and freedom to have taken her all the way through to why she’s so masked and covered and such a lone wolf.
“Sympathy for the De Vil” is a great episode title, but will we actually have sympathy for her?
That’s up to you. That’s entirely in the eyes of the beholder. Personally, I love her. I think she’s deeply misunderstood. When you’re playing somebody so evil, twisted and sociopathic, you have to love them. I completely have buckets of sympathy for the poor woman. She’s totally misunderstood.
Cruella and the Author appear to have a history. What kind of relationship did they have?
It’s sweet, it’s intense, it’s complicated. It was fantastic to play with Patrick; he’s an astonishing actor. We got to do every twist and turn you could imagine together. I totally ‘ship them! He is the key for her, from the beginning, and for her future. He’s been the key.
What’s her happy ending? Is it to find the Author so she can be with him?
That’s far too simple. It’s going to be much more complicated than that, my darling. It really genuinely is complicated and twisty. It’s going to be a bit of an emotional roller coaster.
She takes Henry captive in the present.
With the help of Pongo, of course.
Why?! Why do you use poor Pongo like that?
Come on, darling, he’s there!
He’s a good dog!
Well, he is until I get him, darling. I don’t turn him into a house coat. Lovely Pongo does come with me on part of my treacherous journey to find my happy ending and to get what she wants. He’s her heavy. He’s her bodyguard.
What’s her goal in taking Henry?
I can’t really tell you. Her happy ending, her goal—up until now, we’ve known very little about how or what she’s been after and who she trusts and who she doesn’t trust. As a villain, you generally don’t trust many. It’s all going to play out Sunday. She’s a glorious, dazzling sociopath, and it’ll all be explained.
Will we find out why Cruella didn’t help Maleficent’s child after being sucked through the portal with her?
Yes, you’ll find out what happened when she went down into the portal, and her role with Mal’s child. You’ll find out what she did with and for her.
Cruella is inadvertently working for the Wicked Witch. How would she feel if she found out she was doing her bidding?
She would not be happy, and someone’s head would have to roll. She’s nobody’s Pongo. You’ll get a real sense of what powers Cruella does actually wield in this episode as well. Up until now, I’m not sure we’ve seen a vast amount of her magic, and her strength, and the level of her villainy. You’ve had all her comedy and the fun and the fabulous, but now you’re going to see just how deep that evil runs.
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.