Moments after declaring herself fired, Ginnifer Goodwin shouts across a massive war-room table to her longtime Once Upon a Time costar: “Lana, this is your last week!” Her charming real-life husband, Josh Dallas, chimes in: “Yeah, you’re fired after this week.”
Lana Parrilla, one of the few remaining series regulars left from the show’s seven-season run, smiles back at her costars, able to appreciate their use of comedy to mask the sadness — two days later, the Vancouver-based show would wrap production on the series finale. Though able to share a laugh with her cast mates now, Parrilla says she was basically inconsolable when she found out that Once was coming to an end.
“It’s taken me a good, solid month and a half to get to this place,” she tells EW on set during the final week of production. “I was pretty angry at first, when the show was canceled, and very depressed and sad about it.”
But the show’s actual ending, she says, is beautiful, and brings the ABC fairy-tale drama full circle to the pilot, both emotionally and physically. (Although it’s not without challenges for Regina, who has a few last sins to pay for before series’ end.) Two days after EW was on set, Parrilla later notes, the actress would deliver the final line she spoke as Regina — though not necessarily her final line of the series. “Until we meet again.” It’s not goodbye, she says, but left open-ended, much like the show is left in the series finale. Below, Parrilla reflects on her OUAT journey:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: As you’re in your final days of production, how do you feel about saying goodbye to this character?
LANA PARRILLA: Oh, gosh. I’m really proud of what we’ve created over the last seven years. I have loved Regina’s arc over the years and how far she’s come as a character and as a person, how much she’s grown. I feel very complete with her, I feel like she’s reached her happy ending in this episode. I am ready. It took a minute to get to this place, it took some time to get to where I am right now, which is content with the decision. I accepted it, and it’s time to move on.
How does it feel to have the story come full circle?
It was so beautiful. Yeah, it does. And it’s in the same location. I’m happy for her. I know everyone’s been waiting for Regina’s happy ending and no one really could define what that is, and no one really knew what it was going to look like, and nor did I. I think once Robin died, it was really hard to foresee another love in her life. There was just so much time invested in that relationship, even though it was somewhat short-lived for a relationship, because you would hope it’s forever. But I’m happy with where her happy ending is at.
Can you talk about what it means to have a strong female character like Regina, who is flawed, in our current era?
I think Regina is a very hopeful character because she’s so flawed and complex. And human beings are, life is hard. It comes with lots of challenges and lots of decisions and choices that need to be made by oneself. Following Regina’s journey over the years, we’ve seen that she’s made some mistakes, but she picks herself back up, she has support from loved ones and friends, family, and she doesn’t really walk through life alone. I think she’s an inspiration to many, including myself. I’ve learned so much from her.
I think she’s reached levels, at times, I am still trying to aspire to get to, and in some areas I’ve surpassed her, so I think she’s such a positive character. I’m fortunate to have been able to portray her for seven years. I know for sure that our audience has learned a tremendous amount from her. Some who have followed in her footsteps, some who are still trying to reach her level and have found her to be a huge inspiration. I feel honored to have played her all these years. I will definitely miss her, even though I am ready to hang my hat, I will still miss her and she’ll always be a part of me.
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What do you think it was about Once that made it last this long?
I think our stories, our characters’ journeys, our love for one another, their fervent fight to be better humans and to love and protect one another. This show is about hope, but it’s also about family and friendships and love. That is something that’s very positive. This show is very positive, and that makes me sad, that something so positive that’s on television is being taken off the air when we need it most. So it does break my heart in that regard, but like I said, it’s taken me a good, solid month and a half to get to this place. I was pretty angry at first, when the show was canceled, and very depressed and sad about it. But we keep saying here, “God, it feels like the end of senior year in high school.” It’s actually longer than that, because we’ve been here for seven years, and we’ve spent a lot more time together than anyone in high school ever spent together.
What do you think Once’s legacy will be?
I think it was a show about hope, and dreams, and inspirations, and that growth is possible, and to never give up.
What’s the most poignant fan interaction you’ve had?
A fan once said, “The reason why I love Regina is because she showed me that good can come from broken,” and that always stood out. I met her at a movie theater, this girl, who is working there, and that’s what she said to me, and that always really stuck with me. I think the show really resonates with my fans as well, especially Regina’s fans.
Can you talk about the importance of sending a message that everyone can get a happy ending?
Yeah, I think the importance about that is just really striving for something bigger and greater, never giving up, and just reaching as high as you possibly can go, which is a good goal to have, just to have dreams and aspirations, and to kind of set a standard, or a bar for yourself. I think it’s very motivating, it keeps people moving in an upward direction, which I think is very positive. And out of that, my gosh, so many things can actually come out of that — so many positive things can come out of that.
Do you have a new affinity for fairy-tale characters after living in this world for so long?
Oh yeah, for sure. I was never a crazy fairy-tale fan growing up. I liked my fairy tales, I liked mermaids, sirens, but I liked the ocean life, I love ghouls and goblins, and I love supernatural things, but fairy tales, I liked reading them as a kid. But I see the positive message and the mottoes and the lessons that can come out of them. And so I think I would definitely carry those fairy tales forward in my life.
What’s been your favorite Regina moment?
Probably the moment when she finally accepts her dark self, the Evil Queen, as part of her.
Anything you wish you would’ve done differently on the show?
No, actually, not at all. I’m really proud of what I’ve created with her. I feel like she was such a colorful character. I worked so hard to bring so many layers and complexities to her, and a lightheartedness, and a cuteness at times, a mother who was strong but vulnerable, and a woman who falls in love and gets her heart broken. I feel like I’ve done so much with her that if we continued, I’d be like, “What now do I do?” If it were to ever continue, I’m sure we would figure that part out, but I’m really proud of what I brought to this character.
How would you describe the finale and how it compares to the past six finales that we have seen?
Well, it wraps up a lot of storylines, and it feels like there’s a closure on a lot of things — everyone’s journey and where they’re trying to aspire and get to in their lives, i.e. Gold/ Weaver/Rumple [Robert Carlyle], where he’s headed, there’s some closure there. It’s actually quite beautiful to see what happens with this character, it’s quite moving. And the same with Regina. I think the last seven years has been: What is her happy ending going to be? And she gets there. And with Zelena’s character as well, in my episode that I directed, in episode 17, there’s a bit of a happy ending for her. So it feels like all these characters are wrapping up. With Colin [O’Donoghue], Hook’s character, we get to see two versions of Hook. And we already know one is happily married with Emma and baby. Now with Wish Hook, he and Alice have been, over the season, really trying to come together and be father and daughter, so it’s just really nice to see how all these storylines are wrapping up. It’s just different because it’s the last episode. So it’s different not only creatively with these characters, but it’s different for all of us actors who were working on it. For the crew, every day it’s scarier and harder, and it’s harder to say goodbye, and not really knowing what happens next. And are we going to see each other again? I hope so.
What can you tease of the show’s final battle against Wish Realm Rumple?
I mean, Wish Rumple is as evil as he could ever be. He is the darkest version of Rumple we’ve ever encountered. He wants to take away everyone’s possibility of a happy ending. That’s disheartening, and so hard to go up against because he’s extremely powerful. Collectively, we’re all trying to figure out how to take him down.
What’s next for you after OUAT?
We’ll see. It would be nice to take some time off for a minute. Obviously we’re keeping our eyes open for the next project. I think what I want to do is just go home. I miss home, I miss my family, my friends. It’s been a long time being away from home. I’ve been homesick for seven years. I’m really looking forward to seeing some of my best friends and getting to know all of their babies, their 2-year-olds, their 3-year-olds, their 4-year-olds, their 7-year-olds. I’ve missed a lot over the years. I’m excited to spend some quality time with all the people that I’ve loved my whole life.
[Editor’s note: The following was asked when EW spoke with Parrilla again Tuesday night, ahead of a screening of Friday’s penultimate hour.]
When we talked on set, you said you were angry when you found out the show was ending, but now that you’re done filming, do you feel a sense of closure?
Yeah, I was super-upset. But now I’ve had some time with it, and I have to accept what it is — can’t really change our fate. But yes, I’ve come to terms with it, and now I have to look at the positive of it and what we’ve created over the last seven years. When I meet the fans and see how much this show has changed their lives for the better, I’m just so happy. Seven years is better than two, it’s better than five, so I’m really proud of us. Yes, at first I was gutted and angry, but now I celebrate all the hard work that we’ve done to make this show what it is today. I love it, and it will always be a part of my heart.
Once Upon a Time’s series finale will air over two weeks, starting Friday at 8 p.m. ET, and concluding Friday, May 18, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.