Caution: Spoilers about the fourth season of “Once Upon a Time.”
Awesome Con brought Kristin Bauer, Merrin Dungey, and Victoria Smurfit to Washington, D.C. this past weekend. The three actresses wreaked quite a bit of havoc in Storybrooke and Fairy Tale Land in the latest season of “Once Upon a Time” as Maleficent, Ursula, and Cruella de Vil. Yet you’re more likely to count these three women among the most amiable professionals in the entertainment industry. So how is it that they are able to play dark roles with such talent?
“It’s a freeing experience,” Victoria Smurfit chimes in, leaning toward one of the two microphones at the table. She sports long blond hair, a much different look than that of the number one enemy of dogs and dog lovers everywhere, Cruella de Vil. Merrin Dungey, also known to Oncers as Ursula, revisits the issue later as she says, “It’s fun [to play evil]. You can’t just go to Starbucks and act a big mess. You get to do what you want and [there’s] no remorse.”
Kristin Bauer credits her wardrobe as a device that enabled her to channel the evil Maleficent, a reason that her co-stars also put forward. All the layers of costuming are also a freeing mechanism because you’re no longer recognizable as yourself.
The “Queens of Darkness” panel was actually anything other than dark, particularly as the ladies shared amusing anecdotes about what it was like to work with the likes of Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, and Colin O’Donoghue. “It would be much more interesting if they were all hideous,” Smurfit quipped, but the OUAT regulars live up to their reputation as warm and helpful. The trio of experts were also notorious (albeit in an amusing way) for playing pranks on one another or messing around on the set. One day, Colin blew different tunes on a shell in between takes, trying to get the cast and crew to guess the songs.
Dungey spoke praise about the advice she received from Carlyle and Parrilla about acting by the green (or blue) screens. How fitting that the trio of dark queens were coached by the experts of darkness. Carlyle encouraged her to treat the scenes as “a drama” or like a theatrical production. There’s the danger of overdoing things, especially when green screen rooms span the size of an entire warehouse. “Build your walls,” was the tip that Parrilla gave to Dungey.
Bauer, Dungey, and Smurfit kept the crowd engaged through their entire panel. There wasn’t much to offer in the way of developments in the upcoming fifth season. However, they did gravitate toward their own brand of fanfiction, you might say, when someone asked what was next for Maleficent. Somehow the conversation eased into a new life for Maleficent as a waitress at Granny’s, with the sorceress/dragon lady taking down orders whilst clad in an apron and carrying her signature staff. “That’s why there are writers,” Bauer said, as peals of laughter were abound in the conference room.
What’s in store for Storybrooke now that good and evil seem to have flipped around (particularly with Rumple’s Dagger)? Is True Love going to win out in the end? Even more pressing, will Maleficent replace Ruby at Granny’s Diner after all? I’m kidding on that last point, but we’ll all have to wait until the fall to see what happens next on “Once Upon a Time.”
“Once Upon a Time” returns to ABC on Sunday evenings this fall.