Barbara Hershey Reveals Cora's Softer Side


In 2010, Barbara Hershey presented a tragic portrait of a stage mother in the Academy Award winning thriller Black Swan. And, believe it or not, many of the emotions that drove Erica Sayers to demand Swan Queen perfection from Nina (played by Natalie Portman) are once again bubbling to the surface on ABC's Once Upon A Time.

As Cora, former Queen of fairytale land and mother to Regina, Hershey revealed to ETonline that she believes a mother's love is what has fueled all of Cora's less-than-lovely behavior. With Once Upon A Time's winter finale unfolding this Sunday, we caught up with the Oscar-nominated actress to find out what fans can expect from the 2012 swan song!

ETonline: What attracted you to Once Upon A Time?
Barbara Hershey: I've always loved fables and fairytales. I've always thought the reason they endure is because they fill a need that we have as human animals. There is something so satisfying about them because at the root of fairytales is a story about the human condition -- of course it's magnified and fantasized, but it really is about us and I enjoy it on that level. Any TV series is a grab bag for an actor, but particularly with this one because you never know what world you're going to be in next week!

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ETonline: Actors can never view their characters as "the villain" of a show, so where does her perceived evil come from in your mind?
Barbara: Her love for her daughter. Even though how she loves and what she's doing in the name of it seems a little insane, it comes from a soft place inside of her. It's the one softness inside her. She's just very twisted and warped and unhealthy about it. There are a lot of parents who think they're doing well for their kids, but are really pushing them in a direction they want. Cora is doing that. She thinks everything she's done is in her daughter's best interest, but it's not. She's quite amazing to play.

ETonline: Given that, how much of Cora's motivation in getting to Storybrooke is revenge-based?
Barbara: None of it. I think she truly is a mother trying to reconnect with her daughter. Again, she's just so warped in her emotions and in a bubble of her own making, that her own version of love is so different from what mine would be. But Cora just wants to reconnect with her daughter and live their lives together.

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ETonline: Should Cora get to Storybrooke, which character would you like to work with?
Barbara: I've had a lot of scenes with Hook, which has been fun. Colin [O'Donoghue] is just wonderful. Of course I'm looking forward to a Rumpelstiltskin confrontation, but I'm wide open. I'm fond of all the characters; it's such a grab bag of amazing options.

ETonline: Looking ahead, what are you excited for the fans to see as the season wears on?
Hershey: What's fun for me is that there are a lot of surprises with Cora in the winter finale. I was blown away on almost every page. I'm excited for the audience to feel that too. You'll see as we go into the future episodes, it gets really, really interesting.

Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.