Once Upon a Time's Barbara Hershey: Prepare to Learn Why the Evil Queen Hates Snow White

This Sunday on Once Upon a Time (ABC, 8/7c), flashbacks to fairytale land will introduce viewers to the Evil Queen-to-be’s mother, Cora, in a storyline that will at long last reveal why Regina (played by Lana Parrilla) holds such a grim grudge against Snow White.

“I can’t tell you exactly what happens” to connect those dots, says guest star Barbara Hershey. “But [Cora’s relationship with Regina] fits very strongly into it all…. It’s very essential.”

(As Ginnifer Goodwin told me of the seminal conflict, “It’s complication is what’s so beautiful about it. It’s not black-and-white, and it really adds a richness to the relationship between Snow and the queen that we will need in subsequent seasons.”)

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But what exactly is the relationship between Cora and Regina? “It’s conflictual, but based on love — as a lot of mothers are with their daughters,” Hershey says. “She wants Regina to do well and not be poor. She wants her to be rich and happy, to not marry the stable boy (played by Nikita‘s Noah Bean) but instead marry the king (returning guest star Richard Schiff).”

Ah. Yes. Just your “garden variety” parent/child dynamic — save for the fact that Cora “is evil and wields horrendous magic,” Hershey boasts with a laugh.

So, Cora is as evil as the royal sorceresses her daughter is destined to become? Attests Hershey, “She is the Evil Queen’s more evil mother!”

In other words, the poisoned apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Watch this video sneak peek, then read on for more:

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Hershey says she didn’t need to be asked twice to bite into such a juicy role on the buzzy ABC series, and she looks forward to reprising Cora for several episodes during Season 2, presuming Once gets a second chance. Hey, she might even pop up in a certain sleepy Maine town.

“Who knows!” hedges the actress. “The great thing about this show is that it’s such a rich gold mine of characters and possibilities that anything could happen. And I think it’d be fun to be in Storybrooke.”

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On, and remember “the Beaches moment” that Lana Parrilla hoped to share with her TV mother (as revealed at PaleyFest)? She got it.

“I didn’t realize it at the time that it was ‘a Beaches moment,'” Hershey says, “but yes, there was a moment [off camera] where the artifice of the mother/daughter thing dropped and we were like two girls!”

Once fans, what is your current working theory on who Regina comes to hate Snow?