"Chosen" will be the 17th episode of Season 7, and it will predominantly focus on Zelena (Rebecca Mader), who will be the latest witch in Hyperion Heights to be targeted by the infamous Candy Killer. It won't be the first time she's come up against Hansel (Nathan Parsons) though, since the fairytale flashbacks will reveal that her first encounter with the duo went "awry."
TV Guide spoke to Parrilla about her first time directing as well as the benefits and challenges of making her debut on a show she's been a part of for seven years.
Since you had to spend most of your time behind the camera, will we be seeing less of Regina on screen this week?
Lana Parrilla: Absolutely. You will see me, but you won't see a lot of me.
Was it difficult to juggle acting in scenes and directing them at the same time?
Parrilla: It was slightly tricky, you know, because you have to kind of switch gears. You have to be present as the actor and try not to think about what is or isn't working as the director because you're wearing the hat as an actor. But then we would step off after a few takes because I would do two or three takes in a row and then I would watch playback. They would provide the monitor, I would watch playback to see what we just shot, and then I could sort of critique from there. So it was a little bit of a longer process than I would have liked, but it was necessary and there really is no other way to do it. In fact, I found it very helpful that they set it up that way.
One other [thing] that was really helpful was that all my scenes were predominantly with Rebecca, so I met with her over the weekend and we would talk about the scenes and rehearse them. Any sort of notes or ideas that I had for her character, I would make sure to give them to her in advance. So when we were actually filming our scenes, we could just be free and play and act and not worry about directing.
How much of a help was it to have your first directing experience be with a crew you've worked with for seven years already?
Parrilla: Oh my god, it was like jazz. When you all play your set together, and you're all seasoned players, and you've been working together for X amount of months and years, it's like second nature. It was probably the biggest gift the show could have given me - the love and support that I've had over the years from my crew, cast, my producers, etc. To have my directorial debut be on a show that I can call home was one of the best experiences of my life... Often you hear that TV is the producer's medium, but they really gave me a lot of creative freedom, and I'm grateful for that.
Did you want to try anything new that you hadn't seen on the show before, or did you want to stick closely to the formula you knew worked?
Parrilla: No, actually I tried a lot of different things. I did a lot of new things that I don't think directors that have been on the show did, and they were very open to my ideas... I think what really was different were some of my shots. Some of my shots are very different in certain locations — like we'll take this wall down, shoot from here or shoot through this fireplace. We've never done that before... There's that spiral staircase in Roni's that we've never really explored, and I threw a camera up there, and it turned out to be a really cool shot, and a really cool way to open one of the acts.
What was the biggest difference you noticed in directing the cast versus being their scene partner?
Parrilla: I just felt more comfortable actually in a weird way. First of all, I'm really close to my cast, but I felt really comfortable to talk to them about the acting part of it. I think that they were all very excited as well, so it was like a very collaborative experience for all of us.
As a director I guess I can say it felt very comfortable and natural. Acting, sometimes it's really just about oneself — you're focused on your character, and you are focused on the other person and what's happening in the scene, etcetera, but as a director you're really thinking about everyone's perspective, and you're really telling everyone's story. It's so collective. It was fun to kind of have my hands in everyone's parts, like, "Try this, this way, and if you say it or do it this way, I know it's going to affect the other actor in a way that I need in order to tell their story." It felt very comfortable — I keep saying comfortable and natural, but those are the two words that come to mind.
Are there any other shows besides Once Upon a Time that you'd like to try directing?
Parrilla: There are. I need to explore them more. I would love to direct something back in Vancouver as well because I'm already missing my friends... I'd like to maybe direct one of the shows that film up there. I think that would be a lot of fun for me. But I'm also excited to — I don't think I'm ready for any sitcoms or comedies, but I would love to do something kind of along our lines a little bit, like fairytales, supernatural, sci-fi. I think that could be fun just to get my feet wet a little bit further.
Eventually, maybe in a year or so, I would really like to tell just like a life story, you know? Like real human to human life stories that don't involve magic and fireballs or dragons or anything like that. I think because I just stepped out of that world and because I'm so familiar with it, I think it would behoove me to get a little more experience under my belt in that genre world before I step out and try something else.
Once Upon a Time airs Fridays at 8/7c on ABC.