ONCE UPON A TIME: Rebecca Mader Talks Playing the Deliciously Green Wicked Witch Zelena (2014)

"Once Upon A Time"
“Once Upon A Time”

Of all the villains that ONCE UPON A TIME has presented, ranging from the Evil Queen to Rumplestiltskin to Peter Pan, perhaps none have been as curiously portrayed as the Wicked Witch, Zelena. It is the brilliant green hue that seems to hover about her and it reminds us of the magic of Oz.

ONCE UPON A TIME may cross between Fairytale Land and Storybrooke, but the allure of the golden brick road, those magical ruby slippers and the omnipresent Oz seems to hover around the Wicked Witch. We wonder at her life before she encountered our heroes and stole their castle in Fairytale Land — and just why she brought them all back (minds erased) to Storybrooke. Just what is this magnificent woman’s story and what is she up to?

All this and more teases are brains and we are just itching to know the answers. In an exclusive interview, newcomer Rebecca Mader teased a bit about the Wicked Witch’s backstory and just how she may be the victim in this tale. Could it be that Zelena was not always so wicked, nor green?

In this next episode “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” will we finally get to see the backstory of Zelena’s life?
REBECCA: Yeah, it’s the big backstory moment. It’s a fun episode for my character. You’re going to find out why she’s green and why she’s wicked and why she has come to terrorize everybody. It’s really fun and I think it’s going to help everybody understand Zelena so much more, and maybe even have compassion for her and understand why she has become so very wicked.

So Zelena wasn’t born green. Maybe something happened to her during her life?
REBECCA: (Laughs) Maybe.

How easy is it for you to wear all that green makeup?
REBECCA: It’s been really fun. It definitely helps me get into character. Now it only takes about an hour or an hour and 15 minutes, which is nothing. I mean that’s about a conversation with the makeup artist and one chai latte and I’m done. We have it down to a really cool rhythm now. And once it’s on, it’s really on. It’s not like it falls off during the day. It’s on and then 12-17 hours later, we are scrubbing it off with hot towels. But once it’s on, I’m not aware of it. I’ll be on set and I’ll catch a glimpse of myself or someone sees me and screams. I must look terrifying. I forget that I look like that most of the time. It’s really funny, when I walk around the stages where they are filming different TV shows and it’s like people are about to crash their cars. For awhile, it was like, “Why are people staring at me?” and I’d have to tell myself, “Because you’re green, Rebecca.”

Are there days where you are in the green makeup all day? And does it itch a little bit? It seems like it would.
REBECCA: Yeah, all day, but I don’t even feel it. It’s really odd. That’s why I forget I have it on. I made someone scream in the bathroom once. I didn’t mean to. But I had forgotten what I look like to them.

You must feel so powerful when you’re wearing that. It’s like, “I can make people scream and run away!”
REBECCA: I do. It definitely helps me get into character, like with the costume and the hat and the green makeup, I definitely become the Wicked Witch.

It was such a surprise to find out that Zelena is related to Regina. That was a huge reveal when it was announced they were sisters. But we have yet to see any sisterly feelings. Is Zelena merely competing with her sister or does she actually want to get closer to her?
REBECCA: You will definitely see why the dynamic is the way that it is — especially after Sunday night. You will see a different side of Zelena with her half sister in Storybrooke. Obviously, Zelena told Regina they were related in Fairytale Land, but that was a year ago before everybody lost their memories. So telling Regina in Storybrooke will be telling her again that they are related. So a lot of things kick off on Sunday night as Regina finds out the truth.

It was a big surprise to see that Zelena took them from Fairytale Land to Storybrooke. Does Zelena have a master plan that she is building towards, or was it kind of a whim?
REBECCA: Zelena has a very specific plan and a very specific endgame. It’s very crystal clear in her mind. Nothing that she is doing is on a whim. It’s definitely been set in stone in terms of what she wants to accomplish.

So Zelena is like her sister in that sense. They are both master manipulators and planners and they have something very attainable that they want to achieve.
REBECCA: Yeah, it’s all girl power.

In this next episode, we are going to see a battle between Zelena and Regina. Who should we be rooting for?
REBECCA: (Laughs) Me, of course! I need as many people in my corner as possible. Everyone loves the Evil Queen. They are like, “Leave my queen alone!”

That is surprising because for many seasons now, everybody hated Regina. She was the Evil Queen. And now Zelena is someone they do not even know and they hate her more. It seems odd.
REBECCA: After spending so much time with these characters, they feel like they have become family and Evil Queen or not, they love her.

You have been working with some powerful actors, such as Robert Carlyle and Lana Parrilla. How much fun is it for you to work opposite people like that?
REBECCA: It’s so much fun. To play someone evil and strong up against people so talented and bringing it too, it’s incredible. It’s what you want. You want to work with strong, powerful, and wonderful people. It’s just been a dream come true.

And you’re putting somebody like Robert Carlyle in a cage, literally. That’s just crazy.
REBECCA: I know! I’m such a fan of his work from “Trainspotting” to all of his work from when I was younger. I can’t believe. As Rumple, he’s in a cage and under my control. It you had told me that when I was in school that I’d have Robert Carlyle in a cage, I wouldn’t have believed it.

And you have flying monkeys at your command!
REBECCA: It’s not normal. As an actor, and even as a kid, it’s such a fantastical show and to have these monkeys flying around I get to fly on a broomstick. I do feel like a kid on Christmas.

Looking into the heart of Zelena, what would you say is her most redeeming quality?
REBECCA: Really her fight for justice for herself. In a way, it’s self-preservation or self-care. To fight for oneself. I can relate to that.

Does she have room for love in her heart?
REBECCA: I think so. I think everybody does — no matter how wicked.

Do you think there is love down the line for her on this show?
REBECCA: (Laughs) I am hoping to get a green candle for that.

What kind of man do you think she would be drawn to?
REBECCA: Well, he’d have to be good on a broomstick! It would have to be someone very confident and very strong and very powerful to go toe to toe with Zelena. He would have to be as powerful if not more powerful, otherwise she’d just step over them and smack them with her broomstick.

With Zelena’s story continuing through the remainder of the season, this week’s big battle is probably not going to be the last we see of her, is it?
REBECCA: Probably not.

So she may have a backup plan or maybe she’ll surprise everyone and win this week’s battle?
REBECCA: Maybe. You’ll have to see.

Alright, what is something fans can anticipate from this next episode?
REBECCA: I think people really need to buckle up for safety. Maybe watch it in groups and get popcorn and get ready for the battle of a lifetime in the wicked west.

To see the epic battle of the Evil Queen versus the Wicked Witch be sure to tune in for this week’s episode of ONCE UPON A TIME, airing Sunday, April 5th at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.

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