How Once Upon a Time found magic in Lana Parrilla’s Regina Mills

For today’s edition of CarterMatt’s ongoing Unsung Heroes article series, the focus is going to be on a character we couldn’t even consider to be a hero at all a few years ago: Regina Mills from Once Upon a Time. This is a character who started off a villain but, over time discovered some of the true magic that lies within her. She is capable of being not only a hero, but one of the most beloved characters on the entire show.

So where does the road for redemption really begin for Regina? Much of it starts with her beginning to understand a little bit more of precisely where some of her evil came from — it was out of pain, out of jealousy, and out of frustration. She never received many chances in life for happiness and the ones that she had were snatched away from her without getting much of a choice in the matter. That pain manifested itself in how she treated other people — ultimately, she felt as though turnabout was going to be fair play and she could bring others down to her level.

However, over time Regina has realized that there is another option and with that, a personal light at the end of the tunnel. She can actually navigate some of these storms and become a stronger person – this is something that many of us watching can certainly relate to. Emma helped her by being a significant source of light, and also pointing out one of the things within her that always was good: Her love of Henry. These two channeled the energy that was always there for Regina and allowed her to be the sort of person to conquer her inner demons, to help others in need, and to become ultimately one of television’s most-relatable heroes.

Many times in life, we’ve all done things here and there that we regret — often, it goes beyond just having a few dark thoughts. We’ve talked about them and perhaps acted on them, and so has Regina. She’s decidedly imperfect and she knows that. She cannot change the past, but she can determine the sort of person that she wants to be in the future. This transformation helped her after the heartbreaking death of Robin Hood and has carried through to her new performance in Roni. She’s likable, she’s caring, and while she hasn’t lost some of her signature snark, she has learned to channel it in other ways.

Behind every single move Regina made was a wonderful performance by Lana Parrilla, an unsung hero both on this show and in terms of awards consideration. Just think of how many different versions of this character she has played: The Evil Queen, Mayor Regina, a conflicted Regina, good Regina, Regina in love, the Evil Queen again, and now also Roni. All of these versions of the character are technically within the same person, but the permutations are all so distinct that it tested different parts of Parrilla as an actress. Her performance through the series has been nothing short of beautiful, taking on challenges and embracing them in a way that you would want for any hero.

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