Once upon a time, a princess grew up in Brooklyn.
Actress Lana Parrilla, a Brooklyn native, is best known for her dual role in the fairy tale drama “Once Upon a Time,” now in its fifth season on ABC. Parrilla plays the show’s Evil Queen and her alter-ego, mayor Regina Mills. We spoke to Parrilla about her regal role and her Kings County origins.
Where in Brooklyn did you grow up?
I grew up in Boerum Hill. Because of my Italian family that lives in Bensonhurst and my Puerto Rican family that lives in Boerum Hill, I was always going back and forth. I feel like I grew up in both parts.
Did you do any acting in Brooklyn?
Just in high school [at Fort Hamilton High in Bay Ridge]. I wanted to go to Laguardia High [School of Music and Art and Performing Arts], and I did everything in my power to make that happen. [But my father] didn’t want me to be an actor. He knew how hard it was. He was a professional baseball player [for various teams, including the Philadelphia Phillies in 1970] and it was hard for him. I think he wanted more of a stable job for me.
So where did you get your start in acting?
I didn’t really get to pursue my dreams until I was about 18 or 19, when I graduated high school, and then I was living in Los Angeles. I did most of my training and studying in Los Angeles. I did plays in high school in Brooklyn, and I saw a ton of plays on Broadway, but I never trained out there.
Do you miss New York?
I’ve always tried to go back over the years, especially when I was in my 20s and early 30s I’m still always deep down inside wanting to return to New York in some way. I just love New York. I’m still looking at real estate in Brooklyn. It’s amazing. So much has changed.
Would your character, Regina Mills, have appreciated Brooklyn if she had grown up here?
[Laughs] No. No, because I think she was a bit of a princess and I grew up in Brooklyn during the ’80s and ’90s during the crack epidemic. Yeah, no, I don’t think so — unless she had magic, then maybe.
Where would Regina go?
Regina was an adventurer and when she was a kid she really liked the outdoors. I would probably say she would do really well in Bensonhurst — it would be really fun for her, or Coney Island, if I had to choose Brooklyn. If I wanted to pick a more “princess route,” she would live in Upper West Side, since she comes from money.
What was the best thing about growing up in Brooklyn?
One thing about living in New York is there was always an adventure — your imagination would run wild. You’re in the city, you had to create these worlds that weren’t there. Brooklyn was its own playground with the fire hydrants in the summers and the street block parties. There’s nothing like that. I don’t even know if it still happens, I’ve been away for so long.
“Once Upon a Time” airs Sunday nights at 8 pm on ABC.