Tonight, Hollyoaks actress Emma Rigby takes on a very regal role in the new ABC spin-off Once Upon A Time In Wonderland. The series, which gives the Alice legend a Once Upon A Time twist, premieres this evening at 8PM (ET).
We caught up with Rigby last week at the Vancouver studio of Once Upon A Time In Wonderland to talk about the Red Queen and where she fits into the show and the overall Once universe.
“It’s a brilliant role,” Rigby enthuses about the opportunity to play the Red Queen I would usually always get cast as [a character like] Alice. So to be able to play a villain is a difference. And then, suddenly, I’m dressed in the most fabulous costumes, literally.”
“It’s my dream,” she continues. Who doesn’t like to dress up and wear a crown?”
The Red Queen isn’t the first Queen we’ve seen in Wonderland, as the Queen of Hearts (Barbara Hershey) was seen in a few of the parent series’ jaunts into Wonderland. Although Rigby is unfamiliar with that character from Once Upon A Time, she did explain where her Red Queen falls into the whole picture. “With my Queen, with the Red Queen, the traditional Red Queen in the Through The Looking Glass novel, Lewis Carroll envisioned her as fury, but more in a very controlled, governess manner rather than somebody that’s evil and very openly a villain; an antagonist of the series. With that in mind, I kind of wanted to bring some humor and a real different take on the idea. It’s the idea of the Red Queen. She’s kind of fabulous, and she’s enjoying it. It’s like she’s living in a film, and she’s playing the role of the villain and enjoying it, and not necessarily taking herself too seriously. So I think that’s going to hopefully translate. I want the audience to be with her, and like her, and enjoy her,” she says.
“The Red Queen is the ruler of Wonderland, so she has all the power,” she explains, before carrying on about her evil deeds in the premiere (warning: possible spoiler ahead). “She’s all knowing; all seeing. She is the one person that has access to Alice and Cyrus. To her, that’s the beginning of the game for her, so that move isn’t necessarily to kill Cyrus, it’s to start the adventures in Wonderland,” she says.
“We want her to be the villain, the antagonist of the series. She’s got to be Alice’s rival; otherwise Alice has nothing to fight against. Like every person in the world that has so many different elements to them. I think that’s what we’re going to find with the Red Queen. There’s so much to her. Yeah, she’s bad, and she kind of likes it,” she laughs.
Despite that rivalry, Emma reveals that the Red Queen and Alice don’t actually have a lot of interaction at first. “It’s a game to the Red Queen. Alice is just another person in the game of what she wants to achieve. It’s not necessarily a vendetta against Alice. Alice is just an annoyance, really, and standing in her way, and she’s quite blasé about that. That’s an interesting thing as well. It’s not necessarily like the Queen of Hearts who wants to destroy Alice. It’s not her main concern. She has a much bigger thing to achieve,” she teases. And about that other Queen? Don’t go expecting an appearance by the Queen of Hearts just yet. “In the series, it’s not featured. The Queen of Hearts is not mentioned, so it’s as if the Red Queen is now in power of Wonderland. The Queen of Hearts is nowhere to be seen,” she explains, telling us the Red Queen’s reign is after the Queen of Hearts’ era.
So who does the Red Queen interact with? “A lot of my scenes are with the character of Jafar, played by Naveen Andrews which is the most fun. Most of my scenes are with him, and I have a lot of scenes with the White Rabbit, which is obviously really interesting to do, because you’re acting to a blue pole,” she laughs. “So that’s been an interesting and suddenly new learning experience.”
All in all, Emma Rigby welcomes audiences to check out these adventures in Wonderland. “We want the audience to escape into Wonderland and journey with us throughout the episodes,” she says. “Each episode is something new, and it’s very fast-paced, and it’s very sparky. There’s a real tone to it, which I feel is quite unusual, and the traditional Alice in Wonderland story is there as well.”
Once Upon A Time In Wonderland premieres tonight (October 10) at 8PM on ABC. Check out some of our other coverage related to the show here!