Once Upon a Time Preview: Victoria Smurfit Teases Cruella's Backstory, Being a Queen of Darkness

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Is Cruella de Vil all evil ... or is she just misunderstood?

Based on what we’ve seen so far on Once Upon A Time Season 4, the character has been nothing but nasty.

However, on Once Upon A Time Season 4 Episode 19 Sunday, we may start looking at her in a different way.

Victoria Smurfit talked to me earlier this week about what we’ll find out this week, as well as how she crafted her take on the iconic Disney villain and how it’s been working with the other Queens of Darkness, who are still doing more harm than good to our friends in Storybrooke.

Scroll down for our exclusive interview:

Cruella has a past with the Author - Once Upon a Time

TV Fanatic: I’m looking forward to finding out more about Cruella in this week’s episode.

Victoria Smurfit: I can’t wait for everyone to see it! It was one of the best scripts I think I’ve ever read in my life. I was just so excited. The boys had said that Cruella was getting her backstory but when I actually read the episode, my jaw was on the floor so hopefully for everyone watching it, their jaws will be on the floor.

TVF: Oh good! I love a good villain but it’s always great to find out a bit more about them. Do you think the audience will look at Cruella differently after this episode?

VS: Definitely. Absolutely. The kind of extraordinary thing about it is everytime you think you know what they’re going to do and you think you know what’s coming, you don’t. You really don’t. They take you on this magical, mystery world of these intense relationships and these extraordinary moments between myself, Cruella, and the author and Maleficent. It’s a roller coaster, it really is!

TVF: Backing up a bit, when you first took on the iconic role – and this is someone I’ve asked about everyone on the show – how did you approach it so you could make her your own?

VS: I watched the Disney version. I avoided the Glenn Close version because that was too intimidating and the rest, it was one of those things when you’re given an extraordinary script and then hair and makeup and costume all put together – and obviously Eduardo and his team are at the top of their game – I didn’t know initially where they were going to go with her. As the episodes progress and we went into the real world in Storybrooke, they were so clever about maintaining the iconic look but taking their own spin on it. Once that all comes together, it’s really your job to hang it together with the words.

When you go into a show as huge as Once Upon A Time there is a danger of wanting to be huge but Adam and Eddy are really keen that you always play everything for real.

TVF: How has it been helpful having the other Queens of Darkness to work off of as opposed to you being a solo villain of sorts?

VS:  It’s fantastic! You go to work as a trio! We’re bonded forever at this point. It’s like the evil sisters had arrived: the blonde, the brunette and the half black and white. We had an absolute blast and it’s great working as a trio and you want to make sure that you’re not picking up on each other’s pacing. So from an acting point of view, it was really fascinating to be finding your space.

TVF: There hasn’t been a lot of time for Cruella to have a romance in the episodes thus far but do we find out anything about her romantic life in this episode?

VS: Well, Cruella has a backstory with the author, they have history and you’ll see that and you’ll see how that plays out and how she came to be who she is. You’ll see how her look came about and you’ll see where do these demons come from and the author is 100% part of that journey. You get to see young Cruella all the way through to her now.

TVF:  In terms of the Queens of Darkness. Do you think they trust each other? They’re all evil with their own agendas but do they trust each other?

VS: Oh, they absolutely have their own agendas. You know what it’s like? It’s a bit like going out to a bar with a few ridiculously sexy girlfriends who are definitely going to steal your man. You’ve always got to have one eye on them.

Maleficent can turn into a dragon and burn us all down and Ursula can squeeze the life out of you with her tentacles so we all have our power but what’s interesting is we all have our flaws but as a team, we’re like a complete villain. But working with Lana, with Regina, was fantastic because it literally was sassy women doing their thing. It was terrific chemistry between all of us but you also want to keep one eye open when you’re hanging out with women that good looking!

TVF: I don’t know if you’ve worked a lot with green screen. Do you have a lot of experience with that or has it been new for you?

VS: I have done green screen before but nothing to this scale. And not just green screen but the enormity of where you were. The monitors where there so you could see if you were in a castle or on a bluff so you could actually get a sense of it. The studios are huge, the costume is huge, the make-up is huge, the storyline is huge. Everything is glorious!

But with green screen, we had a ball. It was like being a kid. ‘There’s a dragon to your left! There’s a dragon to your right!’ You get to go so far into your imagination, which was glorious. And Lana, one of the first things she said to me, was when you’re working with green screen give yourself four walls so you don’t play to the back of the arena. So that was a really smart and kind tip to give us when we arrived.

Once Upon a Time Season 4 airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC. 

Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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