As The Red Queen on ABC’s Once Upon A Time in Wonderland, Emma Rigby is fabulously dressed and meticulously controlled, akin to how Lewis Carroll envisioned her in his novel “Through the Looking Glass.” She is a woman who knows how to put her best face forward and rule with fury, and at times that may leave the audience wondering just who the real woman underneath all of the pageantry is– where her vulnerabilities lie and even where her heart lies. Because on shows like this, even the villains have hearts and motivations that usually come from places of love, even if it’s love of power, even if it’s slightly twisted, but The Red Queen will not be showing her true cards, even to the audience, so soon.
“She knows what she’s doing, and although she’s having a lot of fun with it, she’s there to serve a purpose and she wants to attain something and if she is forming a rapport, she’s not going to show that,” Rigby said to LA TV Insider Examiner when we sat down with her on set.
“She’s meticulous to the N-th degree; she’s so precise all the time that she knows what she is doing and she’s aware of that. So with me, with this character, I wanted to use that from the original into this series. But I wanted to make her…someone that you kind of love, that you laugh along with. She’s not, you know, taking herself so seriously. She’s living a fantasy of her, so it’s almost like she’s playing in a movie.”
Once Upon A Time in Wonderland is a story shown through Alice’s (Sophie Lowe) eyes, so Rigby admitted, at least in the early episodes, the audience won’t be alone with the Red Queen to see more of her internal struggles or motivations or get a glimpse at the sides she shows past antagonist, feared governess.
“The audience are kind of going to be in with [her] and either rooting for her to do what she wants to do or really hoping that she doesn’t,” Rigby said.
“The important thing is when we see the Red Queen, we are with the Red Queen; there’s no insight into what’s behind that. She’s there and she’s the Queen, and that’s what everybody needs to know. That’s what we want the audience to be with in that moment.”
In fact, Alice isn’t on the Red Queen’s radar as much as you might expect. For example, in this story, there is no desire (at least, not yet!) for revenge on Alice because she hasn’t done anything to warrant it. The Red Queen may be keeping an eye on Alice as she would anyone in her land, but she isn’t striking preemptively, perhaps overly confident and therefore underestimating the young woman.
“A lot of my scenes aren’t actually with Alice; there’s not a lot of interaction with Alice. For the Red Queen, it’s kind of [like] Alice is just a chess player. She’s part of her end goal, and she needs to use Alice, and she needs to involve Alice in her world [but] she’s not her main concern. Alice can’t hurt her; she’s the queen,” Rigby said.
So what is the Red Queen’s main goal, then? According to Rigby, she “definitely wants to do something that’s never been done before,” and her season-long journey will be whether or not she is actually capable of doing it.
But she won’t be doing it alone. The Red Queen will be spending a lot of time with the White Rabbit (John Lithgow), but her closest ally– to the point of co-dependence, per Rigby– is Jafar (Naveen Andrews). It is a relationship with contention, and the battling they do with each other is to gain the upper hand at times, so Rigby certainly feels that it might not be such a genuine allegiance from either side because everyone has a personal agenda.
“I think within the series we’ve found the idea that no relationship is without a purpose. Why has somebody befriended this person, why does somebody do this?” Rigby said.
“I think they both have to watch each other and they’re both aware of that.”
Once Upon A Time in Wonderland airs on ABC on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. starting October 10 2013.
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