Rebecca Mader, Once Upon a Time’s Wicked Witch of the West and LOST alumni, sits down to talk with Zach Van Norman from OnceUponaFans.com
ZACH: I’m Zach Van Norman with Once Upon a Fan. Thank you very much for your time today. I appreciate it.
REBECCA: My pleasure.
ZACH: Lots of big twists going on with Zelena’s character. Obviously, she’s not quite as dead as some have assumed. Not only is she not dead, but she has been masquerading as Marian for the last several episodes. When you first got the call that they wanted you to come back to the show, and they explained everything to you, what did you think about that?
REBECCA: I said “Really?!” I was really shocked. I was driving through Beverly Hills, having a normal day and my phone rang. “Hey, it’s Adam and Eddie for you.” I’m like what? Alright. They got back on the phone and said “hey do you want to come back from the dead?” I’m like “Really? Yeah, alright.” It was a really nice surprise. I love playing this character.
ZACH: What did you think of the twist of Zelena not only being alive but then pregnant with Robin’s and Zelena’s child?
REBECCA: Oh my God, they told me that. I think I knew that back in September. They are like, this is what we are thinking. This the way we think we’re bringing you back, and then you've been Maid Marian the whole time. I was like, “Oh my God, shut up!” I mean I was driving thinking, the fans are going to go nuts. That’s awful! It’s deliciously awful, you know. So then, on top of it, I didn't find out about the pregnancy. I found out though a crew member actually. I was just like on the set, “Well, you know now that you are pregnant.” I’m like what?! I didn't get the memo, you know, and then I found out. It’s so funny when you are on a TV show, different departments get scripts at different times. So sometimes the costume department and the prop department have gotten the script before the actors. So you hear a conversation, and you go “Wait, what do I do in the next episode?” You don’t even know. It’s crazy.
ZACH: Yeah, that’s pretty crazy. You bring a lot of small nuances to your performance that I've noticed especially in the episode Heart of Gold. Where Zelena is confronting Gold in the hospital room, and you are leaning in so close to him. You’re just relishing how it is. Where does that kind of just delicious wicked evilness come from?
REBECCA: I don’t know. There must be something wrong with me, ‘cause I had a really normal childhood. My parents are lovely. They’re still together. They’re my best friends today. They hung out with me on Skype when I did hair and makeup this morning. So I’m actually a little bit concerned where it comes from because with that episode, Heart of Gold, was these two gargantuan scenes where I remember when I got the script I was “Oh, good God! Like Zelena, just like there were pages of me not shutting up, you know what I mean. So, I was a little bit concerned, and then when I went to do the rehearsal, the director was “Oh, should we rehearse it?” I was “Well there’s not a lot to rehearse; I’m just going blah blah blah by the side of the bed.” So we went to do the rehearsal, and I started talking, and I said to the crew, “You might want to have a seat, because we’re going to be here for a while.” Because it just went on while the crew was sitting there. I had no idea how I was going to perform it. I just thought somehow I’m going to have to make this interesting. I didn’t prepare it or anything, but once I become Zelena, I just go off on these tangents and I just literally disappear into this character, and the insanity just comes from somewhere. It’s just like I don’t have any control over it. It’s weird, it just takes me over.
ZACH: You do a fantastic job with that, I must say.
REBECCA: Thank you.
ZACH: She’s a completely captivating character. You bring a lot to the performance.
REBECCA: Aw, thank you!
ZACH: I hate the character right now because of what she has done.
REBECCA: Oh no! That’s good though. I’m doing my job.
ZACH: Yes, you’re doing it very well.
REBECCA: If everyone loved me, then I would be like, hmm. You’ve got to love to hate a villain, haven’t you?
ZACH: Yeah. You do have to. You’re right up there, top tier, I’d say, with Regina and Rumple. You’re just digging it.
REBECCA: Thank you.
ZACH: We thought, obviously, with more of your back-story, the Wicked Witch storyline, the 2nd half of the 3rd season. Her confrontation with Regina, as her sister, there was the epic Wild West showdown out in the street. You guys had the leather gloves on. What did you think about filming that episode? How was that for you?
REBECCA: That was epic. Doing that episode, It’s not Easy Being Green, 3.16 was one of best weeks and a half of my life. The director, Mario Van Peebles, is also an actor. When you’re an actor working with a director who is also an actor, that’s such a gift because all directors are great that work on Once Upon a Time, but when they’re an actor as well they really know how to communicate with you. So even if you already really have note, per say, he would come up to me in between takes and be like “You got this bitch! Aaaa!” You’d be like “Yeah!” He kept the energy going. That showdown, you know, “No dear, it’s the Wicked West.” When we meet in the town square and I flew through the air. That was 5 o’clock in the morning. I was really ill with bronchitis. I was so cold. You know it could have been a really hideous experience, but it was just epic. We had actors asleep on the floor waiting for their turn, and me and Lana were just going at it all night until 6 o’clock in the morning, but with a great director too. It just made it because he kept the energy going. That was a really fun scene to shoot but that episode was also like a mini Zelena movie for me. Because, as an actor, to have your back-story told was such a huge gift and I didn't have that experience on LOST because of the writer’s strike. So with Charlotte, they had always promised me that I would have a flashback episode, and then we had the writer’s strike. We literally found out on the beach. “Sorry everybody, but you've got to go home.” So we had to stop shooting, pack up and go back to LA, and wait for the writer’s strike to be over. Then once it was over, there wasn't enough time. So I didn't really get that opportunity. So that episode for me made up for that. You know?
ZACH: Speaking of back-story, obviously with the flashbacks, there’s more green screen work involved because you’re in a fantastical world they create.
REBECCA: Actually it’s a blue screen.
ZACH: A blue screen? Oh, because your green.
REBECCA: Bless me, I was sitting in the DP tent, I’m like why am I always on a blue screen? Why don’t I ever do the green screen? Everyone just looked at me like really Mader? Really? Oh! I would be eyes and teeth. It would just be a hat, eyes and teeth, and a broom stick. I would just completely disappear. Ah, let’s just forget I said that. Let’s all move on.
ZACH: Yeah, right.
REBECCA: But it does your head in after a while ‘cause when all you see is one color for hours, it’s weird. The director of photography has the best monitor screens, and they have an overlay of the world that we are actually in. So what I do, if I start to feel discombobulated with all the blue, I’ll run over, go into his tent and it’s got curtains around it. And go, yeah, there’s the castle, there’s the window, there’s the thing. Ok, fine, just to try and imagine the world you’re actually standing in because you just lose all concept.
ZACH: It seems like an alternate version of being a weatherman almost. You’re just standing there with nothing there.
REBECCA: Yeah, nothing there.
ZACH: With that huge set, ‘cause when Zelena goes to Oz, she’s in the huge Wizard’s chamber. How much of that was CG and how much of it was actually something that they constructed on the set? Because that’s something we can’t figure out because it’s so well done.
REBECCA: Sure. There were like these tubes with bubbles going up because they were really there. The doors were really there, and then the Wizard of Oz had a chamber with his bits and bobs. That thing was there. The curtains were there. Everything else, the walls, and the world itself, and the yellow brick road that was all CGI. But that cool scene, when I first come back in Heart of Gold with three Zelena's, that was really fun to shoot because the three different Zelena's had different lines. We shot it where I would stand on the first mark to be Zelena, said “Don’t make . . .” and in my head I would say “the wrong choice.” Then I would start walking and then say that part of the line, and time out what the other Zelenas were saying. And I did it for all three Zelenas, and I would just wait and say in my head. It was mentally insane, but that was all done by me so that they wouldn't have to do it in post.
ZACH: Good timing because it worked out all very well. I do want to switch gears and talk about the something you've been very outspoken about, bullying, and I really appreciate that because I have suffered from it personally as a kid. Most people do. What are your thoughts on how to overcome bullying? For someone who is getting bullied, what advice would you give to somebody?
REBECCA: The number one thing you have to do is tell someone because that kind of abuse, if you’re not telling anybody, the abuse will never stop. Because it is a form of abuse, whether it is physical, verbal, mental or whatever it is a form of abuse. I started being bullied at the age of four. So I was bullied for ten years. When I was four, I just was so scared and I didn't tell anybody. So it went on and on and on. I think no matter what the age, you've got to find someone older than you and tell them. The thing is, when you are being abused like that it will get worse and worse. That’s how a bully really controls somebody. If you tell, I’ll do x, y and zed. And it will be even worse, but that is not true. You have to tell an adult, or you have to tell a teacher, or a counselor, or a parent. Whatever adult is in your life, at least one you feel you can be honest with and tell, and that they will be in your corner and fight for you. You have to do it, otherwise, you’re trapped.
ZACH: Thank you for that. I really appreciate your stance on that. What have been your favorite moments of the show so far, either with Zelena or without?
REBECCA: There are so many. This is the best job I've ever had and one thing I love about this show, I love the fact that the demographic, the fan base, skewed a little bit younger. I went through a lot growing up. I love doing conventions because I love meeting fans. I find the whole thing really moving. I think one of the reasons why Once Upon a Time is so successful is because it is about fairy tales. I think a lot of kids are going through so much crap at school and in their home lives, that for that one hour a week they get to literally go to fairy tale land. And not only that, the show is about hope and having faith and all those things. For a kid going through something that’s really special. I come to these cons and I maybe something I said in an interview about my experience and they come up to me and share theirs. And then they’re crying, then I’m crying. I just find the whole thing incredibly moving. With all the crap I went through in my life, to then hang out with girls younger than me that have had similar experiences. I knew that, when I was going through stuff when I was younger, there was a reason for this. I feel that Once Upon a Time is the reason because now I’m giving back. I’m meeting all these people, and be able to be like a big sister or motherly figure. I've been there. It’s not like I've been really rich or really attractive all my life, and can’t relate. That wasn't my experience. In the end, to be able to make everything I went through worth it, is for me, aside from the fact that I love acting and I love the character, I think that is more meaningful to me than the professional aspect of it.
ZACH: Right, especially social media exists, and you can obviously interact with fans that way, but face to face experience is much different. And it is, obviously, once in a life time event for the fan. They may never have the opportunity to meet with you again.
REBECCA: Yeah, it’s pretty cool thought because sometimes a girl will come up to my table and she’s like “Oh, well you said this to me on Twitter. I’m Laura or I’m Sara.” I’m like “What’s your Twitter handle?” “Oh, I’m @blahblahblah.” Oh, yeah! I recognize my fans from their Twitter handles. I start to recognize people and get to know these girls online and these boys. It’s really fun.
ZACH: Excellent. I just have a couple more for you. Do you think that Zelena would make a good mother?
REBECCA: [Laughing] That’s a good question. I think so. Yeah, I do because if you look back at when she was younger, the pain that she was in from her mother abandoning her and her dad being an alcoholic, not loving her and not being able to help her with her magic, and having to hide her magic like it was a dirty secret. She came from being someone who was yearning to be loved. I think by the way she is being awful is coming from a place of pain. So I think having a kid could be something that could really ultimately change her because this baby could love Zelena unconditionally. Nobody loves her. There is nobody in her life that loves her. I don’t know how it would shape her or change her, but I would like to think that it would be something that would be really healing for her.
ZACH: OK, what do you think the Wicked Witch’s happy ending would be?
REBECCA: It depends. It depends on what happens with her journey because ultimately, right now, she wants to take everything away from Regina to be happy. Maybe she’ll do that or maybe she’ll realize that she doesn't need to mess with Regina’s life but go on her own path. Maybe the baby will be part of that if the baby comes into fruition. It all depends. I don’t know. I don’t know what the writers have in store.
ZACH: Got it! And I guess my last question for you would be if you could tease the finale which airs tomorrow in one word, what would it be?
REBECCA: [Laughing] Nutburgers.
ZACH: [Laughing] That must be a British thing to say!
REBECCA: It’s absolutely nuts! It’s so hilarious because it’s all flipped. Heroes and Villains. It is such a great fantastical romp. People are going to have to buckle up and get some popcorn because that two hour finale, Operation Mongoose Part 1 and 2, is literally going to be a roller coaster ride. I can’t wait to watch it! Its nuts!
ZACH: We’re very much looking forward to it.
REBECCA: Good. It’s going to be a good one.
ZACH: Thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.
REBECCA: Thank you, Zach.