Keegan Connor Tracy Dazzles Us With Her Insights Into the Blue Fairy’s Complex & Magical Powers by Diane J. Reed
Ready, set, sparkle! In this interview, Once Upon a Time’s super-smart fairy bombshell Keegan Connor Tracy shares her fascinating perceptions of her roles as the Blue Fairy and Mother Superior. Given her degree in Social Psychology, Keegan knows a thing or two about the structure and vagaries of power, and she holds nothing back as she discusses her character’s flights of fancy and where she believes the Blue Fairy fits among Storybrooke’s power brokers.
Diane: I’d love to start out by discussing some “fairy logistics” with you. What is it like to get into your costume?
Keegan: It’s gotten easier over the course of the show. In the beginning it took—oh my gosh—close to an hour to put me in.
Keegan: And I’d just had a baby at the time of the pilot, so [laughs] it was even more of a challenge back then to corset me in!
Diane: Wow, you looked great in that costume! For someone who’d just had a baby, that’s AMAZING.
Keegan: There’s this great story we’re always laughing about - it was during the wardrobe fittings when they were first building that costume. I had the baby with me, and of course she was crying and I was nursing her. So here I am, standing in the Blue Fairy costume, nursing the baby. And when she’s done, I have one side that’s completely empty and the other size that’s this giant milk booby! So I had to pop out the other side for her to nurse - it was just a ridiculous experience for everyone involved.
Diane: Forgive me for saying this, but I remember when I first watched the pilot thinking, “Oh my gosh, her boobs look real. That’s pretty rare in Hollywood.” So now that I know you’d just had a baby, I’m even more convinced! I can cut this from the interview if you like.
Keegan: They are real! I don’t mind talking about it, as long as it’s about milk boobies - that okay.
Diane: It’s just so nice to see people in Hollywood who look like they’re natural, know what I mean?
Keegan: Well you know, I’m still in that zone. It’s a slippery slope when people start to age. So far I’m still holding fast. But I believe the same thing - people who have a bunch of stuff in their face begin to look weird. Unless it’s done really, really well.
Diane: So is your costume lycra, or is there some kind of corset involved?
Keegan: Oh, the works! This costume—I hope I’m allowed to say this—I talked to them before, and I said “Do you think my character will ever get a different Blue Fairy outfit? A change of pace?”
Diane: [Bursts] I know!!
Keegan: Eduardo Castro kind of rolled his eyes at me and said “Do you know yours is the most expensive costume they’ve had on the show?”
Diane: [Bursts again] REALLY?
Keegan: It took so many man hours! That costume was built from scratch. All the boning, all the pieces in that corset took extensive work to put together.
Diane: Yeah, it looks like you’ve practically got whale bone action going on in there [whale bone was used in the 19th century corsets].
Keegan: Well, the real challenge was that they had to build it around a harness. They had to make it look like a fairy, yet at the same time create it so a harness could fit underneath and wires could run through to the rigging. Because I’m always, interminably, attached to the rig—that’s the nature of the Blue Fairy flying. But it’s easier to get in the costume now since they’ve gotten it all down to a science. And of course, it fits much more tightly now that the baby weight is gone!
Diane: I’ve watched every single one of your episodes, and I never noticed a difference. So you’re doing pretty good!
Keegan: [Laughs] Oh, thanks!
Diane: Is your costume heavy, though?
Keegan: YES. And all of that embellishment on the shoulders is like little pieces of beautiful vintage jewelry. And they’re all metal, most of them, so they’re sharp.
Diane: [Gasps again—this time at the thought of pain.]
Keegan: So at the end of the day, I’m pretty ready to be done with the Blue Fairy! [Laughs]
Diane: Now because I’m a fashion geek, I noticed you’ve had two different necklaces, and you did have a hair change. You went from a curly and ethereal hair style to, well, a fairy beehive [laughs].
Keegan: Yes, what they had to do at the end of last season, during a flashback from the pilot when I came in with the enchanted tree, was match that beehive hair. All the rest of the hair has been that boingy, curly hair, which I prefer—I love that hair.
Diane: I love that hair! So fairy…
Keegan: I hope that Mother Superior will start to get some rad hair, too!
Diane: I have to say this—you are the PRETTIEST Mother Superior that has ever walked the planet. And yet, you have a wonderful ability to convey that rod-up-your-ass thing, that sternness that we would expect.
Keegan: [Laughs] Yeah, it was a challenge for me because I don’t think I fit the bill necessarily of what one imagines a Mother Superior to look like. Usually they’re women in their sixties who are stern and harsh. I remember when I got the first script that said who I was going to be in Storybrooke, and my heart sank. I thought, “Oh my god, really?” Because I’m so often the goofy, crazy, wacky one! That’s been a bit of niche for me, so this has been a new challenge to play a very straight character.
Diane: Isn’t it interesting, though, that they saw you as being able to do that person? Because she has POWER.
Keegan: Yes! That whole speech with Reul Ghorm made by the little girl to Baelfire—she said, “Oh, you need to call Reul Ghorm, the most powerful being in the whole land.” That was an interesting development. And I think the whole Mother Superior character—I’m sure it’s tied with that, since she’s the most powerful of all the nuns and among the fairies. I hope it bodes for great things. And this season, I’m dying to know more about the backstory of the Blue Fairy. Adam and Eddie have so many tricks up their sleeves. Every script I read, I gasp at and say “WHAT?” at least once! And that has been no different for the scripts I’ve read so far for Season 2.
Diane: Well you worked on the set yesterday—so we can safely assume you’re in Season 2! What I’m hoping for is that the Blue Fairy will still have that level of POWER. This is something that really fascinates me—the very complex and ambivalent kind of power she has. You’re the only character on the show who’s quite like this, Keegan. I mean, your character made Pinocchio go from a wooden figure to a boy with a wave of her wand—that’s power big time!
Keegan: I would certainly say so, and she had the power to send Baelfire to another realm.
Diane: Right! She possessed the magic bean that opened a kind of vortex. And she gave a magic red quill to Cinderella for her second deal with Rumpel that was suppose to freeze him and make his magic impotent - although I’m not sure it quite worked. So I’m curious about the ramifications of the Blue Fairy’s power. For example, although Rumpel is feared by everyone, she offers to send both Rumpel and Baelfire to the other realm —to save them BOTH! Very intriguing.
Keegan: My guess is that she and Rumpel have a history. It remains to be seen what that history is. I’ve seen a lot of talk on the internet about Rumpel and the Blue Fairy, so I’m curious to know whether the writers have plans for it.
Diane: Well, at the highest level of power in Fairy Tale Land there’s Rumpel and the Evil Queen and characters like Maleficent, but then there’s the Blue Fairy. Would you say her power is once step below theirs, based on the quality of allegiance she has to Snow White and Prince Charming? Where do you think she fits on the power scale?
Keegan: I’ve noticed that a lot of people have questions as to whether the Blue Fairy is truly good or evil in her power. I think she’s certainly been working for the good of the realm. Again, you never really know what people’s motives are. As for the level of her power, I don’t think we’ve seen the real gist of it yet. She hasn’t quite had her turn. But I can remember when they talked about Reul Ghorm in the script, and I read that one line—“the most powerful being in all the land.” And then I turned the page and [gasp] it’s the Blue Fairy! So those guys are very smart and methodical about what they put in the story.
Diane: So Reul Ghorm could be the Blue Fairy????
Keegan: Reul Ghorm IS the Blue Fairy. (Note: Reul Ghorm means "Blue Star" in Scottish Gaelic)
Diane: [HUGE GASP] I didn’t catch that! I thought she showed up out of compassion to try and intercept Baelfire before Reul Ghorm could get to him!
Keegan: If you go back and watch that episode, when Baelfire calls to Reul Ghorm, the Blue Fairy comes right in. And when Rumpelstiltskin arrives and he’s angry, he yells “Reul Ghorm, show yourself!” And in flies the Blue Fairy.
Diane: Whoa!! I just didn’t processs it that way—that she could be this fearsome being. Because the Blue Fairy has this wonderful and compassionate side - it’s what I love most about your character. She senses the pain and darkness that Baelfire is going through and feels for him. In spite of all her power, she is so dear to this little boy! And she offers to send both father and son to the other realm to keep them together. So she appears very kind and compassionate — but only sometimes!
Keegan: I feel like the Blue Fairy had something going on with Rumpelstiltskin once.
Keegan: And I think it was painful for her to see what had happened to him. So I think she was trying to save Rumpel too when she gave Baelfire that magic bean, knowing that he could go there. And it was certainly not her fault that he was a coward yet again and didn’t go. I think that story is going to come back around, and the notion that the writers put in with Reul Ghorm being the most powerful in the realm - that’s like a little egg waiting to hatch later in the story line.
Diane: And also when Rumpel asked her if there was a curse, the Blue Fairy lied and said no. But he read her eyes and replied, “Ah, so there is a curse.”
Keegan: Yes, and that’s when I think Rumpel got the idea to make the curse that helps Regina.
Diane: So I’m walking around assuming that Rumpel/Mr. Gold hates fairies because of the vortex that separated him from his son Baelfire. Is that your take on it, too — or do you think there could be back story that we don’t know about?
Keegan: I think there’s more. With any powerful people in any land, there’s always power struggles between them. So that wouldn’t shock me at all.
Diane: So when he offed that poor Fairy Godmother in the Cinderella episode, do you think that means that she’s gone-gone? Or can people recycle around in Fairy Tale Land?
Keegan: Anything is possible in Fairy Tale Land!
Diane: When you were performing “air support” while Snow White was storming the castle at the end of Season 1, I looked really hard at those fairies, thinking “Do I see her? Is that the Fairy Godmother helping the fairies again?” It had to be really FUN for you to lead that charge, right?
Keegan: [Laughs] It wasn’t expressly written the way I ended up doing it. But while I was up there in the rigging, and they were jetting me down this wire, I started thinking, “If we’re bombing, then this is the big time and she’s the leader of the army! The Blue Fairy is the General McArthur of the fairies, so let’s go do it!”
Diane: [Laughs] I loved it!! We saw another dimension to this character — the bold leader.
Keegan: It was very impromptu. But it made sense to me in light of the whole Reul Ghorm thing. I started thinking about where she was in the power grid. That’s what inspired me to play it that way.
Diane: So that was completely spontaneous?
Keegan: It was! The words were there, but the way I was delivering it was in the moment.
Diane: How fabulous! That was genius, because it really goes along with her as Mother Superior. She’s truly the leader of her people. And she saves the day!! [Diane is getting WAY too giddy about fairy power in this moment]
Keegan: [Laughs] I wouldn’t be surprised if she becomes a power player in the whole story somewhere down the line. It’s just how and when. My breath is bated as much as yours.
Diane: Now when you’re doing your scenes, are you in another room being filmed by yourself, and then they superimpose you? How does that work?
Keegan: I would say 99% of the time I’m by myself against a green screen, hanging up in the air, talking to an X of tape on a stand. It’s just the nature of the deed.
Diane: So those scenes with you and Rumpelstiltskin—you didn’t get to see Robert Carlyle?
Keegan: No. We did those separately.
Diane: Ah! That’s terrible!
Keegan: It’s really a shame. And I’ve begged them to let me come in and just do it with him. In fact, Robert was the one who said at two o’clock in the morning, while they were out filming somewhere, “Do not make her come in. It’s raining and horrible.” That’s just how it goes.
Diane: So have you ever actually acted in a physical scene with Robert Carlyle?
Keegan: Just the one with Mother Superior. All that Blue Fairy stuff has been by myself.
Diane: Aw. You do a GREAT job, because you cannot tell!
Keegan: [Laughs] That’s good! I’m glad because I have my coach in L.A. who I ask to watch to make sure this is working.
Diane: But it’s sad that you wait your entire career to act with people of this caliber and then you have to do it in another room!
Keegan: At the end of the season, I got to do the other side of the scene to help the people that were filming, so I got to help guide the scene that way. I’m usually hanging so high up in the air that I can’t even see people half the time.
Diane: Do you mean you were standing off-scene?
Keegan: I was doing off-camera lines with Baelfire. We were actually doing the scene with me crouched in the bushes.
Keegan: A lot of the Geppetto stuff I got to do that way as well. That made a difference for me when it was my turn to shoot my stuff.
Diane: When you do appear, of course they make you small so you do look like a fairy, but you often have that wonderful floaty effect. When you’re actually filming, are they bouncing you up and down?
Keegan: Yeah, I’m on a couple of different kinds of rigs. One of them is called a parabolic rig that’s on a lever that can move you around. We used that one for the Dreamy episode. Most of the time I’m up hanging from wires.
Diane: You really are? Oh my goodness!
Keegan: And we worked out some flying sequences like that. I’m getting better and better in the rig as I learn how to make it work.
Diane: It’s really effective, because especially in the Dreamy episode you genuinely look like you’re flying. It’s very seamless and beautiful.
Keegan: I think the CGI and effects people have done a great job on this show.
Diane: So does anyone recognize you on the street from the show? Do children think you’re a real fairy?
Keegan: Yes, depending on how much I put myself together that day [laughs]. They do! But since the Blue Fairy appears small on screen with not as many close-ups, I’m spared a lot of that.
Diane: And the show might be a bit too sophisticated for very small children, so they might not be allowed to see you yet. Of course, MY children think you play the fairy in every TV show or movie because you ARE the Blue Fairy! And they specifically wanted me to ask you where you get your fairy bombs. Explosives are a big deal at my house.
Keegan: [Laughs] Well, we make them out of our fairy dust from the mines. Powerful stuff!
Diane: So as a child, was there any particular TV show or film that inspired you to want to become a part of all this make believe—to be an actress?
Keegan: I specifically remember watching a movie once where a woman went to kiss a man, and she split her hand up the knape of his neck and into the hair on the back of his head. And I remember thinking that was the most beautiful, romantic gesture I ever saw, and I thought to myself, “I want to do that.”
Diane: Aww! That’s so lovely… So do you have any dream roles or dream actors who you’d love to work with?
Keegan: Oh, Meryl Streep, of course—who wouldn’t? And Johnny Depp. I love actors who make really odd, interesting choices. And I love directors who do the same, like Wes Anderson, Bill Murray and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Oh, and the quirkier, offshoot sorts of projects, like Squid the Whale—I love stuff like that. And Laura Linney. I would love to be on Game of Thrones.
Diane: Well yeah! And wouldn’t you love to see Meryl Streep get just one walk-on in Once Upon a Time? I’m thinking something truly evil where she gives Regina a run for her money...
Keegan: [Laughs] Her daughter is shooting something in Vancouver, so you never know! Maybe she’ll just come up and feel like doing something with us.
Diane: There you go! Because I was thinking, “Who could truly stand up to Regina? It has to be someone like Meryl Streep or Glenn Close - someone who could really deliver a strong evil presence.”
Keegan: So far Barbara Hershey is doing a pretty good job!
Diane: Ooh, and I’ve heard rumors she’s back for Season 2. But you probably can’t discuss that, can you?
Keegan: You know what, I know nothing!
Diane: My last discussion point for you Keegan is focused on the fairy phenomenon in film and TV recently. For example, True Blood capitalized on fairies last season, and they’re really popular right now.
Keegan: I think fairies and vampires and the whole fairy tale phenomenon has made this gigantic resurgence, and it’s no accident. If you look at what’s happening around the world, we feel like things have fallen apart. Particularly in the United States, with the economy and the divisiveness of the country in general, and then the world economy as well, I think people need escapist television and that’s why the phenomenon is happening right now.
Diane: So you believe the need for escapism is connected to the recession?
Keegan: I absolutely do. I think it’s completely tied with the state of the world right now.
Diane: But in True Blood, just as a comparison, fairies appear beautiful and filled with light, but in fact they are very dark characters underneath. There’s a real capricious thing going on. I wonder if your character will express some of that.
Keegan: Well if you ever watch anything with people in power, even people who appear benign, but then turn out not to be behind the scenes, you’ll find individuals who feel they have to do evil things for the greater good. Any president—even if you like them—you’ll find that they’ve had to bomb or get involved in conflict whether we know it or not. And they’ve done it for what they thought was our safety, even though they knew we wouldn’t like it—but they felt that they had to do it. With great power comes great responsibility.
Diane: That’s a terrific point of view on your character. Because a power broker is a power broker, whether it’s for good or evil. And they all shake hands with the devil sometimes.
Keegan: Yes, it’s a very gray area—power in general.
Diane: Well one theory, back to fairy tales and the recession, is that fairy tales speak to our hopes but also to our deepest fears and darkness. Most fairy tales have serious darkness going on! So it makes me wonder if that’s another reason why they’re popular right now. They express the fears that we’re afraid to talk about.
Keegan: And they can do it in a way that is safe for us. It’s far-fetched enough that we can think, “Oh, that won’t really happen here.” So we can voice those fears a little.
Diane: Exactly! It’s cathartic. Because fairy tales are massively popular. Think about it - Once Upon a Time, Mirror, Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman, Brave. The list goes on and on. Your producers hit it at the exact right moment because they’re, well, brilliant! They nailed it.
Keegan: All of us as performers, were all just hoping we can hit something at the right time. And I’m just grateful to be hanging on to the coattails of this show, that’s for sure! [Laughs]
Diane: Aside from actors and actresses you’d like to work with, are there any dream roles that might surprise us that you would love to do? I remember Anastasia Griffith spoke about how she would really love to do gritty roles. What might people not expect from you?
Keegan: Something like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Very uppercrust, straight, powerful-minded, but not quirky. I have a tendency to be cast as quirky—that’s my zone, and I think we all have our zones. But I love gritty, and I haven’t played that for a while, so I’d like to do that again. I loved playing a drug addict who does heroin on a street corner. I love those roles where you climb inside someone who is utterly different from yourself, especially these ones where you read it and you know you have a tie to that person. And you feel like, before you go into the audition, “I’m going to get this! If they haven’t already secretly cast it, this one’s mine.”
Diane: For this role, did they have you in mind, or did you have to audition?
Keegan: Oh, I auditioned—I can’t even remember how many times—three or five times. The rumor was that they had asked Lady Gaga to do it.
Diane: [Bursts out laughing] SERIOUSLY?? That’s a scream—she’d make a great fairy!! You never know, she might come in as a new kind of fairy and be another power broker for the Blue Fairy to deal with.
Keegan: That would be an interesting episode! [Laughs].
Diane: I would personally LOVE to see you go head to head with Lady Gaga. Maybe we can start a campaign [laughs].
Keegan: I think she’s a bit busy, but you can always try!
Diane: Well, along the lines of Lady Gaga and other supernatural creatures [laughs], I noticed that you’ve been in a lot of fantasy/scifi TV shows and films, like Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural, Jake 2.0 and Final Destination 2. Fantasy and scifi have been good gigs for you! Would you ever see yourself doing independent types of films?
Keegan: Yeah, if they’ll have me, I’ll do ’em!
Diane: Is it hard when you’re auditioning to drum up that grit and courage to keep doing it again and again?
Keegan: No! The only thing that you can get tired of is the political system that’s sometimes in place that is not necessarily based on a meritocracy. Sometimes you’re the best and you still don’t get it, or you lose it due to scheduling conflicts, which has happened to me a lot lately. I think the star system is alive and well. And with the economy and with reality television and the way it’s diluted the whole of entertainment, there are fewer roles. So the big fish are getting them. That’s the most frustrating thing is knowing that you have all the chops to do any of those roles, but Scarlett Johanssen got that role before you ever walked into the room, or whoever it might be. This is all the way down to guest stars on television now. When Gwyneth Paltrow started guest starring on Glee, I knew it was the beginning of the end for everybody that wasn’t on that echelon.
Diane: TV has really changed, hasn’t it?
Keegan: Tremendously! There was a time when you would not do television if you had a film career - it was considered a giant step backwards. It’s just not like that anymore. The lines are blurred and it’s just a different world. The pond has gotten smaller and there are a lot of bigger fish in it.
Diane: That must take so much mental toughness, Keegan. How do you recover from these kinds of experiences, and how do you strengthen yourself to get out and go do it again?
Keegan: Well, you keep going because you hope that you’ll get to do those roles that truly fill your heart. And sometimes in the audition you know you’re not going to get it; you know it’s already been cast with a name that’s bigger than yours. But you go to the audition anyway and you walk out saying, “That was a great experience.” It’s like going to class and doing amazing scenes. So sure, sometimes you get sick of the whole process —but then sometimes you get it! Like Once Upon a Time, which turned out to be a great thing. So you hold fast to the hope that there will be a couple more of those really wonderful roles that will fill your heart.
Diane: [In total awe] Wow, Keegan, you are so inspirational - that you made the decision to live your dream regardless of which side things fall. It’s the doing of it that matters most to your heart. What a wonderful way to end this interview. Thank you so much for talking with us!
Keegan: Thank you - it was my pleasure, and I’m always happy to talk to you guys!
Once Upon A Fan would like to thank Keegan for giving so much of her time for the interview.
You can follow Keegan on Twitter