Whip your tentacles and work your vocals as we are presented with the beautiful and awe inspiring women of the Once Upon a Time Series, Merrin Dungey. We caught up with her at this year’s MCM Comic Con. Jet-lagged but fabulous of course, we ask her about her role for the majestic character Ursula and the mark she leaves in the dark series.
What have you enjoyed most about the last season of Once upon a Time?
Getting to present the character of Ursula, it’s been unbelievable with the Queens of Darkness. Everybody at Once Upon a Time are amazing, they make like a movie in ten days! Particular because I worked with these girls so closely, they are so smart, so funny, it was like the supernatural Charlie’s Angels.
What’s its like essentially to mess it up for all the other characters?
Oh there’s nothing like going in there and causing havoc! When we started we were tentative because these were iconic creatures, characters and we certainly didn’t want to mess it up. Myself, I was trying to match the voice because obviously I’m not purple or have tentacles, but I just wanted to find out what it is about me that I could bring to the table to make it my own. And we had a wonderful director and he really helped us set the tone. Vik and I got to do a lot of stuff together which was amazing, we had our own little Starsky and Hutch kinda sass going on.
So what attracted you to this role?
Well they called and asked! And I thought ‘Me, you want ME to do this’, it was exciting to be part of this incredible world as well that is Once Upon a Time. It’s so well crafted, so well thought out so essentially it was like ‘YES, please when how, I’ll colour my hair blonde.’ *laughs*
So no doubts at all?
No doubts about wanting to do it, but if I could do it. When we shot the very first episode, the winter finale break, first of all I had to learn how to throw a tentacle from my pelvis which are CGI’d and get Belle but naturally I put my hands up and I just remember being told ‘Put your hands down! Those aren’t your tentacles’ – So it’s how to do it really, and once you learn how to throw a tentacle, as you do.
It seems that Ursula is one of the scariest in all of the Disney Villainesses, did you have early memories of watching the cartoon and being affected in anyway?
Well um, I think I was a little older than a kid when the movies came out *Laughs* but um it didn’t scare me as much, but when I first watched with my daughter then it was like whoa this is terrifying for her and then my little one won’t even go on the ride in Disneyland, she’s terrified of Ursula. I think it’s because she (Ursula) really is this, monster, and one of the things they say in OUAT is that ‘Evil isn’t born it’s made.’ Which I loved about my whole back story, but I chose to be a monster, to be a create is what makes her so scary and so fierce and not afraid to just kill as a parallel to the other villainesses who are wicked and manipulative and use spells and mine is just like ‘I’ll get ya’ and I think that’s what’s more scary.
You said your children are scared of Ursula, so how do they feel about the fact that mummy IS Ursula?
Yeah well it took a minute, when I called them on FaceTime obviously the tentacles are CGI but I’d have the make up on, the little one would say “That’s still you right!” and I’ll be like yes it’s still mummy; what’s funny is the little one will watch it and the older is like ‘nah I’m good!’
What would you like to see for the future of Ursula?
I would love for them to use her as the fixer, whether good or ill, you’ll call on her for service. You never know.
Your character started off as a mermaid and then a tentacle “monster”, would you like to see your character continue as mermaid or tentacle like creature?
I think tentacle like creature, mermaid sssh-mermaid! That’s pretty and whatever, but my tentacle beast can take care of it.
The vocal performance is so iconic in the Disney film, could you tell us how you found that aspect of the character?
Everyone has their uniform, there is a way to walk in, with Ursula because of her low voice and I have a particular low voice I could match that cadence that the voice actress () gave she was so incredible and I could bring that.
Are there any particular lines you love?
It’s so funny my daughter’s friends are like ‘Do Ursula! Do Ursula’, but yes there was a particular line where Hook and I are getting the sea shell to work and I say ‘Don’t try to take out a women with eight arms especially if you only have one’ and its just like *cracks whip* slaps him!
Talking about tough characters, do you find it interesting how all the strong characters tend to be the girls?
When we look at Disney all the interesting characters are women, they are the protagonist and also the villains. The writers have created these beautiful women, and I was happy to be a part of that.