Kristin Bauer talks Maleficent, Pam and strong, scary women

While one of the joys of HBO’s True Blood is anytime fiery, ultra-sexual vampire Pam Swynford De Beaufort appears on the screen, her portrayer, actress Kristin Bauer, is taking a deep, satisfying bite out of another juicy role – “Mistress of Evil” Maleficent from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty – in her guest starring turn on the new ABC series Once Upon A Time.

The new ABC fantasy drama got off to a strong start last week when it premiered to over 12 million households, which bodes well for the network that has seen other new series like Charlie’s Angels crash and burn (and Pan Am isn’t looking too healthy either).

In this Sunday’s episode, viewers are given the back-story to just how the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) cast the spell that sent our cast of fairy tale characters (including Ginnifer Goodwin’s Snow White) to be held prisoner in the town of Storybrooke, Maine without any memory of who they truly are. The rivalry between the Evil Queen and Maleficent (Bauer) is key in how this all happened and, perhaps, how the spell can be broken. grabbed a few one-on-one minutes the other day with the always-enchanting Bauer to chat about how her new role is different for Pam, how women are portrayed on Once Upon A Time and any new True Blood scoop we could get from her. How is Maleficent different from Pam?
Kristin Bauer: She’s quite a bit different. One thing I discovered about Pam this past year is, boy, she is not a chess player. She says exactly what’s on her mind the minute it hits her mind and I think that’s what so fun about her. She’s incredibly truthful and direct and has no games to play and doesn’t suffer fools.

But when we get into this cartoon/storybook Once Upon A Time fantasy world and this evil character, Maleficent felt more like a real game player. She’s not going to show her hand, she enjoys the cat and mouse game [and] it’s a long-standing frenemy relationship [with the Evil Queen] so at times they’re allies, at times they’re not allies. I would imagine at times they both have something the other one wants but they don’t want to just come out and say it and they don’t want to play their hand. It’s more like the power playing we see in politics on Earth with countries and somebody wants this area and they’re allies and then they’re not and they go to war. It’s much more complicated. Pam is so much more direct.

AE: Would you say that Maleficent is all-evil or does she have some redeeming qualities that we’ll see?

KB: I think we see some redeeming qualities but with each new character as you start building … just like you are as a human throughout your life trying to figure out your code of honor and what you will do and what you won’t do and what you believe and that’s the thing that you build as your life goes and you do that with a character. I sort of did figure out with Pam that she has one Achilles heel, which is Eric (Alexander Skarsgård). That’s her one true love and then we found out last year her face is a close second. [laughs] Oh, you know, her vanity! We do see where Maleficent does draw the line and she’s had huge loss and she has now found her comfort and the Evil Queen is trying to take that away because she wants something and she has to get it from her in some way.

AE: Women in fairy tales are often either pure evil or damsels in distress but the women in Once Upon A Time seem very strong. 
KB: Yeah, I do see that, too! That’s what I was hoping and guessing when I played the role. It’s so much fun to play a character who is multi-layered and Lana was very excited about that, too, so when we started saying the dialogue back and forth to each other that’s what informed me and I thought it was interesting. I’d say “That kinda feels like this, Lana,” and she’d say “Oh, well, let’s try it!” You try to find other colors. I always like when they’re “evil” characters that we can like and find charming and we can see that maybe they have a redeeming quality that maybe someone else we think of as pure good doesn’t have. I remember in Schindler’s List how Ralph Fiennes was charming and I thought “Wow, that is better!”


AE: In getting into the role of Maleficent, how much did the costumes themselves help you? 
KB: It’s funny, wardrobe called and they were getting my sizes and they said “We have this purple thing” and I said “Barney?” [laughs] That’s the only image I had for a purple thing and then I got there and saw [the outfit] hanging on the rack and I thought “That is so amazing!” Then we did the hair and then I got onto the set and they hand me my staff and my orb and, you know, it tells you so much about the character. This is the enormous help that I get from the people around me that is so important. Also, Lana helped me because you’re standing in a green room with two chairs. She showed me — she said “You need to see where you are and what this looks like and what your lair looks like.” That was also hugely helpful.

AE: We’re coming up on Halloween. Is there a scary movie you always go back to this time of year?
KB: I just watched The Exorcist.

AE: Oh, that’s a good one.
KB: It’s a really, really good one! I don’t think I had seen it because my Mom wouldn’t let me see it because I was too young but I don’t think I’d seen it from the first minute. I was traveling this weekend and I turned it on and I became absolutely enthralled and amazed and in awe of Ellen Burstyn again and watching her relationship with her daughter. It’s just brilliant acting like there’s no camera there. Then, about 30-40 minutes in I said “Wait, this is The Exorcist!” and because you’re so invested and it takes so long to build the characters when the shit hits the fan it’s really creepy!

AE: When do you go back to shooting True Blood?
KB: Well, I got the first script yesterday!

AE: Did you rush and read it right away?
KB: Are you kidding me? I literally went [gasps] and I read that thing twice through — well, to be honest, I went through and looked for Pam and then I read it. [laughs]

AE: Smart!
KB: Right? You can’t help it! And, oh my God, it’s so good. I can’t wait to film it. Then I sent an email to [True Blood costume designer] Audrey Fisher and was like, “What am I wearing?”

AE: Any chance we’ll see more of you on Once Upon A Time? Is the door left open for you?
KB: It’s left open for me!

AE: Oh, I can’t wait!
KB: I hope you enjoy it! It was so much fun to do!

Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7 p.m. Central on ABC.