Over the last five seasons, the dynamic between Savior-turned-Dark One Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) and former Evil Queen Regina Mills (Lana Parrilla) has evolved into one of the most fascinating and championed relationships on Once Upon a Time.
Throughout the first season, the two found themselves at odds not just because of the curse, but because of their son Henry (Jared Gilmore), as both mothers wanted what was best for their son, even if that meant using unconventional methods — like Regina trying to poison Emma with a tainted apple turnover. But as the years went by, the two were drawn toward working together as bigger and badder villains arose and Regina slowly turned toward the light.
“I feel like they have a really true friendship,” Morrison tells EW. “It’s just awesome to see two strong women have a great friendship on television, because usually you have two strong women fighting each other, or angry at each other, or having a catfight. You have these two women who have fought so hard to be the people that they want to be, and they’ve gone through challenges and both fail in certain ways and pick themselves up and move on, but they now have a real friendship and they really have each other’s backs and really are there for each other. I think that’s a really great thing to see on television.”
Despite Emma’s own turn to the dark side during the first half of the season, their friendship has gone uninterrupted. “Regina doesn’t really hold anything against Emma,” Parrilla says. “Emma became the Dark One because she sacrificed herself for Regina, so Regina feels obligated to help Emma in any way that she needs. She sees that everything that Emma was doing was for the greater good. She accepts that. They’re back to being friends and really family. They’re moving forward and again working together to try to find Hook [Colin O’Donoghue] and get out of the Underworld as fast as possible.”
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“Regina, because she was really dark in the past, understands what Emma’s going through,” Morrison adds. “She’s one of the people that, even though she challenged her at times while she was the Dark One, she didn’t stop believing that Emma could be good and didn’t stop believing that Emma wouldn’t someday once again be the person she knew she was.”
With their relationship looking to be stronger than ever in the second half of the season, some OUAT fans are still keen to see something more between them. Among the dozens of ‘ships across the series — OutlawQueen, CaptainSwan, Rumbelle, Snowing, MulanRouge — is that of Emma and Regina, otherwise known as SwanQueen. “I always see their relationship as best friends and sisters,” Parrilla says. “I’m nervous to say that because there are so many SwanQueens out there that see something else, and I don’t want to take that away from them.”
Still, Morrison has high praise for how OUAT bosses Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have developed this relationship into something people should aspire to. “The one thing I always say is that we’ve got to be good to each other,” Morrison says. “When you have examples of a friendship like that on television, that’s a good thing to be putting in front of people, because it is exactly what we need. We need women building each other up, supporting each other and being there for each other, even when we have made mistakes, and even when we have had falling outs at times. I think that’s an important for the time that we’re in.”
Once Upon a Time returns Sunday, March 6 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.