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Standing Out From The Pack: An Interview with Once Upon A Time’s Beverley Elliott

Beverley Elliott is, by her own description, an actor, singer, songwriter, recording artist, storyteller and a very proud mom.  It’s a list of accomplishments to be proud of.  Her latest onscreen triumph has been playing Granny in ABC’s Once Upon A Time.  But, just like her fictional counterpart, there’s a whole lot more going on beneath the surface.  Performing extensively in BC theatre, Arts Club and Touchstone Theatre, Beverley has also opened for acts such as  The Oakridge Boys, Jamie Warren, Thomas Wade and the Waywards, and has sung with Long John Baldry, Kathy MacDonald, Jim Byrnes and Lisa Brokop.

Recently, Beverley opened the 2013 Leo Awards, celebrating excellence in film and television as part of The Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Foundation of British Columbia.  With so many strings to her bow (or crossbow, as it were), we were lucky that she was able to take some time out to chat with us about Granny, Once Upon A Time and, of course, lasagna…

Tell us about the audition process for Granny and how the role was explained to you; she seems like something of a tortured soul at times.

For the audition I got a last minute call as apparently the producer and director had seen most of the older women in Vancouver and were ready to head back to Los Angeles to cast the part.  Fortunately the Vancouver Casting Director said to them, “The personality you are describing is Beverley Elliott, but she may be too young.”   They called me at noon for a 5:00pm audition which is an unusually short turnaround.

I quickly learned the lines with my 12 year old daughter, went in and got the part.  I wasn’t nervous really, as I did think I was too young, but I remember waiting for them to arrive, sitting in the hallway looking at all the photos posted of the set design and wardrobe and I had a wonderful feeling inside like “I think I am going to be a part of this show”.

They didn’t really give me direction on how to play her.  I read Granny ‘tough’ from the get go.  I guess that is what was needed.

Describe Granny in three words.

Tough, Feisty, Genuine

She’s only ever been called “Granny” or “Widow Lucas”, but does Granny have a first name?  If not, then what name would you pick for her and why? 

I am not aware of any first name.  We did joke about it in the hair and makeup trailer a couple of times, bantering names around.  I think we were choosing names like Esther, or Irene or Mabel or Alma.  I think it would be nice to be Daisy Lucas as Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies name was Daisy.  Something that sounds old fashioned.

You seem like a total pro with a crossbow – did you receive any training or lessons and have you ever shot one for real?

I just learned how to shoot the crossbow while on set.  Point and shoot….and look like you mean it. I did speak to several other people about it.  “shoulders down, back straight”

I am glad I look like a pro to you.  It has been a fun learning curve for sure, and a great asset to my character.

Granny’s relationship with Ruby seems fraught with concern, not a little fear and protection: what’s your interpretation of how they relate to one another? 

Well now that the curse is broken there is more trust since Ruby has learned how to control her ‘wolf instincts’.  I think like any parent or guardian there is always concern.  You wish your children or grandchildren to have all the things you didn’t have.  You want the best for them and struggle to watch when they are making choices that may not be in their best interest, but in turn, will indeed help them grow.

Granny loves Ruby and wants the best for her, but Ruby can make her a bit nutty…wardrobe, boys….etc.

In what ways do you think Granny’s role or visibility in the show might change now that Meghan Ory has left?

Well we are all hoping that Meghan will be back for guest spots.  She will be filming in Vancouver so it is highly possible.  There is a campaign on  twitter trying to elect Granny for temporary Mayor  (or Sherriff)!!  So funny.  I would take on that role.

I think Granny is a rock solid part of the fabric of Storybrooke; the hub where people gather to eat, make plans, scheme, and for visitors to book a room and stay.  I hope Granny and Granny’s remain Grand Central Station….and I am open and excited to explore my ‘tension filled relationship’ with Mr. Gold at some point.

Once likes to place emphasis on true love – who’s a viable suitor for Granny and do you see romance in her future anytime soon?

Hmmmm…..never too late to fall in love.  Well….Gepetto is good with his hands.

Now that the Sheriff of Storybrooke has sailed off to Neverland, what do you think about Granny stepping into the role?  General opinion in fandom suggests she’d be a shoo-in!  

Yes, yes and yes.  Give Granny power.  Give her responsibility.  She is ready to work with and for her people.

Granny had a whole freezer full of lasagna, but she’s not the only person in Storybrooke who likes to make it – who would win in a lasagna-off between Regina and Granny? 

Well….my lasagna is frozen….so….did I make it and freeze it? Or buy it and freeze it?  That is the question.  Still I should win though.  I make my living off my lasagna.

You’re a fabulous singer – if Once was to do a musical episode, what would Granny’s solo performance be? 

THE LITTLE OLD LADY FROM PASADENA

On the topic of singing, you recently performed at the Leo Awards and sung a brilliantly reworked version of “Rolling In The Deep”: can you tell us how that came about and who rewrote the lyrics for the song?  It looked like a lot of fun.

I sang the parody song originally at the Vancouver Union of BC Performers Awards.  Four of us wrote the lyrics, including Michael Coleman (who plays Happy on Once Upon A Time).  I was hired to do it as part of the entertainment for the night.

Then the organizer of the Leo Awards was told about it and he decided to have me open the show with it.  We changed a few lyrics to include Directors, Producers, Stunts, Teamsters, and more…..I enlisted yet another writer.   All in all there was input from over 15 people to come up with the final product.  I had the ultimate final say as I had to sing it, phrase it, rhyme it….but it was a labour of love as it made everyone laugh at themselves and come together as a community.

I had a blast.

Singing and music is obviously important to you – can you talk a little more about your background with singing and whether you have any albums or new releases in the near future?

I am indeed working on a new CD.  In the works!  I have 4 CDs currently available

YELLOW DRESS – released in 1991 – all original songs available on iTunes

THE SWEETEST DAY – with my group AUGUST  available on iTunes

DREAMCHILD – with joyfilled music – a children’s lullaby/bedtime CD that I co-wrote/sing/narrate – on iTunes

MAGIC CARPET RIDE – with joyfilled music – a children’s lullaby/bedtime cd that I co-wrote/sing/narrate – on iTunes

Season 3 of Once will start filming again soon, but are there any other projects or plans you want to tell us about in the meantime?

I am working on a one woman show: stories, songs, comedy, hopefully inspiring.

Also recording a CD of music – some original, some cover songs.  And hopefully start recording an energetic children’s CD as well.

Always auditioning for other film and tv shows that film in Vancouver.

Building a website….finally!!  New demo reel.  Being a mom to my fabulous 14 year old Sally.  Cleaning my house, housework is so boring!!

And a final message from Beverley…

Thank you so much for supporting the show and taking such an interest in Granny.  I do adore playing her.

If you want to see Beverley performing at this year’s Leo Awards, you can do so here, courtesy of VanCity Filming: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyH2e0K_UJM

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