Who could have turned a rebellious and free-spirited girl like Regina into The Evil Queen? Meet Cora, her controlling mother who also happens to be a powerful sorceress. The beautiful young Regina loved nothing more than her loving father, Henry, her daily horseback ride and the family's stable boy, Daniel. But Cora had other plans for her daughter. When Regina saved a young Snow White from a runaway horse, Cora seized the opportunity to have the princess' father, King Leopold, visit their estate. When the king laid eyes on Regina, he knew he should marry her. Regina hesitated, unwilling to marry a man she didn't love, but Cora accepted on her behalf. Regina and Daniel planned to run away together, but young Snow caught them conspiring. Regina made the princess promise never to tell anyone, but Cora used Snow White's grief at losing her own mother to trick the girl into revealing everything. Later that night, Cora ripped Daniel's heart out right before Regina's eyes, leaving her no choice but to marry the King. As she prepared to be married, Regina finally pieced together that everything that had happened had been Cora's plan from the beginning.
Despite losing the love of her life, Regina continued to defy Cora, attempting to run away before her wedding to the King. But Cora's magic was too strong, and she used it to keep Regina in custody. When Regina asked her father, Henry, for advice, he revealed to her that a strange man gave Cora a book of spells which she used to gain her powers. Late that night, Regina stole the book from her mother's room and summoned the man named within: Rumplestiltskin. He offered Regina a chance to eliminate her controlling mother by pushing her through a looking glass portal. Unable to take any more of Cora's controlling ways, Regina did just that, banishing her mother to another land and eventually taking the spell book for herself.
Cora's past was revealed in "The Miller's Daughter," when she was a girl who delievered flour to the castle. One day, young and vain Queen Eva intentionally made Cora stumble and fall, which then forced Cora to apologize on behalf of King's orders. Cora's bitterness grew towards the royal crowd, and she swore revenge on them one day. In the evening, Cora wore a stolen dress and attended the masquerade ball for Prince Henry. When the King noticed her act, Cora got herself into another web of lies by telling him that she can spin straws into gold. The King promised the marriage to his son if she indeed succeeded by the next morning. Otherwise, she would be executed. While Cora contemplated jumping off the cell window, Rumplestiltskin magically appeared in front of her. He asked for her first child in exchange for teaching her magic. After signing the contract, Cora showed the gold to the crowd and found herself engaged to Prince Henry. Yet her true feelings remained for Rumplestiltskin, who changed the initial contract to promising their first child together. In the end, Cora removed her own heart and chose power over love. She then gave birth to Regina, who she named to be the next queen.
After The Dark Curse had been cast, Cora somehow found a way to get back to Fairy Tale Land, where Emma and Mary Margaret (Snow White) encountered her in "the pit" within the refugee camp where they were taken by Mulan and Aurora. While Cora tried to explain her innocence to Emma, Mary Margaret quickly warned Emma of Cora's devious nature. After Emma and Mary Margaret left the pit, Cora also executed her plan to return to her daughter. She killed Lancelot and used dark magic to disguise herself as him before Mary Margaret quickly realized her trick. Still, Cora managed to gather the ashes of the magical wardrobe and attempted to open a portal in Lake Nastos. When Emma and Mary Margaret took the portal instead, Cora recovered a magic bean with the lake water and sailed to Storybrooke with Captain Hook.
Once she arrived in Storybrooke, Cora didn't see Regina right away. Instead she turned herself into her daughter, framing Regina for the murder of Archie Hopper. Cruel enough, Cora waited until Regina had no one left beside her before reaching out to her. The two planned on finding Rumplestiltskin's dagger to control the Dark One. While Mary Margaret got to the dagger first, Cora threatened her with the life of Johanna, an old servant of Queen Eva. Even after Mary Margaret conceded, Cora killed Johanna. She also revealed that she was once disguised as the Blue Fairy, tempting young Snow White to take another's life for her mother's with a magic candle. Unable to get over the fact that Cora poisoned her mother and killed Johanna, Mary Margaret went after Cora's heart in Regina's vault. Meanwhile, Cora attempted to kill Rumplestiltskin and take over the Dark One's powers before Hook's poison killed him. She admitted to Rumplestiltskin, reaching near his death, that he was the only one she ever loved. Yet, Mary Margaret already whisphered Cora's name over the candle and convinced Regina to give Cora her heart back. Hoping for her mother's affection, Regina had chosen to do as Mary Margaret said. The mother and daughter shared a heartfelt moment, just before the magic replaced Cora's life for Rumplestiltskin's.
First Appearance - Season 1, Episode 18: The Stable Boy
Cora's voice was briefly heard in the "Hat Trick" when she was the Queen of Hearts.
Academy Award nominated actress Barbara Hershey is best known for her roles in such films as Black Swan, The Portrait of a Lady, Beaches, Hannah and Her Sisters, Hoosiers, The Natural and The Right Stuff. She has also won an Emmy and Golden Globe for her work in the television film A Killing in a Small Town.