Lana Marie Parrilla was born July 15, 1977 in Brooklyn (NY) to parents Samuel Parrilla Monges & Dolores Dee Azzara. Her father was a Puerto Rican-born baseball player who played professionally for 11 seasons (1963–1973) this includes one season with the Major League Philadelphia Phillies in 1970 as an outfielder. Her mother Dolores is from Sicilian descent. Lana also has an older sister, Deena. Her parents divorced when she was three years old. The first years after, she lived with her mother and then she went to live with her father. Sam sadly passed away on February 9, 1994 after being shot. He was only 50 years old.
After her father passed away, Lana left Brooklyn at 17 years old to live with her mother on the west coast. It was there the future actress began to pursue the dream she had since childhood.
Lana’s passion for acting came at a very young age from watching her aunt, actress & Broadway star Candice Azzara who made her debut in 1968, because she wanted to be just like her. She looked up to her aunt as a glamourous, educated, spiritual woman who was like a mother to her. It was also Candice who taught her some valuable early life lessons when it came to the acting business. Her aunt taught lana at a young age that her craft was something to not only hone but to really learn. Candice encouraged Lana to study the arts and not just get involved in the industry to become famous, she told her that if this was something she wanted, she had to find her love and passion because it’s a tough industry. She couldn’t just wing it, she’d have to really do the work.
Lana took her aunt’s words to heart and at 19 years old left college to join the Beverly Hills Playhouse. While she acted in a few small independent films, she dedicated four years to studying before actively pursuing anything.
But she struggled in the beginning and was having a really hard time. At the age of 22 she had to deal with rejection and she got a lot of no’s when first starting in the acting industry. So she asked for a sign or a symbol that would let her know that everything would turn out to be ok, that everything was going to work out.
One day she saw a feather in the distance and she associated it with angels on some level and she thought that that was kind of cliche, the feather of an angel. But overtime she kept seeing more feathers whenever she was in a dark place and then she started seeing them in the weirdest moments. So she started thinking that the feather really was the sign she had been asking for. Once she really started to believe it and accepted it as her sign, she started to collect them. At the age of 32, 10 years later, she got a 2nd tattoo, a feather on her right wrist. The first one she got, was the name of her dad.
Her first big break came at 22 with a role on the hit sitcom, Spin City, where she starred for one season. With a steady momentum, the actress then joined the short-lived drama Boomtown for which she received the Imagen Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as paramedic, Teresa. Initially a success, Boomtown began to struggle, and Lana’s character became a police academy rookie, to tie her more closely to the rest of the show. Unfortunately the show was cancelled just two episodes into its second season. After that she guest-starred in other television dramas, including JAG, Six Feet Under & NYPD to name a few.
In 2005, Lana took a recurring guest role on the fourth season of the Fox series 24 as Sarah Gavin, a Counter Terrorist Unit agent. After just six episodes, she was made a regular cast member; but in the thirteenth episode, her character was written out after she tried to thwart another character’s promotion. After that, in 2006, she starred in the NBC summer series Windfall alongside Luke Perry, fellow former 24 cast member Sarah Wynter, and Lana’s former Boomtown castmate Jason Gedrick. A guest appearance on the ABC hit Lost was waiting for her in 2007.
In 2008, the actress starred in Swingtown, a show set in 1970’s suburban America that focused on the impact of sexual and social liberation. Lana said the role was a breakout one for her. Because it showed how a controversial character can be loved. She thought It was an incredible part to play and Trina Decker, her character on the show, is one of her favorite roles to date. In that same year she had a leading role on the Lifetime movie The Double Life of Eleanor Kendall, a story about a divorcee, Nellie, whose identity was stolen. She had a female lead role as Eva Zambrano in the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Miami Medical on CBS, which ran for only 1 season.
In February 2011, Lana was cast as Regina Mills aka The Evil Queen in the ABC hit, Once Upon A Time. The series debuted in October 2011 and is now in its 7th Season. What Lana loves about her character Regina is when we first met her, she was sort of this vengeful, evil queen who possessed so much hatred and revenge and wanted to hurt people who hurt her. Over the years, as we’ve seen and experienced her evolution, she’s become the epitome of change and hope. She thinks the show is a great representation of hope, love, and family.
For Lana, her “Once” experience also been life-changing. Not only did it entail leaving her friends and family to relocate because the show films in Vancouver, it also introduced her to so many other wonderful people, namely her husband. In July/August of that year, she had just moved to Vancouver and on her very first morning there, she took her dog Lola to the park where she met a couple who were also there with their dog. Lana didn’t have any friends there and they took her under their wing, showed her around and asked her if she liked burgers, which she does. They brought her to a burger place where Lana fell in love with the owners because they felt like home to her and they became good friends. She was asked by Kathy, one of the owners, if she was dating anyone to which she replied that she was not interested, she had a lot going on in her life at that time and working on Once was very demanding.
She didn’t have the time and felt like she wasn’t good girlfriend material because she was very busy and so she said no to meeting Fred for about 4 months. Then on a rainy, dark, lonely november day her friend Alex came to visit and she noticed how sad Lana was because the transition and change that the show brought with it, was not easy for her. Lana took her friend to the burger place and Kathy told Alex to please tell Lana she had to meet this guy, which Alex did. She told Lana that she couldn’t bare seeing her so sad. Eventually Lana said yes to meeting him. The following week, the day they had planned to meet, Lana was 15 minutes late because she had slept in as filming had only wrapped at 6AM and she was supposed to meet Fred at noon. So they met over burgers and the rest is history. Fred proposed to Lana in April 2013 while they were in Israel and they got married in July 2014.
Most recently, Lana celebrated her directorial debut, directing a Season 7 episode of Once Upon A Time. Usually seen in front of the camera as Regina, this will mark her first time as a director. What makes this appointment even more special is that it’s the show’s 150th episode overall. Having starred in the entire series to this point, it is very emotional and beautiful to have Lana direct them through that landmark. She said that she felt so honored for the opportunity and grateful to have her directorial debut on a show she calls home.