Sunny Mabrey, the vibrant actor who landed the iconic role of Glinda, the Good Witch of the South on the widely popular fairy tale drama Once Upon a Time has not only stolen our hearts, but our rapidly decreasing attention spans. While racking up some pretty notable credits in the entertainment industry (Snakes on a Plane, The New Guy, The Client List and Teacher of the Year) she has also taken social media by storm, captivating an audience of over 640,000 people daily on Vine, an app Sunny described to be like “Twitter in live motion.”
Sunny, who hails from Alabama, tapped into her creative side as a shy young girl and gravitated towards art all through high school and eventually into college. She was then recruited to model, hopping flights to places such as Paris and others alike around the world. She described herself as a “ham” and someone who likes to “surround herself with funny people,” so they can “be silly together.” This state of mind eventually course corrected her then art major at the University of Mobile to theater. And the rest is history.
Sunny chatted with me this week about what it was like working with the cast over at Once Upon a Time, predominately fan favorites Jennifer Morrison (Emma Swan, Once Upon a Time) and Rebecca Mader (Zelena/The Wicked Witch, Once Upon a Time), her unintentional Vine fame, and some details about her badass role in a new movie she’s working on. So let’s get to the good stuff!
MCKENZIE MORRELL: So, let’s talk about your gig on Once Upon a Time. We got to meet Glinda, the Good Witch a few weeks ago. What was it like taking on such an iconic role?
SUNNY MABREY: It was pretty amazing. I auditioned for the pilot of Once Upon a Time, so I already had a good idea of how much importance they place on these characters on that show, especially the ones that were established as long ago as a character like Glinda. So, no matter how few episodes that character occurs in, the fans just really love grabbing on to the new Glinda or the new Peter Pan, or Hook. All of those awesome people. So, it was really great to see such a huge response on the internet when Adam (Horowitz) announced it, you know? And it made me that much more enthusiastic about going to do it, so it was really fun.
Yeah, and I think it’s safe to say that the fans absolutely loved you and hopefully will get to see you back on the show again.
Now did you watch the show before getting the part or was it something that you kind of just came into?
I watched it here and there. I auditioned for it many times throughout the years for different characters and would get into it then sort of decide that I would turn off my cable for a while because I was watching too much TV [laughs] and then I would come back to it because I just really liked the whole story of it. I had a couple of people that I was following their careers from a distance on the show because I just really liked them. Like Jennifer Morrison, I met her many years ago and people had always told us that we looked alike before we met each other. When we met a really long time ago she said ‘people always tell me I look like you’ and I was like, you know what, I’ve heard the same thing about you, it’s really funny. She was a brunette at the time for House so when she eventually she went back to blonde I was like, now I see it!
So, that kind of brings me to my next question, when we saw Glinda her interaction with the main characters was a bit limited. You mentioned that you admire Jennifer Morrison’s work, so would you have liked Glinda to meet Emma or any of the other characters on the show?
Oh, I definitely would. I would love to get to see Glinda in Storybrooke and what she would be like there and all the new characters she would get to interact with. It’s exciting to think about all the different ways the story could go. Of course I have no control over that, I can only hope that Glinda will find her way back on but that would be really exciting to see all the different directions a good witch could actually go. There are a lot of questions like, could a good witch be bad sometimes? I don’t know. It was really nice to get to play somebody that was inherently good. I mean, truly, I’ve played a lot of characters that are good on the outside but later you find out that they’re bad. That’s fun too because those characters have an edge, but Glinda is truly good. I don’t know what her future holds but it’s fun to imagine all the ways she could go.
Yeah, we can only hope that she comes back and you reprise the role. So, if you had to describe yourself to a stranger with only three words, what would they be?
Dork, unexpected… sensitive.
Those are good ones! Now, you’re extremely popular on Vine. Can you talk a little bit about what drew you to that app and how you come up with your ideas? I know you’ve got some crazy awesome recurring characters so how do you keep them all straight in your head?
People will ask for certain things in the comments. They’ll say we want to see more of ‘blah, blah, blah’ and I’ll say ‘oh, I forgot about her. So maybe I should, that sounds like fun.’ If they’re nice about it, it makes me want to do it more. So, sometimes I do follow what my followers seem to want to see but most of the time I just do what makes me laugh. Sometimes the ones that make me laugh the hardest are not the most popular ones by far. Some people delete the ones that don’t get a lot of likes and revines, but I keep them up because there’s somebody out there that gets my sense of humor, I’m sure.
I got into it because I was always way into Twitter and I’m a writer too, so I loved the idea that I could just get out the weird thoughts that happened in my head and somebody else could identify and reply to me and like it and retweet it on Twitter. I did that for a long time. I had my little core group of comedians on there—not even professionals, just people who I thought were funny and who thought I was funny, hopefully. Then, it started to expand and then Vine came along and I was like ‘that’s cool, you can see her right there were she is and tweet it.’ I felt that those videos were an extension of Twitter—Twitter in live motion. You know like here’s me, here’s my dog, here’s me saying something funny and of course it just grew from there. And I think I got into it so early on that there was a core group of people that became kind of popular quickly and I was kind of in that and I had a certain number of followers by the time the big boom of it all happened. It pushed me up into the hundreds of thousands at that time. So, it was nice to be in that little beginner group.
It’s quite special. I know a lot of actors are kind of going towards Vine now and it’s awesome that you were there before it actually became a big thing and you did it just because you felt like it versus you thinking you had to do it.
Right, I mean, as one of your peers— I think just speaking as a regular person, non-actor person, that’s just a person on Vine that happens to be popular on Vine. I think a lot of us are like ‘great, eventually a bunch of celebrities are going to be on here and they’re going to be the popular ones and all of our stuff is going to get looked over just because of the celebrity factor,’ even if their vines are not the same— funny and all of that. That kind of hasn’t really happened. I don’t know what it is, I think Vine is just a separate thing. There have been other people that got extremely popular, a lot of teenagers, the cute boys that the girls want to see [laughs], but the whole celebrity thing didn’t happen like I thought it would so it’s kind of nice… I like it for what it is. It’s something completely different. It’s a whole different form of entertainment and people can go on and enjoy that format for a while and then go watch a show on TV. It’s completely independent.
What’s the longest amount of time you spent on one of your videos?
Probably one that I did with Ethan Embry. He was doing these stop motion ones and we did a lot of work to make this one look really cool and I think it paid off. A lot of people were like, ‘how did you do it?’ It’s called “Snacks in Space” and it was a while back. It’s me wearing an astronaut helmet with my head floating in space. That’s one of my favorites. It probably took—not straight, but preparation and everything was a couple days worth.
I see a lot of people are taking a little more time which is good and I think you’ve kind of stepped in that area where you’re unique and doing something that matters.
Sometimes I do something really quick that takes me two seconds and it’s just funny to me and other people really like it and it doesn’t make any sense. I like to take my time with others and mix it up. Some people have two different channels for these things—have a ‘B side.’ That’s cool too. I just put them all on the same account. My followers, I’m sure are used to seeing a frenetic, really quickly-made Vine one day, then one that obviously took some time another day.
The whole package in one place. We like that. So now, are you someone who’s able to watch themselves on screen once a project is completed? Or do you not want to watch yourself at all?
I went through a phase where I didn’t want to at all. It made me cringe, even if other people seemed to like it. I just couldn’t do it. I was too hypercritical of myself. Now, I think I’m coming back around to being okay with it and I think Vine has helped with it because I see myself. Obviously most of the vines I do are selfies so I’m so used to it at this point. It’s probably also helped a lot with my acting because I know my angles— what I look like in certain situations. It does help with the technical side too.
Have you had any outrageous or interesting fan encounters, on Twitter or Vine or in real life?
Aside from people just coming up to me in really random cities because of Vine and wanting to do Vines with me, I don’t think so. I’ve been acting a long time and the thing that has made me most recognizable has been Vine. That’s odd because it’s a very different way to be recognized because it’s me… it’s me doing these crazy characters but a lot of it is just my personality and it’s nice because since most of my stuff is comedy, it’s always in a fun, positive way that they approach me. They’re always smiling and that’s cool. I like that.
Now, I have some fan questions for you that people have submitted. So, the first one is: In addition to acting and modeling, you sing and write music. Have you ever thought about taking on Broadway next. You know, perhaps as Elsa from Frozen?
I’ve definitely thought about it growing up. I did tons of theater in college and it’s so fun for me. Maybe one day I’ll get the opportunity to do that. I thought I had a better chance getting into the film world because I just liked the idea more of film and television at the time that I chose something. Because I did all that theater in college I think I just wanted to switch it up and see how that would work. I was going to New York anyway to model. I didn’t know what I was going to get into there. Maybe I would do some theater, but I didn’t end up focusing on that. But I sing. I used to have a band; I still play music. I guess that comes out in other ways, but I would love to do that one day. I think it could be an idea for the future.
That’d be awesome. Now another question is: Have you seen any of the fan art or read any of the fan fiction that ‘ships’ your character on OUAT with Zelena the Wicked Witch?
I’ve seen a lot of fan art period that they’ve taken the pictures from the show and made these collages of my character with Zelena. I think people just like to romanticize the different situations that these characters could be in together. I really enjoy Rebecca (Mader) as a person. She is smart and hilarious and she should be the one with a Vine account because when she’s on set, she is the funny one—very social and fun to be around. I think she was relieved when I got cast because she had seen some of my Vines. I’m sure they couldn’t have predicted that we’d get along and have good chemistry, but I think we do. Our characters have chemistry as enemies and possibly friends as well.
I definitely agree with that. So, I guess my final question would be, what projects are you currently working on and do you have anything you could tease the fans with?
I am working on a movie right now and I’m sure my Vines have shown that I haven’t been able to put much time into them lately because I’ve been working almost every day. It’s challenging because it’s a role that I’ve never played before, but I’m really having fun with it. It’s a movie called Teleios. That’s the name of our space vessel. It’s a Greek word. And it’s a film set in the future about a team of genetically engineered humans who go to do a search and rescue recovery type mission. Apparently everyone on board that ship is presumed dead, so we have to go find out what happened. It’s really cool, I get to be kind of a badass. I’m the first officer and really smart and adept at all kinds of things and I get to do some stunts and it’s just cool. I’ve always wanted to do a movie like this so I’m really excited.
That’s great, I think the fans will really like that they can see you in something hopefully soon and you’ll keep us posted when we can see that.
Sunny’s character Glinda, the Good Witch can be seen in Season 3 of the ABC series Once Upon a Time. The episodes are titled ‘A Curious Thing’ and ‘Kansas’. You can also follow Sunny at her Twitter account @SunnyMabrey and check out her vines as well.