Amy Manson plays the fiery redhead Merida in Disney’s Once Upon A Time. The show features storylines from Disney’s most famous films, including Brave. The two-hour season finale of Once Upon a Time airs Sunday May 15th (7:00-9:00 p.m., ET/PT) on CTV.
1. When/how did you first learn to ride?
I had my first experience of sitting on a horse during beautiful holidays to a stunning village in the sticks of Scotland when I was 11 years old. From the off set, I’m not quite sure who wanted to please who more, rider or horse. Aberfeldy is a quaint little village steeped in Scottish history set against a backdrop of rolling hills and it’s where me and my sister would take riding lessons during gorgeous sunsets in the summer months. I became quite infatuated from the off-set.
2. Do you have a favourite horse to ride? If so, please tell us about him/her.
I have ridden an array of horses in several countries and their personalities are quite unique to each location. Romanian horses are vigilantly trained in stunt techniques and quite spectacular to watch when they are performing, seemingly, happy to relish the attention. British horses are proud and more stubborn in their willingness to ‘perform,’ but wouldn’t you be if you were told to act on cue? Moroccan horses, I felt, were more wild and more reluctant to please or listen to the trainers orders Much like Thai horses. And Canadian horses were as gracious and forthcoming as the Canadian’s themselves. It’s always wonderful to observe each horse having their own personality and also know they are being well cared for at the same time, however time consuming it may become on filming days when they refuse to act their parts. 🙂
3. What qualities do you have in common with Merida?
Merida is her own woman and fiercely patriotic in nature. Our similarities lie in our ambition to fight for what we believe in, often to the detriment of our own happiness. Her family mean the world to her and her kind hearted nature and zest for life has certainly rubbed off on me! She’s been a gift of a character to play and I would love to see more of her relationship with her horse Angus flourish in season six.
4. Do you ever ride outside of filming?
I’d love to ride more outside of filming, time is a horrid excuse, but that’s often the case. When I was shooting in Romania, I stayed for four days after filming wrapped to work with the production’s stunt horses. They were pampered to no end, but in turn delivered surreal stunt routines, which always had a habit of taking my breath away.
5. Do you have any current projects you’d like to share?
Right now, I’m glad to be back home filming in Scotland. I’m a country girl at heart and I always feel more galvanised after a trip home. My family live in the middle of nowhere in Scotland (so come rain or shine I’m outside in the hills). We are filming in some picturesque locations on the west coast of Scotland, so the fresh air is a great relief from the LA sun. Sheila Hancock plays the character of Edie, who the film is centred on and called after, and I think it’s going to be a special one.
6. Any behind the scenes stories to share that are related to horses?
Production of the BBC series Atlantis, which I shot in 2014, shut down in Morocco after a stunt man received three broken ribs and a punctured lung when a horse bucked and accidentally kicked a stuntman in the ribs. The actor on top of the horse during the whole fiasco handled the horse and situation wonderfully. Production shut down for the day out of respect for horse and stuntman.
7. Were the costumes for Once Upon a Time difficult to ride in?
Merida’s quiver proved a pain in the arse to film with any time I had to mount my horse. Let’s call that a ‘mount and talk’. Merida had a strong argument with Mulan in series 5, where her usual stubbornness and determination comes to the fore, but every time I had to mount the horse while berating Mulan, my arrows/quiver would get caught in the horse’s saddle…and cut…reset…
I’m actually glad the crew found the funny side through 10 takes! It was definitely my most fun horse related scene to film by any stretch, because the one and only time I managed to mount without arrows getting caught somewhere, I was able to gallop off into the sunset and never look back again. 😉
8. Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
My mum had her own horse on our farm in Aberdeen until she became pregnant with me around 27 years old. She had ridden since my grandfather bought her a horse at 10 years old. Mum and her horse were best friends during her teens and wonderful company for each other. Mum said her horse was so intelligent and that their bond came with the rhythm of riding.