92nd St. Y
New York, NY
May 11, 2003
Many THANKS! to my transcriber and to the 92nd St. Y!
Please do not repost or reproduce.
(Transcriber's remarks: Once again I must remind all who read this transcript that words cannot convey the tone of voice, demeanor, humor and general 'joi de vivre' of Kate Mulgrew and moderator Anita Gates throughout their presentation. Please remember that as you read.)
After introductions by Rochelle Katzman of the 92nd Street Y, Kate Mulgrew and Anita Gates (culture writer for the New York Times) arrived on stage and were greeted with an enthusiastic round of applause.
Kate Mulgrew: Thank you. Very nice. I can't see them all. Very nice – thank you! Thank you! Sweet.
Anita Gates: Hi, how are you?
Kate Mulgrew: Hi. I'm very well. May I just say quickly before we begin Anita…
Anita Gates: Sure…
Kate Mulgrew: Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers who have come out on this sacred day - and just a few words – We have survived! Thank you.
Anita Gates: Well that's a good start to go into personal questions! But I don't know, maybe we'll hold that off for a second. First there is a strange thing going on with the Promenade Theater and "Tea at Five". Can you update people on what's happening?
Kate Mulgrew: It's a tragedy, ladies and gentlemen. An absolute tragedy. Is this mike working? Yes. We've been evicted from our theater. Isn't that terrible. Unprecedented in the history of the theater in New York City. Our landlord has decided that he would like to bring in a musical and so we're being booted out on the thirteenth of July, and we're looking for a new home. So if any of you have a… garage?! An extra bedroom?! So right now we don't know what the future has in store for us, and I hope that we will move, but it's in the hands of the gods, so… if you send up a hue and a cry it will help.
Anita Gates: Yes. Hue and cry. Well for people who haven't seen the play, can you do a twenty-five words and under – well maybe not that long…
Kate Mulgrew: Who has not seen the play?
Anita Gates: Right…
Kate Mulgrew: Many of you have not seen it.
Anita Gates: Katharine Hepburn, Act 1…
Kate Mulgrew: Would you like to? Shall I do the play for you!?'
Anita Gates: Yes!
Kate Mulgrew: It only takes an hour and a half!
This is a… I just walked off, I had a matinee today so it's still in my throat I'm afraid. This is the story of Katharine Hepburn. Wonderfully constructed and devised by Matthew Lombardo who wrote it exclusively for me. And the etymology of this play (in response to applause) I know, it's remarkable, it never happens and it happened to me. I didn't know anything about Matthew Lombardo until I found out from my best friend, who is now deceased - that he was lying in bed with her one day – I won't go into detail about this – she was very sick at the time, and they were watching an episode of me on Star Trek: Voyager, and he sat bolt upright and said "That girl has to play Katharine Hepburn." It was sweet of him to call me 'girl', wasn't it? And I understand that he wrote it in three days time – went down to Miami – wrote it in three days time and sent it to me at Paramount. And I got it in my dressing room and I remember looking at it and thinking, "Oh, my God, this is remarkable, marvelous." His device of the polarity of her life – in Act 1, I'm thirty-one, having just been labeled 'box office poison', and in Act 2 I'm seventy-six, directly following a very serious car accident in which she almost severed her right foot, so…. Hello Connie, nice to see you!… So you see the juxtaposition, which you don't often get to see in Katharine Hepburn's life. From the very young, driven, maverick girl who strode into Hollywood and changed convention forever, to the older, wiser, more reflective, and certainly more self deprecating Kate of … pardon me?
From the Audience: … second Act…(unintelligible)
Kate Mulgrew: The second act what?
From the Audience: (unintelligible) …the way I remember her…
Kate Mulgrew: Yes, yes, that's right. And it's been an absolute joy. But as you can well imagine, it's been daunting. I'm all by myself. It's very lonely! And for a long time there was no net. So if any of you have ever experienced a moment in your life flying without a net, that's how it was originally. I'm now feeling more secure. But that's pretty frightening.
Anita Gates: But now you were meant to play Katharine Hepburn, right? Can you remember the first time somebody ever said that you reminded them of her?
Kate Mulgrew: Yes. I was very young… and I don't what happened, because I was very thin, and I wasn't thin when I was young at all! I must have been quite sick! And somebody said – my aunt, I think – "My God, you remind me of a young Kate Hepburn." So this has happened periodically over my life. When I've been thin! And – you know what happens ladies, because I'm sure it happens to a lot of you. When you're compared to somebody a lot you develop an antipathy towards them. It's very natural. Why after all I'm an actress in my own right, right? I didn't want to be constantly compared to her. So I had a sort of… latent resentment for her until this happened. And now I have nothing but unending love.
Anita Gates: What turned you around? The research?
Kate Mulgrew: The rehearsal process.
Anita Gates: Really?
Kate Mulgrew: Yeah. Research is one thing…
Anita Gates: Hmmmm….
Kate Mulgrew: It's great. And I did it voraciously…
Anita: But it was being her…
Kate Mulgrew: And thoroughly. It was in the rehearsal room.
Anita Gates: Yeah…
Kate Mulgrew: Where the magic happens. And Act 2 was where it started. Not Act 1. I found her very hard as the young girl. (In the young Hepburn's voice) Oh, that was very hard for me, you know, all that… stuff…
Anita Gates: Right.
Kate Mulgrew: Which she made up, you know. She made herself up, to a great degree. (As young Hepburn) 'Nobody talks like this. Absolutely nobody.'
Anita Gates: Nowhere!
Kate Mulgrew: Certainly nobody from West Hartford, Connecticut, right. So she did that, and she did it very successfully. (In the older Hepburn's voice) 'And certainly nobody talks like this… at seventy-six, right?' So she was determined to be unlike anybody else, and indeed she did. But I found something that worked – because I was really quite frozen about it, Anita, with… with fear. Because if I couldn't crack it, I…I knew I couldn't do it. I was not about to do an impersonation of Katharine Hepburn. Every drag queen in the city can do that. Right? I wanted to realize Katharine Hepburn. And I couldn't find the hook. I couldn't find it. One week went into the next week and I was really beginning to sweat bullets and then, it dawned on me. She was deeply, unerringly, consummately vulnerable. In everything she did. Behind every action she ever took. Every word she ever spoke – was her vulnerability. And that was my key. That is what made her the extraordinary star that she still is. You know, she's ninety-six tomorrow. Ninety-six years old.
Anita Gates: Happy Birthday…
Kate Mulgrew: Happy Birthday, Miss Hepburn.
Anita Gates: What do you think gave her that vulnerability…
Kate Mulgrew: I have to take my sweater off, it's really hot…
Anita Gates: Oh sure. Please. Isn't it?
Kate Mulgrew: And it was 150 on the stage today. We lost our air conditioning. My eyelashes were on my cheeks! It was terrible!
Anita Gates: Also, "Gypsy" is on Broadway now too,
Kate Mulgrew: "Gypsy", yes…
Anita Gates: … So you could work on your strip…act…or maybe not!
Kate Mulgrew: Thank you Anita!! That was a bit of a nonsequitur! Hmmm…yes?
Anita Gates: Back to Hepburn!
Kate Mulgrew: I played Dressy Tessie Tura…
Anita Gates: Did you really?
Kate Mulgrew: In college.
Anita Gates: Which one is that?
Kate Mulgrew: (sings) 'You can pull all the stops out…' The good looking one!
Anita Gates: Was she the one with the horn?
Kate Mulgrew: No… um…(asks the audience) does she have the horn?
Audience: Mazeppa's the horn. Dressy Tessie's was the lights…
Kate Mulgrew: With the lights. I had the lights. That's right.
Anita Gates: Good theater audience!
Kate Mulgrew: Yes, very good!
Anita Gates: Well, one of the things that "Tea at Five" goes into seems to be sort of, the defining experience of her life, and I'm curious to know if you agree. And that's the death of her brother.
Kate Mulgrew: Yes.
Anita Gates: Her older brother Tom.
Kate Mulgrew: The suicide of her brother Tom.
Anita Gates: Right.
Kate Mulgrew: Devastating beyond expression. Shaped her for the rest her life. This too was a great, great hook.
Anita Gates: Right.
Kate Mulgrew: You know we have so many strange, rather eerie parallels, Anita.
Anita Gates: Yes? What are they?
Kate Mulgrew: Katharine Hepburn and I. They sound silly, but in fact they resonate quite deeply for me. I too am from a very big family. She was one of six, I'm one of eight. She held the second position – oldest girl. Me too. We're both Kates. And our older brother – one year apart – both of us – was Tom. And in her case, at the age of thirteen, she walked into the attic room of her Aunt Mary's house in New York City, to find her brother hanging from the ceiling beam. He'd hanged himself. And this… she cut him down, with a pair of pinking shears…this changed her for the rest of her life. Catapulted her – threw her – into a maturity that she neither understood, nor could own, or realize at that young age.
Anita Gates: She was – what did you say, she was thirteen?
Kate Mulgrew: Thirteen.
Anita Gates: Is that right? Yeah.
Kate Mulgrew: Was pulled out of school. Stayed at home. Devastating.
Anita Gates: To take care of everybody else.
Kate Mulgrew: Never got over it. In her entire life. Could never mention his name without weeping.
Anita Gates: I wondered what her relationship was to her father, too?
Kate Mulgrew: Difficult and complicated and fascinating relationship. I think she was - which is not uncommon in the oldest girl syndrome, I'm very aware of this… a little bit in love with her father.
Anita Gates: Yeah…
Kate Mulgrew: He was tyrannical though, Dr. Hepburn. Very good looking. Exceedingly charming. Very smart, successful doctor. And his word was the last word. And she wanted his approval. And I think she never quite got it, which is why she was constantly driven. And here's a little bon mot for some of you - a little bit of trivia. Her father held her purse strings until he died. Put her on an allowance. Can you imagine that? The greatest superstar of our time. (In Hepburn's voice) 'Daddy – could I have fifty dollars?' True. True story. Shocking.
Anita Gates: Well into her middle age…
Kate Mulgrew: Yes, yes. She was middle aged. Yeah.
Anita Gates: And she sought out these men – we think there's some connection…
Kate Mulgrew: And she repeated it again with Spencer Tracy.
Anita Gates: Right.
Kate Mulgrew: Couldn't quite ever get it. Of course we're all familiar with that.
Anita Gates: Un huh!
Kate Mulgrew: Aren't we, ladies?! Oh, let's do tell the truth here today! Yes. We want what we can't have. Right? And in my experience – I don't know if you'll agree – I'm curious, will you…
Anita Gates: Uh oh!
Kate Mulgrew: The more independent the woman seems, the greater her need for the untouchable male.
Anita Gates: That's certainly what it looks like.
Kate Mulgrew: What is that all about? We're sick, sick creatures!!
Anita Gates: Recreating Daddy, I guess, but it's…
Kate Mulgrew: We all want Daddy.
Anita Gates: Spencer Tracy obviously was the great love of her life…
Kate Mulgrew: Looked so much like her father…
Anita Gates: Did he?
Kate Mulgrew: That rugged…You know what she used to say about him? This is the stuff that… this is what makes the woman so compelling. "People have always asked me what it was about Spence." She said, "Well, I mean, he was like a big lion, and he'd put out his paw and just knock me over." She thought that was great.
Anita Gates: That was good.
Kate Mulgrew: She thought that was great. So it is true that Spencer Tracy never told her that he loved her. Never. Never told her at all what he felt. But stayed with her for twenty-seven years. Never told his wife, Louise Treadwell, that he was having an affair with Katharine Hepburn. She was shocked when she found out. At Spencer Tracy's death. "What are you doing here?" "Well I'm his mistress of twenty-seven years." "Oh, I had no idea."
Anita Gates: She really did say something like that, didn't she?
Kate Mulgrew: Discretion. Oh yes. She did.
Anita Gates: Amazing. Well I can't recall if this is a quote from "Tea at Five" or from some biography, but she said something like, "What a woman really loves is to find a man who's desperately… who desperately, desperately needs her." Now does that make sense to you?
Kate Mulgrew: Well I say that in the play.
Anita Gates: Ah, that's where it came from! There.
Kate Mulgrew: She's justifying her behavior, you know, when she says that.
Anita Gates: But you don't think she…
Kate Mulgrew: No. I don't think we want a man who desperately needs us. I think we want a man who desperately loves us.
Anita Gates: Is that what you have?
Kate Mulgrew: I have that in my life. But this is the second time around.
Anita Gates: It is?
Kate Mulgrew: I'm going to be very blunt here today. I never thought I'd get it.
Anita Gates: Hmmm…
Kate Mulgrew: I never thought I would. No. I think love is tough. Very tough.
Anita Gates: How long have you been married?
Kate Mulgrew: I've been married for four years (laughs). Of course, four years.
Anita Gates: I don't know if everyone knows, but Kate was almost first lady of Ohio, last year.
Kate Mulgrew: Yes.
Anita Gates: And could still be.
Kate Mulgrew: A lot of people in this room were wonderful. Just wonderful. There you are sweetie, I saw you in the audience today with your sweet face. No, my husband ran for governor of Ohio last year and lost to the incumbent, Bob Taft, who is clearly a Republican, need we say more?! I'm not going to get into that.
Anita Gates: No. No more about politics!
Kate Mulgrew: No.
Anita Gates: Okay!
Kate Mulgrew: But going back to what she loved, I think, I think she really wanted – this is the strange thing, isn't it? She wanted Spencer Tracy to ask her to marry him. She wanted him to leave his wife. And he never did. It was never discussed. And so she just shut up.
Anita Gates: But this was not her first married man, either though, was it?
Kate Mulgrew: No. All married men. Except for the man she did in fact marry.
Anita Gates: Oh, right. Yes, what was wrong with Luddy?
Kate Mulgrew: Luddy.
Anita Gates: Yeah, he did everything wrong, sort of, didn't he?
Kate Mulgrew: Well he just… talk about needing. He needed her too much. She walked all over him. But she liked him.
Anita Gates: Right.
Kate Mulgrew: She liked him. I feel very sad about Luddy.
Anita Gates: I know.
Kate Mulgrew: You know, she took him for a ride.
Anita Gates: But they stayed married for several years, but it was only…
Kate Mulgrew: Five years. But she was only with him for six months.
Anita Gates: Right. Exactly. But… well, there's another lesson about what women want.
Kate Mulgrew: Who knows?!
Anita Gates: But tell me about your life so far. Now you really did sort of… you didn't run away from home and come to New York. Your parents supported you.
Kate Mulgrew: Although I've said that sometimes…
Anita Gates: In wanting to be an actress…yes…
Kate Mulgrew: Depending on my mood I ran away…in the snow, yes! I left home when I was seventeen. Against my father's counsel, and with the full support of my mother. However to be very clear about my family, we were launched at eighteen. Come hell or high water you were out.
Anita Gates: Really?
Kate Mulgrew: Out of the house. They had no time for that. Very Irish Catholic in this regard. We were not coddled. So I left, and I intended to go to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, where I made the finals in New York, and then I went over to London and I auditioned for three weeks. Very rigorous process. They take it quite seriously because they only accept twenty in their class. I was one of two Americans. Myself and a twenty-five year old guy. I was sixteen. And I did not get in. And I remember – isn't this funny. I'm forty-eight years old - it could be yesterday. Tears, streaming down my cheeks. What was I going to do? 'Cause you get a slip, you know, under your door. Mine was a pink slip. I didn't get in. Mr. Langham, Michael Langham who ran the school at that time, told me I was just too young and I needed some more experience. I remember walking home in the rain thinking, what am I going to do. So I sent my father a telegram telling him I would not be coming home. He sent me one back saying, 'Oh yes you will'. I didn't. I went to New York, and I got a job. And I got accepted into NYU and the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting, and God was good, because it was Stella Adler who changed my life. It's funny how a door closes, breaks your heart – you're absolutely sure you will never recover – and the window opened, and this marvelous woman, who has defined me as an actress…
Anita Gates: Can you explain what her gift was?
Kate Mulgrew: Epic.
Anita Gates: Yes. It was just big.
Kate Mulgrew: Big. She used to say to me – she'd grab me by the hair. I'd finish a scene, right? She'd grab me by the hair and she'd say, "Where are you from? Where the hell are you from?" "Dubuque Iowa." "Go back to Iowa. Stand on that stage and be an actress, or go home."
Anita Gates: You were brave.
Kate Mulgrew: She said, if you are going to stand on the stage, people are not paying to watch themselves. Right? They want to see something bigger. More exalted. That's what the theater is. Be bigger than life.
Anita Gates: And after Stella Adler? Was "Ryan's Hope" your first big job, or your first job?
Kate Mulgrew: Yeah. Yeah. And I got in trouble with Stella.
Anita Gates: Oh.
Kate Mulgrew: Because I dropped out.
Anita Gates: For doing a soap?
Kate Mulgrew: I dropped out of school. We weren't supposed to drop out. We weren't supposed to take professional work. We were supposed to finish the conservatory, but I didn't. I went to her and she said, "Well it's your call, but I think it's very stupid." And I said, "Well, if it's stupid, it's still a job." And I took it. And in one day, I was offered the part of Mary Ryan on "Ryan's Hope", and Emily in "Our Town", at the American Shakespeare Festival. And if you want to know what heaven feels like, aside from that first kiss with my now husband, in the rain, in Ireland – I'll tell you about that later on…
Anita Gates: Okay. Making a note of it…
Kate Mulgrew: It was when my agent called me… and I…in those days I lived in a five story walk-up on First Avenue. I was tending bar at night, waiting tables during the … it was miserable. And the phone rang, and I remember it so clearly. My agent said "Are you sitting down?" I said, "Yes I am." He said, "Well that's good, because you're going to need your rest. You're going to be a very busy girl. During the day you will be taping a new soap opera, called "Ryan's Hope" in which you will be playing the leading character of Mary Ryan, and then at 5 o'clock the car will pick you up to take you to Stratford, where you will be starring in "Our Town" at the Am…" I got down on my hands and knees, I swear to God. I said, "Father in heaven, you will never regret this."
Anita Gates: I loved Mary Ryan.
Kate Mulgrew: He was terribly concerned with my career, you know! Father in heaven!
Anita Gates: I'm sure he's very pleased, too. Or she, as the case may be! Now I loved Mary Ryan, and I began to watch "Ryan's Hope" when I was working at home free-lance. But you died. But that didn't matter, you kept coming back!
Kate Mulgrew: I died because I left.
Anita Gates: Okay, you had another great job.
Kate Mulgrew: Well I asked to leave, and Claire Labine, who is one of my greatest friends, was the producer and the writer of "Ryan's Hope". And she very graciously let me go. But the caveat was – the deal was that I would come back and make some appearances as the years unfolded. And I did. They made a terrible mistake. They replaced me. And the audience…
Anita Gates: I never knew that.
Kate Mulgrew: They…The audience was very offended by that. They should have just killed me. Don't you think? I begged to be killed!
Anita Gates: But you came back as a ghost…
Kate Mulgrew: How many people can say that?
Anita Gates: Didn't you. You were always giving people advice…
Kate Mulgrew: I came back as a ghost and I got older and older. It was really sort of stupid. They should have just killed me from the beginning.
Anita Gates: Well, it's too late now.
Kate Mulgrew: She was a great character.
Anita Gates: She was.
Kate Mulgrew: I'm the only actress in the history of daytime television who slept with one man only. And he was my husband.
Anita Gates: Right, right. But that was one season!
Kate Mulgrew: The only one! Isn't that a remarkable thing to be able to say?
Anita Gates: It's unheard of pretty much on daytime drama! Well tell us about that kiss in the rain in Ireland.
Kate Mulgrew: I will tell you about this kiss.
Anita Gates: Okay. Where did you meet your husband?
Kate Mulgrew: My… my love affair with my husband is true Kismet.
Anita Gates: Okay. Glad to hear it.
Kate Mulgrew: My husband was my mother's friend, long before he was mine. And he was my mother's friend because the liaison was - my mother's best friend who was Jean Kennedy Smith, who was then the Ambassador to Ireland, was a great pal of my husband because he's been involved with, you know, politics and all that. With the Kennedys for years. So he was visiting the Ambassador in Dublin and I was in Kerry on a holiday with my two very young sons. And my mother called Tim Hagan and she said, "Meet my daughter for a drink, just one drink. You'll be good friends. You'll like her." She called me and she said, "You'll like him, honey, he's a great guy. You'll never go for him. Not in a million years. "To be on the safe side," I said, "I'll meet you half way, in Tralee." I really didn't want to get stuck with some… you know. So I meet him in the lobby of Tralee. He calls my name: "Kate". "Tim." "Kate." Ah. It was instant. It was absolutely instant. Well he didn't get to Dublin that night. Nor the next night. Nor the next. He came to Dingle with me. And that night, after we'd been in the pub for some time, which is something I love to do, he walked me home in the rain, and he kissed me. It wasn't very much of a kiss, he was very nervous. But he kissed me. And then he sort of pushed me away from him. Because the rain was coming down and the mist was lifting. And he looked me in the eyes and he said, "I'd love to meet the man who's going to marry you." I said "Loser remark! Huh!" "How can you say that," I said to myself, "because it's you, you, you!" I said this to myself…
Anita Gates: Not to him.
Kate Mulgrew: Anyway, it was immediate. We fell profoundly in love. Three months later I get Star Trek: Voyager, which is this series I did in Los Angeles, and I get a…(audience laughs)
Anita Gates: We've heard of it. Vaguely heard of it!
Kate Mulgrew: And I get this… I get forty-nine roses and note from my husband saying, "Thank you for the best forty-nine days of my life. But this is bigger than both of us."
Anita Gates: And you said?
Kate Mulgrew: Oh no. Really. Well… I died. I died. I'm sure if I didn't have to go to work in the morning I really would have died. But I had to go to work. That was it, ladies and gentlemen. Cut to five years later. I'm on a boat with my mother, sailing up the Aegean Sea. And we're having a little Irish whiskey, as we are wont to do. Ha ha… at about five o'clock. And we were standing out on a little deck, looking at the Turkish moon, which is unprecedented in its glory. And my mother said to me – this ought to clue you as to why I'm a little bit demented! My mother said to me, "Tell me what was the most sorrowful event of your whole life, sweetheart." And I know she thought I was going to say some ghastly thing about children or life or something. I looked her dead in the eye, and I said, "I lost the only man I ever loved, and it's your fault!" "What do you mean?" I said, "If you know what's good for you, and if you would like to continue to call me your daughter, you will get off this boat and make a certain phone call, Mother. I'm now going to dinner with the captain, and I will see you later." She got off that boat, and she called him. And she said, "I think you should call Katie." "Five years… no, no." "Call Katie." Plunk! And he called me when I got home. And he said, "I'd like to see you." I said, " Well, you know, it's interesting. Five years ago, you were very busy. And right now I'm very busy. I have absolutely no time at all on my calendar. Except for – oh interestingly – I do have this Friday." This was Wednesday. "I do have this Friday. Friday lunch." He said, "Oh you do?" I said, "Yes, the Bel-Air hotel, one o'clock. Be there." He was there. And that was it. That was it.
Anita Gates: Well how much later was it you got married?
Kate Mulgrew: That was good. That was good. And then we were married eight months later.
Anita Gates: Great.
Kate Mulgrew: Yeah. It is great because it's… it's given me more joy than any other single thing in my life. Pure joy. Because work always has a flip side to it.
Anita Gates: Right.
Kate Mulgrew: But this kind of love does not. He's a remarkable man…isn't he Connie?! He's a great… all my people who know him. Isn't he remarkable? (audience applauds). Remarkable.
Anita Gates: Yay, Tim!
Kate Mulgrew: And so cute!
Anita Gates: But now you have these kids, this time.
Kate Mulgrew: I have kids. I do have kids.
Anita Gates: From the first marriage.
Kate Mulgrew: Yes.
Anita Gates: And how did they feel about this change?
Kate Mulgrew: They didn't like it one bit!
Anita Gates: Yeah?
Kate Mulgrew: No! They don't ever like anything, do they?! Kids! Huh? No! And you know, if you do what they want you to do, guess what? You never leave the house. You never get married. You never have a laugh. It's all over if you do what they want you to do.
Anita Gates: Be here Mom.
Kate Mulgrew: Oh. I was having a conversation with my nineteen-year old son, who is six foot four and weighs, you know, two hundred pounds. He said, "I don't know why you left the kitchen. You never shoulda left the kitchen. You shoulda been home." I said, "Oh, why don't you just… snap out of it!"
Anita Gates: Exactly! But so this did happen to you, at not a convenient time.
Kate Mulgrew: No. Not a convenient…Oh!
Anita Gates: You had just gotten Voyager and…
Kate Mulgrew: Yes. No it was not good. And it was not good that I wanted to mar…. nothing's good. Nothing ever works that way, Anita. You know that. I took one look at this guy, I looked at my two young kids. I did my calculations and they are as follows: I will be dead much sooner than they will be dead! I got some time here. One window. This is my shot at joy and I'm going to take it.
Anita Gates: Yeah.
Kate Mulgrew: One way or another they will figure this out. But if I say no to this, what I've said is no to life. And I'm not going to do it.
Anita Gates: Good for you. Did you ever get to see your husband while you were doing a series?
Kate Mulgrew: He came every two weeks…
Anita Gates: Yes…
Kate Mulgrew: For two and a half… for three years. Every two weeks on that plane. He'd come with me at four o'clock in the morning to the studio and he'd stay with me for eighteen hours. Drive home with me at night. It was pretty remarkable. Yeah.
Anita Gates: Are you in the same place… well you're not now because he's not in New York, is he?
Kate Mulgrew: No. We seem to have a problem… living together. He's in Cleveland, because he's an important person in Cleveland. And he has two young daughters there. And he is nothing if not a devoted father. And I'm here because I'm… I'm doing "Tea at Five". But it all works out. This is the difference between my – I don't have any kids in this room, do I?! No.
Anita Gates: Speak out!
Kate Mulgrew: This is the difference between my first husband and my second husband. My first husband could not quite understand – which I think is very true of young marriages – how my happiness was directly associated with my work. But my second husband understands that it's not only inherent, but crucial to the survival of this marriage. That's…
Anita Gates: Because it's crucial to the survival of you.
Kate Mulgrew. Well… exactly. And I say the same to him. But of course, you know, I'm forty-eight. He's fifty-seven. We're older.
Anita Gates: You're both wise, now.
Kate Mulgrew: Thank you. Wise, yeah. Used to be pretty. Now it's wise!
Anita Gates: You're both!
Kate Mulgrew: Thank you.
Anita Gates: Do you miss being Captain Janeway on Voyager, or do you feel you still are?
Kate Mulgrew: Yes, she's never going to go. Uh uh. She's never going to go, and… I don't want her to go. I don't want her to go. No not even in terms of… of what the future has. When you work for seven years – at a character like that – and by the way, I want you all to know I knew nothing about Star Trek when I took this job, except I thought it was a cartoon! And I knew it was funny people with funny things on their forehead in space, right? I remember saying, "Oh, they're kidding! What am I going to be, a cartoon character?" "No, they're looking for a new captain." I said, "Captain of what?" "It's a ship." I said, "Like what, a submarine? In space?" So I went, and I'm thinking, boom, boom, boom. I'll tell you this. This is an interesting story, if you want to hear it.
Anita Gates: Oh, please!
Kate Mulgrew: The first time I tested for it, was here in New York. In the pouring rain, in the middle of Times Square, they put me on tape. It was an abysmal audition. Because guess who I was meeting in forty-five minutes? At the Mayflower Hotel? Tim Hagan.
Anita Gates: Yay!
Kate Mulgrew: And I remember saying, on tape, to the camera, "I'm sorry this is so bad, but I'm about to meet this guy and I am in love." I ran in the pouring rain, because I couldn't get a taxi, from 42nd Street to the Mayflower Hotel. His door opens, right, big embrace. He said, "What's that?" I said, "Oh, it's…whatever it is, I have completely blown it." He said, "No, no, no what is it?" I said, "Something they're doing. Some new series about Star Trek." He said, "Can I look at it?" I said, "Sure." I have a glass of wine, he's reading it, and he said, "Captain Janeway, is that the part?" I said, "Yah, but…" He said, "You're going to get it." I said, "Now how on Earth…" He said, "You're going to get it." And what's really fascinating is my best friend called me the next day and she said, "You know they've lost the actress that they hired – Genevieve Bujold. You're going to get this part." And true enough, my agent called and he said, "Come on into Los Angeles, they want to see you." And the next thing I knew I was going to network with five splendid actresses. And I got it. I got it. And I'm – well, I guess you know how happy I am that I got it…
Anita Gates: Seven years later.
Kate Mulgrew: But I love her.
Anita Gates: Yeah. I have read that she's been described as forceful, yet compassionate. Does that sum her up, or is there some other…
Kate Mulgrew: That's too boring for Janeway.
Anita Gates: Okay. Let's go. What is she?
Kate Mulgrew: Full of life. Full of humanity. Full of the devil too when she wanted to be. But brave, really brave. Terribly flawed.
Anita Gates: Really?
Kate Mulgrew: Given to falling in love with her people to such an extent - her staff - her crew – love, love, love them. Here's my secret about Janeway. Now Connie and … you're all going to get upset… don't! You know I get us lost in the Delta Quadrant – that's how the series starts. Sure I do, I'm a woman, right!? Couldn't stop at the gas station, could she?! So I confront them all – we're on the bridge – I say, "We're lost in an uncharted part of space, the Delta Quadrant. We're going to work together. We're going to fight together. And I promise you, I'm going to get you home." I've always said to myself, secretly, deep down, "I’m in no rush to get home. I'm going to love the Delta Quadrant." That was Janeway's secret.
Anita Gates: That's great.
Kate Mulgrew: She was a true explorer. And a little bit of a vixen, you know? Loved science, but loved love. Loved the passion of space. And loved watching, I think, all of the love affairs evolve. By that I mean just the… see, I get emotional – you don't do it for seven years and not get emotional about it, so she'll be with me till I die. I was very lucky to play her, Anita.
Anita Gates: Oh, it's a great character.
Kate Mulgrew: Great. Great.
Anita Gates: She really is. Didn't she fall in love with like, holograms, sometimes too? Or was that somebody else?
Kate Mulgrew: She just could not get lucky! Could she? They all wanted me to have a big love affair with Chakotay. (Applause). Oh, I’m sorry. I have a stalker in the background! How do you pronounce that name? Oh see – she didn't.... You're so bad, Danielle Becker! They wanted me to fall in love with Chakotay - because who wouldn't want to fall in love with Chakotay?! Was he too cute to breathe… so cute. Here was my theory about it: I hope this expression is right – I say this a lot – I sometimes think I'm dyslexic about it – what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander? Now Picard and Kirk had a marvelous time, didn't they? Dropping trou all over the damn… you know – Gamma, Alpha, Beta Quadrants, right. They had a lot of women and they had a lot of fun and everybody went "Yah, that's our captain!" Well guess what? I'm the first female to sit in the seat. I'm thirty-eight years old when I take this role. Our strongest demographic as you all well know, those of you who are fans of this show – the young male demographic – 15 to 25. Well. I'm old enough to be their mother. Do you think I'm going to threaten that for one minute by fooling around? So I went to the producers and I said, "It's not going to happen. I'm of child-bearing years. I need this audience. I need to seduce them as the captain. Not as the woman. Let me do this my way." So of course, I never had any fun for seven years!
Anita Gates: Maybe in the movie, if there's a movie.
Kate Mulgrew: Well the hologram. Could you believe that?!
Anita Gates: I know.
Kate Mulgrew: I have a love affair with a hologram, and one other time I had a love affair with Lieutenant Paris and we had baby lizards. I mean, that was it girls, wasn't it?! That was it! Yah.
Anita Gates: I can't believe we're almost running out of time for our one-on-one thing.
Kate Mulgrew: Oh, are we?
Anita Gates: I had five hundred other questions, but I'll just… you know… I'll ask you later! But I'll bet other people have questions. So…
Kate Mulgrew: Does anybody questions, because I like questions.
Anita Gates: If you don't I do! Right here.
Kate Mulgrew: (addressing someone in the audience) Did you bring me those flowers today? Thank you so much. And it's good to see you. They're beautiful. Thoughtful of you.
Anita Gates: All right. We have somebody over here first.
Kate Mulgrew: Yes.
Q1: Hi Kate, how are you?
Kate Mulgrew: I'm good, how are you?
Q1: The question I had – basically you're up there doing this two hours every night, and I was wondering, I've heard a lot – I've heard you speak a lot about the process of getting into character and going to the theater hours early and spending time by yourself. What's it like undoing that process at the end of the evening and reclaiming some semblance of yourself after all that?
Kate Mulgrew: If somebody weren't present in this audience I could really wax sort of arrogant about this… see this girl – stand up! This is my dresser, ladies and gentlemen.
Anita Gates: Yes. She does a wonderful job.
Kate Mulgrew: She is the one who is completely responsible for this ten-minute transformation at the intermission. And she is the one who greets me when I come off the stage at night. So I cannot tell a lie. I slip out of it pretty quickly, don't I, hon? Huh? Once she takes that wig off and gives me a little head rub… I'm ready for a drink! I am very disciplined about it, to answer your question. During the week I have no life. Then come Saturday or Sunday, I'm ready to become quite naughty! But I go home, I watch my throat. I watch myself. I'm very tired, usually, at the end of the performance. And I go home and I take care of what I need to do, because this is the total experience as you so nicely recognize, so I hope that answers your question. Does it?
Anita Gates: There was a question over there.
Kate Mulgrew: That was a good question. An actor question. Yes? Yes Ma'am.
Q2: You spoke of Hepburn being vulnerable.
Kate Mulgrew: Vulnerable, yes.
Q2: I wish you'd speak a bit about how use that…
Kate Mulgrew: Another very astute question. Did you all hear it?
Anita Gates: Do you need them repeated?
Kate Mulgrew: How I use vulnerability – do you mean in playing Katharine Hepburn, or myself?
Q2: In playing her.
Kate Mulgrew: In playing Hepburn. It's an absolute hook, and its a… it’s a current. It's very hard to articulate this because this is sort of the secret life of the actor. But just underneath in Act 1… No, let me put it to you another way. For a long time I struggled with the direct confrontation with the audience in Act 1. That was a bit scary – that they were in my living room. The vulnerability allowed me to just look… at you. You're going to look back at me, I'm going to look at you. I'm going to give it to you. If I'm going to give it to you really, I'm going to give you my heart. No matter what I'm doing and throwing away or talking about, right underneath it is that – that electricity of the vulnerability. In Act 2 the reflective nature of it – her great sadness – her ability to expose and reveal herself at seventy-six, is of course the essence of vulnerability. So, as I threatened, I'm inarticulate on this one. Because it is the actor's secret life.
Anita Gates: Is there another question?
Kate Mulgrew: Yes?
Q3: The first questioner asked you about the layering process…
Kate Mulgrew: About the what, darling?
Q3: About the layering process…
Kate Mulgrew: The layering…
Q3: And I have to ask you because when you turned around in the second act, and stunned us all. And I watched you – and I've done eighty-year old women…
Kate Mulgrew: Have you?
Q3: Once, and it was harder than anything I've ever done in my life, so I have to ask you. How do you handle the palsy? How do you layer that in and set that so it didn't destroy you – didn't get in the way of everything you did, and look so natural and so uncontrolled and yet maintain that control. It's amazing to watch. And when I did mine I was so young and so untrained.
Kate Mulgrew: Who did you do?
Q3: Do you know the play "The Rimers of Eldritch"?
Kate Mulgrew: …You know, Heather? No.
Q: I'm having a senior moment of my own and I can't remember the character's name… (unintelligible).. and I sort of collapse … very much like this for two hours and it was the hardest thing I've ever done physically, they had to massage me for about an hour when I came off …. So I'm fascinated to watch someone who is able to do it and do it so magnificently…
Kate Mulgrew: Well thank you. I don't know how! I really don't know how.
Anita Gates: These are hard questions.
Kate Mulgrew: They're very hard… they're very deep questions. Nothing I do in Act 2 physically is intentional. It all just came, (in the older Hepburn's voice) 'and it never left, and that's the way it is.' It just came and it never left. I think it's softened over time,
Anita Gates: There's a… oh sorry…
Kate Mulgrew: Excuse me Anita, softened as I've realized her more deeply. Now I don't even think … I don't even think. Isn't that wonderful? That's the freedom. That's the liberty. That's the… the gift, you know. That's the reward. Because I forget about it – everything – and I just go somewhere else. It's heaven. Absolute heaven. Yeah. Yeah.
Yes, Yes in the back?
Anita Gates: Where are we?
Kate Mulgrew: Yes? Yes?
Q4: I wonder if you had a desire to, or have you, or would like to meet Katharine Hepburn?
Kate Mulgrew: I would very much like to meet her now, I think.
Q4: Did you ever have the opportunity?
Kate Mulgrew: Pardon me?
Q4: Did you ever have the opportunity?
Kate Mulgrew: I had the opportunity when I was young and I… I didn't take it. They… I was up for a part in – was it "Matter of Gravity"? She wanted me to audition – or she didn't, my agent wanted me to audition and I passed on it. So I've not met her. And now she's really not meetable. I think she's indisposed. But if I could just see her for a moment, perhaps not say anything - just see her. I sent her flowers, you know, because tomorrow is her birthday. She has no idea who I am. None. But I – she has a saying. I think some of you might actually like to know this. Of all of her acerbic, caustic, witty and fascinating remarks - and she had many of them - her favorite saying was, "Listen to the song of life." So I sent her flowers and I said, "Listen to the song of life and you will hear this refrain: Happy Birthday. Brava. And thank you very much. Kate Mulgrew."
Anita Gates: That's lovely.
Kate Mulgrew: You know, when somebody in life gives you a gift like this, it's a kind of miracle. So I'm very aware of giving that back to her. I have fallen in love with her. The same thing happened with Janeway. How lucky do you get in a lifetime? And I'm only forty-eight. I should stop saying that, shouldn't I?! It's too late!
Anita Gates: You're a kid!
Kate Mulgrew: Who else? Yes ma'am?
Q5: One of the things I'm most impressed with about the play was how you were able to capture all her speech patterns and inflections, which I think is more compelling than doing a straight out impersonation. That's even harder. And that's much, much more convincing. In fact that's a little bit what I have to do in my own work. I'm curious…
Kate Mulgrew: What is your own work?
Q5: I’m an opera coach.
Kate Mulgrew: Are you?
Q5: Yes, so I work with singers and…
Kate Mulgrew: Oh, so you know about breathing and the palate and all of that stuff, yes.
Q5: And accents. But I'm curious as to how you prepared for that.
Kate Mulgrew: Act 1 took me months. I'm not going to lie about that. Act 2 – it came. Isn't that strange, the tough one came? I just got it. Because she's tricking her larynx, you know. That's a damaged larynx you're hearing there – you know that. (In the older Hepburn's voice). 'Nobody talks like that unless they've been smoking for fifty-five years, right?' But it's the first act – high – hard palate, tougher than hell. Worked, and worked and studied. Studied. I'd go to sleep with "Philadelphia Story" on, you know. I had to get those cadences inside. And I go and I warm up. But it's… it's… it's the hard, high palate that's always my greater challenge. It's easier to go (older Hepburn) 'this way', (younger Hepburn) 'than that'. And there seems to be much greater – isn't this the curious thing, perhaps you can appreciate this – there seems to be greater flexibility in the Act 2 voice than there does in the young voice. I don't know why that is. Greater nuance. And I… you know that's not true, because when you're in the hard palate you can go anywhere. (young Hepburn) 'Very high, you can go any way you want. I can go this, I can go that'. But it doesn't feel like that. That's always… that's why I warm up for – you know – half an hour, and take care of my voice.
Q5: Which role – which film did you specifically target to…
Kate Mulgrew: Well we're talking right between "Philadelphia Story" and "Morning Glory". I looked at the young films. But my great favorite of hers is "Alice Adams". So to find that very vulnerable, very fractured… you know nobody could split her face like Hepburn. When the camera went in and her heart was breaking she could absolutely shatter her face. Tears would just come. I studied her in "Alice Adams" – embarrassed and ashamed and wanting so much to be an aristocrat and one of the rich girls and popular at the party. You know the scene where she's left alone in the chair and everybody's passing her. That's really Hepburn. Nobody asked Hepburn to the dance. She wasn't asked. So that's eminently playable from my point of view. A lot more interesting than having been asked to the dance. Don't you think? Right. Yes?
Q6: I just wanted to compliment you. It seems like throughout you're career you've really been a wonderful role model for playing very strong women, but, you know for example with Captain Janeway what makes her such an interesting character is she really is a very flawed character but she's so human we can identify with her. She's the boss I always wanted to be.
Kate Mulgrew: Thank you. See. She said something that's so important to me as an actress. They didn't want me to be flawed. I fought for that. I said, "That's it. No woman is going to believe this captain, if they don't let me be flawed." True ladies? It wasn't going to happen. Because for months they were on me. You guys remember this – you be the captain… oh…fire… yeah… I said, "That's not it. But if I reveal all the mistakes, all the tenderness of this woman, and her courage on the flip side, I'll get my ladies. And if I get my ladies, I'm going to get this thing home." And that's what happened.
Anita Gates: Great character.
Kate Mulgrew: Thank you.
Anita Gates: Oh, right over here.
Kate Mulgrew: Yes ma'am?
Q7: What happened in the five years after you met your husband. You said there were five years…
Kate Mulgrew: There's a woman for you! There's a woman for you! Well yes… you can ask! One has to live. Naughty. I managed. It's terrible, but it's true, isn't it? I like men! Always have. I was working.
(End first side of tape)
Kate Mulgrew: …Because if you hear this you'll go oh but it's a terrible thing – a woman saying. I used to cry, thinking about him on my way to see somebody else! See the men hate that.
Anita Gates: I know.
Kate Mulgrew: Women, women, women. Complicated, wretched creatures.
Anita Gates: No, they've done it too.
Q8: (unintelligible)…why you're on the way to meet somebody else!
Anita Gates: Yes. Yes.
Kate Mulgrew: See why I love 'em. The best.
Q9: He's mine!
Kate Mulgrew: Ahhh…he is? You're lucky! Anybody else have question? Yes? I'm sorry, yes?
Q10: Any chance for a Star Trek movie with the Voyager cast?
Kate Mulgrew: Not that I know of. But if Paramount stands to make a profit…
Q11: What was the question?
Kate Mulgrew: Is there any chance of a Voyager movie. A Star Trek: Voyager movie. No, but there was talk about a mini-series which I thought was an interesting concept. However I can assure you that if the Paramount brass stand to make a buck fifty profit they will do it. They will do it. I'm meeting everybody in two weeks by the way, you'll be interested…I'm having a dinner… Connie… and I'm having all my Voyager people in Los Angeles because my younger son is graduating from high school. Thanks be to God Almighty! And I'm going to see them all. And we'll dish.
Q12: What's that 'Borg Encounter' thing that I saw it …
Anita Gates: See, you saw it too. On IMDB.
Q12: Interestingly it was in the Internet Movie Data Base.
Anita Gates: Right.
Q12: It was in a movie data base and it…
Kate Mulgrew: Danielle, who is my assistant, tells me that I did a roller – I was on a roller coaster?
Anita Gates: She did a voice over…
Danielle: You did a voice over for a roller coaster.
Kate Mulgrew: I did a voice over for a roller coaster.
Anita Gates: A German roller coaster.
Kate Mulgrew: A German roller coaster. I did a voice over for a German roller coaster. Called the Borg Encounter. I mean put it on my tombstone! This is an amazing thing. I guess I did this – yes. That's the thing I went out there to shoot. The blue screen.
Anita Gates: We hoped it was a movie.
Kate Mulgrew: No, it wasn't a movie. I did a brief cameo in "Nemesis".
Q12: It was you and the Borg queen and one more – I forgot which character it was. The Doctor.
Kate Mulgrew: Oh, the Doctor. Yes, he's great. He's my sweetheart. Yes ma'am?
Q13: Yes. My question is twofold on Star Trek. The movie. Why did they make you an admiral in the last movie? You appeared for about sixty seconds if not less, on Earth…
Kate Mulgrew: She counted!
Q13: You were an admiral and Picard was I think still captain…
Kate Mulgrew: I was Admiral Janeway and Captain Picard was Captain Picard. And I was giving him his orders…
Kate Mulgrew: Which is something I should have done a long time ago! They had to elevate me – they had to promote me in order for me to issue the instructions to Picard. Do you understand?
Q13: Yes but I was hoping to see you in space with your cast … As someone who was helping save … in the end…
Kate Mulgrew: You and me both! I don't know. This is what they did. It doesn't… it doesn't exclude the possibility of that happening in the future, does it. Connie you know that better than anybody! Oh you can do anything you want in space. Anything you want. I can go back to being a captain. I can be a man. I can be an admiral. I can do whatever I want! Right?!
Anita Gates: Exactly!
Kate Mulgrew: Oh, it's a twofold question, yes?
Q13: What do you think of the cast of the new Enterprise? Of the TV show.
Kate Mulgrew: The new one?
Q13: The new one.
Kate Mulgrew: You're not going to believe this. I haven't seen one episode.
Q13: Oh, really?
Kate Mulgrew: And both of my pals, Robbie McNeill and Roxann Dawson have directed several of them. I haven't seen them. Don't ask me why, I just… I haven't. I hear mixed things about it. But he's a terrific actor, Scott Bakula. Let me be…I have to tell you this. When you do a franchise series for seven years, yours is the best! Yours is the only and the best. It's true!
Yes? Yes? Let me ask this…sir?
Q14: (unintelligible) … one person performance … do you think is a … to take on that challenge?
Kate Mulgrew: Your question is?
Q14: Is a one person performance… (unintelligible)
Kate Mulgrew: Probably. Because it's just me. And it's very scary – at first. And certainly when you're doing somebody who's still alive. And somebody who is as remarkable as this creature. So I think I can safely say, having done this, I have met a challenge that I didn't think I would meet in my lifetime as an actress. So the epitome – I don't know if it's the epitome, but it's very close.
Anita Gates: I know that we're running out of official 92nd Street Y time here.
Kate Mulgrew: You are… may I ask… yes sir?
Q15: Is there a chance that the play that you're doing will be seen … video?
Kate Mulgrew: You mean i.e. PBS or something like that?
Kate Mulgrew: This has been raised, and I would think it would be. Don't you think it should be? (applause) Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. I would like that, yes, so…
Anita Gates: Okay, one more?
Kate Mulgrew: One more question. Yes ma'am.
Q16: Any plans for after "Tea at Five"?
Kate Mulgrew: About that marriage, which gives me so much joy! No but truly, to spend some concentrated time. And to spend some time with my kids. And by that I mean… two weeks! No, I'll take some time. And then I think we're going to take "Tea at Five" on tour. There will be a national tour. Which will be fun, you know. San Francisco. St. Louis. Chicago. The Delta Quadrant!
Anita Gates: Yes!
Kate Mulgrew: You have been an absolutely wonderful audience. Thank you very much.
Anita Gates: Let's thank Kate Mulgrew.
Kate Mulgrew: Thank you. Thank you.
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