Fit & Firm at 40 Plus
Two YEARS ago, Kate Mulgrewís career skidded to a near halt. A mother of two, in the midst of divorcing her husband of 12 years (theater director Robert Egan), the actor was on the verge of having to sell her house to make ends meet. Then something cosmic happened: She was called to assume the role of Captain Kathryn Janeway on the television show Star Trek: Voyager, after the original actor, Genevieve Bujold, jumped ship two days into filming. Funny, but fate always has a way of working things outóor so says Mulgrew, 41, mom of 13-year-old Ian and 12-year-old Alexander.
In fact, the course of Mulgrewís career has been a tough lesson in the twists and turns of life. As a twenty-something, she gained fame as Mary Ryan on the soap opera Ryanís Hope, where she enjoyed two years of tremendous success. Then came a series of ups and downs. She won the title role of the detective in Kate Columbo, a spin-off pilot of the original gumshoe drama; the show never made it as a series. She played small parts in Cheers and a fairly meaty role in the short-lived drama Heartbeat. She also worked on stage here and there before she experienced a real dry spellóuntil the Star Trek job came along, that is. The third spin-off of the original 1960s TV cult favorite, Star Trek:Voyager, now in its third season, features the starshipís first-ever female captain. Diminutive though she is at 5 feet 5 inches tallóand slim enough to fit into a snug size 4 space suitóMulgrew is strong and authoritative on-screen as Captain Janeway of the Federation Starship USS Voyager. The same holds true in person: Mulgrew is inarguably commanding, with a deep, resonant voice and a forthright manner. When she speaks, you let her finish.
We caught up with the captain to talk about passion, parenting and happiness at 40-plus. Here, she shares her secrets.
How does it feel to make such a comeback in your 40s?
Iíve never felt better. I had great success years ago, but it didnít last. You know, when youíre young you think that all good things will come to you. But it takes some time to find out who you are and to find work thatís right for you. Janeway and I are a match made in heaven.
Just before the Janeway role came along, you were almost forced to sell your house. That must have been an incredibly difficult period in your life.
Was it ever. Talk about struggle! I had been through it all whenóas has occurred so many times in my lifeóI was given a marvelous opportunity with the Janeway role. For that, Iím very thankful.
What do you think of the fact that American television viewers can finally handle a female starship captain?
Itís wonderful. And I attribute it to our growth as a culture. Janeway is a role model whoís crucial to our success as a society. She inspires young girls to use their imaginations. What could be more important than that?
Do you see yourself in this commanding, powerful woman?
Of course. I have to have a certain inherent command in order to pull off the role of Janeway. You canít take a person without authority and put her in control of a starship. Itís simply not going to work. Our audience is much smarter than that.
Do you find yourself taking your work home with you?
Yes, I think it spills over into my personal life. After spending all day bossing people around, thereís definitely an energy level that needs to be subdued when you leave the set. Iíve become more authoritative around the house, for instance. But I try not to pull a lot of Janeway stuff with my kids, until they ask for their allowance, that is.
How do you fit into that size 4 space suit?
Well, I donít diet. But I do have to keep my weight in check. So I really try to watch how much I eat during the week. Then, I let go a bit on the weekends. I must admit, I love fatty foods. On a workday, itís not unusual for me to have a piece of fried chicken and some french fries for lunch and then eat a very light dinner.
Do you cook?
Yes, as often as I can. I love to. I have growing boys
in the house, after all. But their mother enjoys
a good meal, too.
With the long hours you put in, how do you get through the day? Is exercise your secret?
I get my exercise simply by being physically active every day of my lifeóon my job, with my kids, around the house. Some times, Iíll jump into my swimming pool to get my body going. And, as Janeway, I do most of my own stunts. Iím amazingly agile.
You see, going to a gym doesnít necessarily make me feel healthy. My definition of health is to be fully and passionately alive. In other words, youíve got to live your life. Stop worrying about whether youíre fat or skinny. Iím totally charged up by what Iím doing, so the last thing on my mind is how I look. After all, how interesting is that? Not very, at my age. By the time youíve reached 40, youíd better have more to focus on than your physical self. Life is about who you love and what you love. Thatís my focus.
The entertainment industry is infamous for its obsession with thin, beautiful women. You mean this doesnít affect you?
No, it doesnít. What I am obsessed with are my children. And my work. I often ask myself: Do I love my job? Am I doing it well? Am I passionately involved? If thatís the case, Iím going to feel and look pretty good. I donít worry about my gut. Iíve had two kidsó I should have one, right? I donít worry about my bosom. Iíve nursed two children; it should sag a bit.
Now, can I get away with weighing 175 pounds as a starshipís captain? No. But a woman of my age and stature should weigh 135 pounds or so, eat her pasta and have her life. I am a middle-aged woman. I donít want to look like a 20-year-old.
Between your job and your kids, your life must be pretty stressful.
Absolutely, my life is stressful. And stress is treacherous. It took 20 pounds off me during the first season of my show. What saves me is sleep. I can sleep on a picket fence. Every day before lunch on the Star Trek set, I put up my ďDo Not DisturbĒ sign and take a 45-minute nap. I can get through another 10 hours on that nap. And I try not to stay up late. At night, Iíll study my script for two or three hours and read for a bit. If I can get into bed by 10 oíclock, Iím a happy woman. I also try to pray I think about God a lot during my 45-minute drive to work.
Is it tough balancing motherhood and the demands of your job?
You bet. I go from work to home. I never socialize during the week. I come home, I cook a meal for the kids, we sit and eat. Then I oversee their homework, see that they get ready for bed and tuck them in. In the morning, when I can, I love to take the boys to schoolóand they love it, too. Thereís something about the early morning. We always have a good laugh or a good talk.
Do you ever feel guilty about your limited time with your kids?
Yes, but Iíve been blessed with a passion. If youíre absolutely passionate about something and you donít pursue it, your kids are going to get the message that youíre frustrated. My kids know that Iím crazy about acting. Iíve been acting since they were born. The best thing Iíve given them, I think, is the example of pursuing my passion. Still, thereís a sadness on those days when I leave before my boys get up and come home after theyíre asleep. We really miss each other.
Do you find any time for R&R?
I readóitís a big part of my life. Right now, Iím reading The Cloister Walk, a book about a woman who lived with Benedictine monks for a year. Of course, I love spending time with my kids. And on weekends, I see my boyfriend (television director Rick Kolbe), with whom Iím very much in love. I also have great friends, but I rarely get to see them. At the very least, I try to have a dinner party once every six months. Thatís pure joy to me.
Are you concerned about growing old?
I admit, I worry about it. I donít want to be 20, but,
of course, I donít want to be 80 either. Now, in my 40s, I couldnít be
happier. Itís a great time for women to be forty-something. Weíve had our
kids. Weíve lived through most of the really rough stuff. We understand
who we are. Weíre smart and sexy. Weíre relaxed and mellow enough to say,
hell, if I fail I fail, but in the meantime, life is great.