|Best known for her
role as Captain Katherine Janeway of the star ship Voyager, in April Kate
Mulgrew will be joining the cast of The Exonerated at London’s Riverside
Studios. GT caught up with the First Lady of Star Fleet
What is The Exonerated
It’s based on the true stories of six wrongly
convicted people, who were sentenced to execution and Death Row, and later
exonerated. I play Sunny Jacobs – probably the least guilty – who was on
Death Row for 16 years, and had to suffer the execution of her husband
– again, wrongly. It’s a very gripping story, and a play that speaks to
everybody. In 2006, the fact that we’re still executing people – Texas
is still executing people; it should secede, really – chills me to the
bone. History will look back and say, “My God, what were they thinking?”
Have you played the
London stage before?
This is my London debut, and I’m particularly
excited because this material is very meaningful. Underneath that, I love
London. I’m an anglophile.
What are you looking
forward to most?
Civilization, a good craic at the pub, and
getting to know London better. I’m very comfortable when I’m there – Londoners
are very curious, very discerning, so if you match their intelligence and
don’t offend, it’s probably the best craic in the world, right?
You've been touring
the US with your own one-woman play about the life of Katharine Hepburn.
Tell us about it.
Tea at Five is Katharine Hepburn’s life,
concentrated into a few hours. In the first act, I play Hepburn at 31 and
in the second Hepburn at 76. Playwright (now producer) Matthew Lombardo
has done a clever job of encapsulating her life, and we’ve found a loneliness
and vulnerability that was very true of her. We’ve interwoven all her griefs,
how she surmounted them, and the price she paid to become the great star
I immersed myself in Katharine’s life for
months. I’d come up with bons mots that I thought were more appropriate
than something Matthew had found, and we’d work like gangbusters. I was
scared to death on opening night – in Hartford, Connecticut, where she
was born and raised – because these people really knew her. I guess they
thought we’d done a good job, because they came back for months. It was
Do you think that Hepburn
Androgynous is the word I’d use. She used
her sexuality to cloak, to conceal and to reveal. She had a very robust
sex life with Tracy (Spencer), Howard Hughes, Leland “Luddy” Hayward. She
had long, enduring and mysterious friendships with just a couple of women.
People thought that Laura Harding, her great friend, was a beard, but I
don’t know – I wasn’t in the bedroom! It was my gut feeling that Katharine
The sacrifices she made to become an icon
– she knew very early on she wanted to be one – were big. It cost her huge
– but she was prepared to pay.
Have you had to make
sacrifices in your life?
I’ve had three children, and for children,
you sacrifice a lot [laughs]. I’ve lost two sisters, my father died two
years ago, and my mother is in the final stages of Altzheimer’s, so I’ve
had my share of suffering.
I think suffering’s very important. I’m very
Jungian about this – happiness is pedestrian, and it shouldn’t be deliberately
sought. But we’ve got to be more generous with each other. We’re always
saying, “Tomorrow’s another day, and everybody’s in this together” – that’s
not true. We should listen to each other’s sorrows and have empathy. In
that way, we go much deeper.
Would you ever play
a gay character?
I’d give my right hand to play any one of
the Bloomsbury group. I have an understanding of them – I don’t know what
it’s based on. Vita Sackville-West – that entire group. They were just
What do you think of
Captain Janeway being a bit of a gay icon?
Don’t you think that’s great?! I was over
there for a convention a couple of weeks ago, and there was a huge gay
crowd, peppering me with questions. It’s a terrific tribute. Captain Janeway
stood for equality: who are we if we aren’t in this together? The fact
that the gay community has looked up to Janeway, and then up to me as a
result of having played her, fills me with hope. It’s opened up a discourse.
I said to the Executive Producers: “You’ve done it all here. The next time
you do it, you’ve got to have a regular gay character, and we must go inside
that character, so that everybody can honestly share this together”.
But I wasn’t about the scream into battle.
I thought it was a huge step forward that they hired a woman and put her
in the Captain’s seat!
What did you like most
about Katherine Janeway?
Her passion, and her slow realisation that
her crew mattered more than anything else. She started out thinking the
opposite – “What will I find, and what will I learn?” She came away saying,
“Who have I loved, and how deeply?” So, I loved that process with her.
Who else would you like
Cleopatra in Anthony and Cleopatra. She’s
divine. She’s smart, funny, passionate – and ugly, but when she hurled
herself at Caesar’s feet, he fell madly in love. It’s a wonderful story,
and quite beautiful. So, I’d love to play Cleopatra.
I love the theatre: period.