As so many fans of Star Trek Voyager and in particular Kate Mulgrew, I have often hoped to meet Voyager’s Captain personally. I participate at the FED CON every year for several years now. I book long before the guest stars are announced, simply because it is the best Star Trek Convention in Mainland Europe.
When Kate was announced as a guest star in late 1997, I was excited, but I decided not to believe she’d be there until the very moment she is onstage. Kate had been announced at the FED CON 4 two years earlier, but had to cancel since she was on location for a movie in L.A.. Luckily back then, a handsome and wonderful Garrett Wang gladly stepped in for her.
As the date grew closer, I got more and more excited and on April, 17th when the Convention program was handed out I realized a dream would come true. Kate was in town!
The Convention officially started in the evening with the "Opening Ceremonies", where our "Master of ceremony" Mark Lee announced her as "Captain on the bridge" and there she was. Kate welcomed the German audience speaking a few German words. Rick Kolbe must have been a good teacher, because her German got better and better throughout the weekend. She told us that she was happy to meet her German fans and that she looked forward to learn more about us at her panel on Saturday, April 18th.
With that she turned around to the other guest stars, Max Grodenchik, Lolita Fatjo, Richard Arnold, Nichelle Nichols, Tim Russ and Robert Beltran. Robert kissed her hand and she gave him a hug. In general, the atmosphere between the guest stars and especially the three VOYAGER stars was very close.
On the second day of the Convention, Kate showed up for her first and only panel that weekend. She came onstage right after Robert Beltran, who explained to us that we’d learn, that Kate is Janeway and Janeway is Kate.
He was right. Like Janeway, Kate Mulgrew is a woman, who shows strength and character. Just like Janeway, Kate captures you and conquers your heart.
Usually, each guest star at FED CON has about an hour onstage. Kate talked to us for more than two hours, which - as Marc Lee told us later - probably was the longest panel ever. Kate surely wasn’t in a hurry, she was patient and cared about the individual.
Just like Nana Visitor at FED CON 5, Kate treated the audience like friends, rather than fans. She denied none of our requests and openly responded to questions about her personal life.
I believe some people were disappointed that Kate did not sign autographs (with some few exceptions). She signed a large number of autographs before the Convention, which were sold for approx. $ 50 a piece. When asked about it she kindly explained her reasons to us. As far as I recall Kate said that she’d rarely sign autographs at Conventions, but rather sell the autographs she signed before. Of course, Kate - who often works for charity - would not keep the money, but give it to an organization in New York (ICC), that uses the money for young children with AIDS. She believes that since those young children will have a short life, we should see to it that those few years the children have will be fulfilled and joyous. I believe everyone understood her decision and willingly accepted to buy an autograph to make those children’s lives a little better.
Many fans told Kate that Janeway was their role model and helped them through tough times. I think many people feel that way about her and after a while it gets boring to have people say the same things over and over again instead of being creative and coming up with good questions. (Even tough only people who attended FED CON 5 and saw the panels of Babylon 5’s Mira Furlan know, how torturous those fans, who come forth to confess their admiration for the star, can be - it was nerve-wrecking!!). One girl came forth, saying her Dad had died just a few weeks or month ago and said, how much it meant to her to see Kate at the Con. Kate told the girl to come onstage and gave her a big hug.
As far as the admiration of fans is concerned, there was another girl who - as friends of that girl said to Kate - is constantly compared to her and was supposed to resemble Janeway a lot. Kate told her to come onstage too, but to be honest - and I believe most people who were there too would agree - other than the same hairstyle and the same dress, Janeway wore several times on the holodeck when playing her holo novel, there wasn’t too much of a resemblance.
Kate considered Captain Janeway as the best role of her life. She described the experience as wonderful and extraordinary. In fact, she didn’t truly expect to get the job and actually didn’t really want to do it at first. She knew it’s a lot of stress and hard work and she basically wanted to focus on the theater.
She first found out about it through her manager when she was on vacation in Ireland with her family. Even though she had doubts, she auditioned in New York. As most of us know, she was not the first choice. The producers decided to give the part to Genevieve Bujold. Kate did a wonderful impression of Genevieve. Kate told us that according to her information, Ms. Bujold panicked very soon after the shooting started. She said, that when Ms. Bujold first visited the set, she asked, where the toilets on Voyager were located. What a fatal mistake! Kate said that she never asked about the toilets on the ship. She has no idea where they are and she would never ask.
To get the part, Kate had to audition again. This time she was in Los Angeles and by then, much more interested to get the part. She auditioned together with three other actresses, who were up for the part and personally felt, that this was the end of the story. So she continued her daily routines and a few weeks later, when coming home from grocery shopping, found her whole family waiting for her at the front door. They told her there was a message for her on the answering machine. The message was from Rick Berman, who told her, she had the part and welcomed her with the words "Welcome aboard Captain!"
Of course, since the "incident" with Genevieve Bujold, they were way behind with their schedule, so Kate had to learn fast.
She said that in the first few weeks, she had no idea about the bridge and just acted as if she knows her way around. Pretty good job, I think. When seeing her in the first shows, I usually feel like she is completely in charge of the whole ship and she knows her way around and handles the techno babble perfectly well.
She said, that she didn’t really know what it meant to be a part of Star Trek.
Tons of hard work, conventions, enormously large crowds of fans all over the world, all kinds of merchandise. In fact, she spoke to Patrick Stewart a while ago and she said to him that, Star Trek is something she’d do for now and while it lasts, she’ll enjoy every minute of it and give nothing but her best, but believes that it’ll end. Patrick Stewart smiled at her and said with his British accent, brilliantly imitated by Kate: "Believe me, it’ll never end!"
She said, she intends to continue for at least seven seasons. She described the relationship between the cast as a very close.
She mentioned that she thinks Germany has wonderful men and pointed out that she is involved with a German man herself. Most people know that the man she spoke about - she did not say his name - is Winrich Kolbe, director of many Star Trek episodes. Her relationship with Rick appeared to be a very important part of her life and as I found out later, he was even with her at the Convention.
When asked what kind of music she liked, her first response was Tony Bennett. She described his music as relaxing, uplifting and inspiring.
She even sang for us. A fan asked her to sing and she responded immediately that she doesn’t have a voice. The fan told her that wouldn’t matter and so she sang a lullaby. I have to agree, singing is not amongst Kate’s many talents, but it was a nice gesture and somewhat comedic.
Kate told us that the actors would play jokes on each other from time to time and after playing a joke on Tim Russ, which I can’t remember, he took revenge by "redesigning" Kate’s trailer on the set with photos of his naked butt.
Tim seems to be particularly fond of playing jokes on his fellow cast members. He told of about one joke he played on Kate. In the final moments of the episode "The Chute", when Janeway, Tuvok and some security officers slide down the chute, Kate was first and he was supposed to be next, but instead of climbing in next, he threw down some kind of plastic version of Kes’ head. He said Kate was screaming, when she saw that thing sliding out of the chute.
As far as Kes leaving the show and Seven of Nine joining the cast, Kate seemed to be a little critical. She seemed to be sad about Jennifer Lien leaving the show. She said that the thought Jeri Ryan is a wonderful lady, but also seemed to be concerned about the series turning into a Janeway/Seven show. Anyone who has seen most of he fourth season, knows what she means. She said, that even though Seven needed to be introduced to the show first and her character needed to be developed, the writers shouldn’t forget that there are eight cast members. She said she spoke to the producers about it and asked them, to focus more on the other characters too.
Further, after being tortures with different hairstyles for the last few years, she finally told the producers that it was time for them to make a clear decision because the constant changes drive her crazy. No more wigs, doing her hair after every shoot etc. As we know, she made her point by having her real hair-length and hair-do when filming now.
course, she was asked about a possible Janeway/Chakotay romance too. I
guess her main point regarding the development of that relationship was,
that she finds the tension between the two - the way it is now - much more
intriguing than finally announcing them as an official couple. It keeps
the magic alive. I agree.
She explained that the whole merchandise thing was kind of weird to her. She said, that even though she was the one in the spotlight or the one on the TV screen, she is not a star. She doesn’t like to be seen in that light. She says, that the fans should never forget that she is a normal person just like any of us and even though she does a TV series, she mostly loves theater work and hopes to return to the theater one day.
She describes one funny scene, where she was sitting
in her car and saw someone in the car right next to her, who had her Janeway
action figure hanging from his rear-view mirror.
She thought, it’d be nice to show him that she’s standing beside him, so she honked the horn and he looked over to her. She pointed at the action figure and at herself, sort of to say "Hey, that’s me", but he didn’t seem to understand and looked away. So she did it again, he looked over, rolled down his window and said something like: "What’s you problem lady? Do you want me to call the cops?". Kate was speechless.....
When asked about her ideas about the future of the human race, space exploration etc. and whether she considered a future as portrayed in Star Trek as possible, she explained that she believes that there are no boundaries. People may still have to learn a lot, but she doesn’t see why a future as seen in Star Trek could not be possible. When asked what her question would be if she could travel into the 24th century and talk to someone, she said, she’d ask them for the way back to the Alpha Quadrant, since the Voyager crew can’t seem to find it.
After a little more than two wonderful hours onstage, Kate left, but not without telling her German fans that she doesn’t do a lot of Conventions, simply because it is a lot of stress and she cherishes the time with her family a lot, but she thought that the crowd was extraordinary and that she was glad to have met us.
It is difficult to sum up in one sentence just how wonderful she was. It is always wonderful to think back to that weekend and particularly her panel. Kate Mulgrew is without about a doubt an extraordinary, warm-hearted, charming lady and like Robert Beltran said, Kate is Janeway - she is the Captain.