May 21, 1995
Transcription by Saffron -- August 2000
Many Thanks for letting me use it!
Visit her A Touch of Kate page for more screen captures from this interview
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Al: Well, good evening everybody. Welcome to another extravaganza we like to call here the Al Roker Program. My guest tonight has gone where no ma'am has gone before, sorry, into the captain's seat on a Star Trek television series. Of course, we're talking about Kate Mulgrew, who plays Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. I also remember her as Mrs. Columbo and from HeartBeat and Ryan's Hope. Welcome, Kate Mulgrew.
Kate: Thank you very much. Pleasure to be here.
Al: Well, thank you for coming. I understand, that before you took this role, you were not a big fan for Star Trek, I mean you didn't really watch it.
Kate: No, I wouldn't say I was an ardent fan and I think, in retrospect, that it stood me in good stead so that my, as I view it now, my approach was not only unique, but it was completely ingenuous. I was liberated from anything the history might have imposed on me. Do you understand?
Al: Yeah, you didn't have that baggage.
Kate: Right, therefore, there's a subliminal thing always at play in your performance. How did Picard do it,? How did Kirk do it? An overriding factor of too much information, perhaps. This way, I was free.
Al: Well, did you have friends or people who came up to you and say 'Hey. Ya know, this is what you ought to do with this or maybe you should do this?" or "did you know this about Star Trek" to give you some sort of history?
Kate: Do you know what? I... people were so gracious to me. Perhaps it's because I was shot out of a canon is such a remarkable fashion. You know that part went to Genevieve Bujold originally and she defected after 2 days time, which required a great deal of courage on her part and I was brought in and quickly put to work. So I think the atmosphere - the pervasive sentiment that I experienced was one of terrific support. When I walked onto the bridge, they toot-tooted me [Al laughs] Nobody impose an opinion or, um, too much information that might have misled me. I think, if anything, I was just buoyed up on a great cloud of hope.
Al: When you decide to take a role that someone else had been in then decided to bolt on. Did that give you pause at all to do that? What was it that said to you 'I should do this even though somebody else didn't want to"?
Kate: Terrific instinct. And I've often said now... I'm 40 years old. I've been in this business for 22 years. One casts about always for the perfect character. You hear that when you're a very young actress, 'One day you'll find the perfect part,' right? So, the years come and the years go ad you do indeed encounter characters you do adore. But this was an alchemy I had not experience before. I wouldn't say there was a certainty because there is certainty about nothing in life. But when I read her on the page and in face when I went into the room, there was a trust; there was a faith and there was an inherent respect I had for her and I'm not kidding. So when you're given those factors, the only thing left to do is to relax and trust yourself. And that's what came to pass.
Al: So much has been mad that you are the first female captain. We have this Prodigy survey for the online service Prodigy, we asked folks how did they feel about the concept of a female captain - 64 percent said they liked that idea.
Kate: Did they?
Al: Only 10 percent - they disliked it. and this is the one I find is kinda neat. 24 percent says it doesn't matter.
Al: Now in the time - when your in Star Trek and you guys are in the Voyager. Does it matter to the crew that you are female and command?
Kate: My ship crew?
Al: Your ship crew, yes.
Kate: Or are you talking about my company?
Al: No, your ship crew, your group, the folks you're sailing with on the Voyager. Does it matter to them that you're a woman?
Kate: No. What matters to them is that I have command and inherent command. This 24 percent is the most astute, I would say of this entire log because what I think has put every one at east, what I had so hoped for, was that the world doesn't really care what your gender is as long as you do your job well. The captain has to have that kind of quintessential authority so I think shortly after the pilot, perhaps the first two, even three, episodes, the viewing audience relaxed and they said, 'we just trust her in this position.' That's the only thing that really matters. No, I don't think gender has... it arises because they made a very bold decision, didn't they?
Kate: This was a courageous choice to go with a woman. This was the fulfillment of Roddenberry's original idea.
Al: Do you think so?
Kate: Oh, he wanted a woman.
Kate: Oh, he conceived of this many, many years ago. But society has to take it's own time. We weren't ready for this. You can't impose this on a culture that's not prepared for it. But this is good, now, in the '90s.
Al: In fact, a few weeks ago, you were on the cover of TV Guide with a couple of other actresses with the title of the cover being Woman In Charge.
Al: How did you feel about that?
Kate: I felt great about it. In fact, I think I am probably, and I say this with the greatest respect for everybody else, I think I'm probably the only woman really in charge in primetime television. I am the skipper of my ship. There's nobody beneath me. I'm not victimized by anybody. There are no gender obstacles to overcome. Nobody gives me this woman stuff on my ship. You know? You will not hear that. That's why it's so successful. Voyager is smart.
Al: We were just talking in the paper today, uh, Star Trek: Voyager was the only show that survived the fledgling season of the United Paramount Network.
Al: Tough times. Do you talk to some of the other people and know some of the folks whose shows were, uh, shot.
Kate: Well, John deLancie, who has played Q on Next Generation is great friend of mine. Possibly my greatest male friend. This is devastating to actors. Um, you do six, you do eight, you wanna have a shot at it and the hierarchy, the strategists, come to this decision. They come to it for good reason. They're smart people. They want to do what's best for the network. But it's a very tough [fall] for most of these actors. My heart goes out to them. I am, after all, one of them and I've been there. So, I'm very sympathetic and yesterday I felt very privileged and certainly quite happy that we were on the docket for next year but,. I wish that I could have had some friends next to me.
Al: Does that put more pressure on Voyager, do you think to continue to basically hold up an entire network?
Kate: I don't know if pressure's the word. Because I'd have to say to you again, we're so supported by UPN and by Paramount. I mean, Voyager is now...it's established that we're successful. They maintain a constant kind of level support for us so, if the pressure is on, it's only the pressure of maintain a level of excellence which we've already established. So I would say no, the feeling is not pressure, the feeling is one of excitement and privilege and, uh, as far as I'm concerned, gratitude.
Al: Well, when we come back, we're gonna explore a little bit more about your character...
Al: ... on Star Trek: Voyager and find out what's up with Kate Mulgrew when we continue on the All Roker program. Beam us aboard, Scotty.
[Voyager clip - Caretaker]
Janeway: Move us 400 kilometers from the array, Mr. Paris.
Paris: Yes, Ma'am.
B'Elanna: What do you think you're doing? That array is the only way we have to get back home.
Janeway: I'm aware that everyone has families and homes they want to get back to. But I'm not willing to trade the lives of the Ocampa for our convenience. We'll have to find another way home
B'Elanna: What other way home is there?[to Chakotay] Who is she to be making these decisions for all of us?
Chakotay: She's the captain.
Tuvok: The tricobalt devices are ready.
Paris: We're in position.
[Voyager clip ]
Janeway: I don't have the luxury of throwing you in the brig for the rest of this voyage. I need you. I need every person on this ship. But I want you to know how very deeply you have disappointed me. If there are any further transgressions, even a minor one, you will no longer be an officer on this crew. Is that understood?
B'Elanna: Yes, Ma'am.
Kate: Gotta keep 'em in line, Al.
Al: Phew! Man...
Al: There won't be any further transgressions here either, honest ma'am.
Kate: [still laughing]
Al: Who is Kathryn Janeway? Tell us a little bit about her.
Kate: She's a remarkable woman. She's a passionate scientist. This is the foundation of her being. Her father was an eminent scientist in his own right. Um, her attraction to military was borne out of her love of science and her, sort of, unmitigated curiosity about space and investigation. I often think of her as an exalted private eye. She wants to uncover every nook and cranny of space. She's, um, she's an artist, actually, in many ways. She's also a woman of great integrity and character. She's also a woman of warmth, dimension, conflict. I think you'll find that on this ship and with this crew, there will be the evolution of relationships heretofore unseen on Star Trek. She's ardent about life. She loves this crew. Her attachment to them is great. She is capable of mistakes. Tremendous flaws. Interior conflict. Struggle. I have, after all, sort of... it's my fault that we're lost in space. I take this with terribly seriously. It is not my mission to return them. However, it's going to slowly dawn on me, I think, that this might be an impossible mission. And all the [intended] emotions of despair, conflict, hope, tragedy, all of it, I hope will be revealed.
Al: But, you know, it's interesting, if you find your way home, the show's basically over. [laughs]
Kate: Show's over if we find our way home.
Al: It just so happens, we've got another prodigy question. We asked folks, 'Would you like to see Voyager find it's way home?' 61 percent of the folks said yes. They said they want you to go home. Only 26 percent say no... stay lost out there.
Kate: Well, I think what they're saying, they want us to get home eventually, right?
Al: Uh-huh. [laughs]
Kate: And we want to get home...eventually.
Al: Eventually. Maybe five, six years down the line.
Kate: This is also the beauty of Voyager. What's more appealing on a human level than lost. You're lost. Will they ever find their loved ones again? You take a young guy like Harry Kim. Young. Uprooted. Will he ever see his parents again? Chakotay. Janeway. Will I ever see my lover again? And if not, what am I gonna do about that? What are we gonna do about the future on this ship? We have to start thinking about families on board this ship. If, in fact, we want to get back to Earth and if, in fact, it's going to take 75 years. We're going to have to perpetuate the race, aren't we? All of these terribly difficult, almost epic, questions. But there's not a person in world who I think can't understand them on some level. There's an appeal for everyone here.
Al: On the show... I mean it's a real drama and there's a lot of action... is it a fun set? I mean, do you guys...It would seem you'd have to have a good time behind the scenes to keep yourselves level.
Kate: It's great. It's great. And I say this with the absolute truth, there was instant camaraderie and now beyond that there is such happiness and naughtiness.
Al: Any practical jokes going on?
Kate: Oh, it's constant. You have to know that we shoot sometimes 'til 2 and 3 in the morning.
Kate: We get very silly. Verrry, very silly
Al: Any examples?
Kate: Oh, Tim Russ does his Ben Vereen imitation. They rehearse their Christmas special, which is, of course, non-existent. They love to do that at about 3 o'clock in the morning. There's a great deal of dancing and falling down - inebriated behavior. [Al laughing] They're delicious. They're delicious. It's like a family. Usually, in a group of nine people, somebody's gonna be a little dubious. No.
Al: When you say it's like family, because we all know what happens with families, we love each other, but sometimes, you know...
Kate: Right. An usually, there's a bad apple..somebody, right? Nobody. I think their desire to be a whole is tremendous. We're cohesive, we're professional and I think truly, genuinely like each other.
Al: Well, it really does show...
Al: ...and we're gonna talk a little bit more about that with Kate Mulgrew and maybe what's going to happen on the Voyager when we continue on the Al Roker program, so stay with us.
I beg your pardon.
You need to set an example for the crew.
Janeway: Well, thank you for reminding me.
Neelix: You're welcome. I mean, after all, if you want the crew to begin to accept natural food alternatives, instead of further depleting our energy reserves, you need to encourage them by your own choices. Don't you?
Janeway: Fine. Give me your 'even better than coffee' substitute.
Neelix: And how about some Taakar Loggerhead Eggs with that this morning?
Neelix: It's a tiny bit richer blend than you're used to, but you'll learn to love it.
Chakotay: (over the com) Bridge to Janeway.
Janeway: On my way. Janeway out. [to Neelix] Tomorrow maybe.
Al: Welcome back. We are talking with Kate Mulgrew, Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager on the UPN network and you spend so much time, 18 hours a day you guys can be on the set..
Kate: Sometimes 18.
Al: Sometimes. And you're lucky, you don't have to put on all that make up stuff on, right?
Kate: I am tremendously lucky. I thank God on my knees every day I don't have to that. That's grueling.
Al: I would think.
Kate: Ethan Phillips. Ethan's got the toughest job. His is a full mask. So he's called in 6 hours prior to his set call. Roxann Biggs, who plays B'Elanna Torres, has to come in, I think about 3 1/2 hours earlier. It's agony, because you're in a state of paralysis. There's nothing you can do until the thing is completed. And it takes the same about of time to remove it, and then you're there for 15 hours inside this thing.
Al: [shudders at the thought]
Kate: The oxygen is limited. I understand, after a while, it starts to burn.
Al: Oh! What, and give up show business?
Kate: Oh. Couldn't do it for a second.
Al: Would you have done the role...
Al: If you had to put on the make up, you wouldn't have done it?
Kate: If they had said she wears a full appliance, I think, even and in spite of my terrific desire to do it, I would have said, 'Let's see it. Let's go through the process once.' But I don't have the patience, Al. They can hardly keep me in the chair for 10 minutes as it is. I mean, I am an impossible person in that chair. They put the lipstick on, flip up the hair, zip up the suit, and I wanna get on the bridge, I wanna go to work. Don't know what I'd do if I had to lie there. I'd go mad.
Al: You know, many days I say, put on the lipstick, put on the hair...no, uh.. [laughs]
Kate: [laughs] no, zip up the suit, put on the hair...
Al: Yeah.. I don't worry about the hair.
Kate: That's your problem... not zipping up the hair [laughs]
Al: See? That's what the problem's been.
Kate: Fluff up the suit and zip up the hair.
Al: [laughing] How do you balance your personal life and life being of on a set all that time.
Kate: This is a tough question and I have to answer it truthfully. It's very hard. I often say now.. I think history will bear me out, the world will look back on this time for women. I'd say I was in the vanguard of women who are truly pioneering a new path, right? We're in the workplace. We have very successful and important jobs and we're trying to raise children. I, myself, am a single mother. Two boys. I think it's almost a no-win situation. So when I distill it, I break it down, I say to myself, all I can do is the best I can do in the moment to which I am present. If I'm on my set and 12 hours there, I focus on that. If I have 6 hours with my boys, I focus on that. So that, at the very least, what I can say, as I stagger to an early grave is, I tried to do these things excellently. But do I think that it is a happy marriage; do I think it's manageable? No, I think it's a struggle.
Al: It's kind of a fallacy - the having it all
Kate: You cannot have it all - nor should you have it all. But you can try to well in the time given you, don't you think?
Al: Yeah. That's the plan. Do your boys sometimes say 'Mom, can't you stay stay home?'
Kate: They not only say that, they...
Al: How old are they?
Kate: They're 10 and 11. And my youngest son has been ...had looked at me with tears streaming down his cheeks and he says, 'I don't care about your stupid job. I need a mother.'
Al: And what do you tell 'em?
Kate: I say, 'Let's crawl into bed and let's talk about this. I know you need a mother.' It breaks my heart. The child needs a mother. I am his mother. That's it. But the mother needs a creative life. Now trying to justify this or make sense of this to one's progeny is very difficult and I'm not sure it's even fair. I haven't figured it out. I don't think I ever will figure it out. I will say this and I hope that this doesn't sound like I'm trying to make an excuse for myself, because I'm not. I am a passionate actress. This is a great role. It's a role model. In a sense, it's history making, isn't it? If I can show them...if I can leave them the legacy that their mother was terribly, deeply passionate about what she did, perhaps then, that was better than sacrificing my work to stay at home and be a rather frustrated and mediocre mother.
Al: Because without being...doing what you do...
Kate: Because if I'm not fed creatively, I mean that is who I am...
Al: ...you're not gonna be happy.
Al: And you're not gonna be the best mom you can be.
Kate: But it's complicated.
Al: It's a real balancing act and we, in this industry, I'm a single dad, and while we say how tough it is, for the folks who have to go out and work at 'real' jobs, I mean secretaries and teachers, and that sort of thing, who have maybe even less support, it's gotta be even much more difficult.
Kate: Much, much more difficult. I don't think we even have any idea I think, uh, society has a lot to learn about all... I think we're hard on each other, don't you?
Kate: We're so very hard on each other. We haven't worked out the system probably, and probably never will.
Kate: We just try to get through each day.
Al: You know, it's funny. I remember you in Mrs. Columbo and obviously, the role was somebody who was a little older.
Kate: A little older? I was 10 playing 55. [laughing] It was a bit of a mistake.
Al: Well, when I saw that you were 40, I thought wait a minute, this isn't possible, she can't be the same age I am?!
Kate: I was 22 at that time, playing a 37 year old woman, married to an ostensibly 55, 50 year old man Columbo was at that time - It didn't make much sense. Had they given me a show of my own, right? - Young Woman Detective, Young Housewife Detective - it probably would have had a shot. But I think, given the tremendous success of Columbo, and the wildness of that concept, it wasn't going to work, nor did it.
Al: Well, and you know what? Everything happens for a reason, because now you are here at this point, you are wildly successful in Star Trek: Voyager, as Captain Janeway on the UPN network, and we're so glad the success has happened and you're here to talk with us.
Kate: Thank you, Al.
Al: Kate Mulgrew, thank you so much for being here.
Kate: Thank you. It was a great pleasure.
Al: Thank you! and of course, Dick Cavett's coming up next. We will see you next week. That's all for us tonight We'll see next next time. Good Night everybody!!