Interviewer: Stuart Claw
The interview aired Sunday, March 12th 2006 at 3pm (BST).
The interview can be downloaded from the SF Ball website.
Many Thanks to my transcriber! Please do not repost or reproduce.
|Stuart Claw: You're listening to Area 51 and I'm joined today
at SFB12 by Kate Mulgrew who is most known to Star Trek fans as Captain
Katharine Janeway on the hit TV show Star Trek: Voyager. Thank you
for taking time to speak to us.
Kate Mulgrew: It's my pleasure.
Stuart Claw: Now you've been in the acting industry for a while.
Kate Mulgrew: (laughs)
Stuart Claw: To put it mildly.
Kate Mulgrew: How long do you think I've been in the acting industry?
Stuart Claw: Ah you've been... you had a (fondancy) to... as a child, didn't you? It was first encouraged by your mother.
Kate Mulgrew: I was. So how long do you think I've been at this?
Stuart Claw: Hmmm. I'd say twenty - twenty or so years.
Kate Mulgrew: Thirty-two years.
Stuart Claw: Nearly got it.
Kate Mulgrew: I think thirty-two years.
Stuart Claw: So what captured your imagination and made you first want to act?
Kate Mulgrew: I made the nuns cry. I read "The White Cliffs" by Alice Duer Miller and I made the nuns cry.
Stuart Claw: Wow.
Kate Mulgrew: And if you can make mid-western nuns cry, you can do anything. So that was it.
Stuart Claw: Simple.
Kate Mulgrew: Also we had to get out of the house. I was one of eight children. We were not allowed to stay.
Stuart Claw: And you had the support of your mother.
Kate Mulgrew: Yes, I did.
Stuart Claw: She was very helpful towards you...
Kate Mulgrew: Yes, she was. She was great.
Stuart Claw: And is that something you think that drove you throughout the career - just to keep pushing and make your mother more proud of you?
Kate Mulgrew: I'm examining this more now, at this age, than I ever have before. I think she was crucial to everything that I've done in my life. We don't understand until we get much older, the relationships that define us. But it was my relationship with my mother, on what levels I'm not exactly sure, so I'm writing about that now and thinking about it a great deal. Certainly I wanted her happiness, and if anything that I could do could provide that, I would do it. I would not have articulated this that way at twenty, but I can tell you this today. So did I choose acting? Did acting choose me, or did my mother choose both for me? I don't know. It's all a bit of a muddle. Probably go to my grave not knowing for sure. I also always wanted to be a doctor. Anyway, acting it was.
Stuart Claw: And you moved from Iowa to New York to study...
Kate Mulgrew: Uh huh...
Stuart Claw: And was... how did that feel to you? Because you come from Iowa to a big city like New York...
Kate Mulgrew: Heaven.
Stuart Claw: Were you intimidated?
Kate Mulgrew: Heaven. Have you been to Iowa?
Stuart Claw: No.
Kate Mulgrew: It's the ... you know... it's the heartland of America. It's farming country.
Stuart Claw: Yeah.
Kate Mulgrew: Lots of cornfields.
Stuart Claw: Ah.
Kate Mulgrew: New York was just great.
Stuart Claw: And you were not intimidated and just threw yourself completely...
Kate Mulgrew: No, I was fearless when I was young. That's changed a bit as I've aged, unfortunately. Isn't that strange? You'd think it would work the other way.
Stuart Claw: Well...
Kate Mulgrew: Doesn't, usually. Life kind of... life tempers you.
Stuart Claw: Hmmm...
Kate Mulgrew: You know...
Stuart Claw: Hmmm... spirits you down a little bit...
Kate Mulgrew: Now once you go through some slings and arrows you're a little more careful, but no, I was fearless when I was young and I simply adored New York and everything that it represented and everything that it could offer me. I thought the sky was the limit when I was young.
Stuart Claw: Well you certainly propelled yourself. I mean twenty-three, and you did Mrs. Columbo.
Kate Mulgrew: Too young to play it, as it turned out. I should have been older. You've got me twenty-three playing the wife to that man was too young. Or do you think that twenty-three olds should sleep with sixty year-olds?
Stuart Claw: Today's culture there's no difference though, is there, really?
Kate Mulgrew: Well now I'm asking. You didn't answer the question.
Stuart Claw: It depends on the relationship, I suppose, doesn't it?
Kate Mulgrew: I suppose it does, yes.
Stuart Claw: And you got critical success for that role.
Kate Mulgrew: I did.
Stuart Claw: So why are you saying you were too young to play it. The critics loved you.
Kate Mulgrew: The critics loved it, but nonetheless it was cancelled after two seasons, I think. And again, I would say, because theoretically Columbo, Peter Falk, who had had such an enormous success with his own series... I think that the viewing public thought it's incongruous that this young woman would be this man's wife. They should have made it just a different idea altogether.
Stuart Claw: Yeah.
Kate Mulgrew: However it was critically acclaimed and I had a good time, and I'm just as happy. Because had it gone on much longer I think I would have been miserable. Hollywood's always been difficult for me, and certainly when I was very young I was anxious to get back to New York.
Stuart Claw: And then did it help you prepare in any way for the experience you had with Star Trek and Voyager in particular?
Kate Mulgrew: All television experience stands one in good stead. As one climbs onto the bridge for the first eighteen hour day. And... but nothing on earth could have prepared me for the rigors of this particular work. It really was ... shockingly hard in the beginning.
Stuart Claw: How did you get into Voyager? What was the first... how did the role become available to you?
Kate Mulgrew: I just say I was shot out of a cannon. First it was offered, as you may or may not know, to somebody else - Genevieve Bujold, a French Canadian actress, who lasted one day. (laughs)
Stuart Claw: (laughs) It was greatly deceiving. One day.
Kate Mulgrew: One day. But you know, I'm not only grateful to her, I admire her. She called everybody in and said (in a French accent) "This is not... can't do this... won't make me happy." And she was right. If she'd waited any longer we would have been in the real soup. So she didn't establish the character. She lasted for one day. And I think at that point they reviewed men.
Stuart Claw: Yeah.
Kate Mulgrew: They all thought, well a woman is never going to be able to do this. Because we're all torn. I have children and she had children and ... it's eighteen hours a day and you're speaking technobabble and you're in the Delta Quadrant. Right?
Stuart Claw: A world away from what you're used to.
Kate Mulgrew: That's right. So I think they had men in the ... waiting in the wings. But they had about three or four of us, whom they'd seen before. And they called us back in and then there's just a ... it's... I liken it to a prize fight. You just go in swinging and the lady left standing gets the job. So... that's called 'going to network'. You go around and around and around until you're the only one, and it was me. And they called me and said, "Can you start on Monday?" So I had two seconds to say good-bye to my heretofore rather pleasant life. But I was happy about it. I needed it and I wanted it and it came at a good time in my life. And it was just an amazing chapter for the following seven years.
Stuart Claw: And were there any apprehensions on your part, really. Because it was the first time a female captain had stepped up to the plate in the series. Were you worried about that at all?
Kate Mulgrew: Of course. I mean it's a man's game. Captain's are men, aren't they?
Stuart Claw: Hmmm.
Kate Mulgrew: And the demographic was male. It was twenty-five to thirty-five. Perhaps twenty to thirty-five. Young men watching Star Trek and wanting to see their captain, you know, swaggering on the bridge. And I was a woman of child-bearing years. So I could be the mother of the largest audience for Voyager and I immediately put that one, if you'll pardon the expression, to bed, by telling the producers that I wasn't going to have any sex or any romance because it would be to discomforting for the young men watching, and certainly for me. And I was going to concentrate on the good captain. So that's what I did. It took me a while for the produ... to...to...win the producers over so that they let me have my own voice, but the minute they did that, I was free. And everybody came along. But it was rigorous and it was a challenge.
Stuart Claw: It ran for seven years, it was very successful.
Kate Mulgrew: It ran for seven years, yes.
Stuart Claw: It was successful, I definitely would say that. Do you ever find... what was the reaction from your children, because you were now a big Star Trek actor with...
Kate Mulgrew: They hated it.
Stuart Claw: Really?
Kate Mulgrew: They hated it. And one of them has still sort of not forgiven it. Children don't want their mother to first of all be an actor, and secondly they really don't want them to be a celebrity. They want them to be a mother. And there's absolutely no reconciling this. So my advice to any woman who's going into acting is: Think it out. You can't have it all. And every actress I know who's got kids has suffered. You have to understand it from their point of view - Bye Mom. I was gone when they woke up. Gone when they came home. You know. Phone never stopped ringing. Demands never stopped coming in. And they really resented it. Seven years while they're forming is a long, long time.
Stuart Claw: And so do you think... did that, do you think, put them off acting?
Kate Mulgrew: No. The one who hated it has become an actor. So.... That's the way life goes.
Stuart Claw: Sense of irony there.
Kate Mulgrew: Yes, great irony.
Stuart Claw: Star Trek has led him to become an actor. And he now resents it.
Kate Mulgrew: Actually, it wasn't Star Trek, it was... I had been an actress all my life. I think it's that he knew that I loved the craft, so that's what he saw and got out of it. But the mother pays a pretty big price, because you're just torn by guilt. All the time. It still hasn't left me. And I'm thirty-eight years old (laughs)! Why are you... (laughing)
Stuart Claw: You're only as young as you feel.
Kate Mulgrew: That's it.
Stuart Claw: Or ... the person you're feeling!
Kate Mulgrew: ... when I became Captain Janeway. Right.
Stuart Claw: And what are your fondest memories, if you have any, of being on the set?
Kate Mulgrew: Those guys. The other actors. Bob Picardo who has become a great friend. Robbie McNeill making me laugh so hard I thought I was going to die. John Ethan Phillips and his goodness. You know, you spend that kind of time together, you're very intimate. Very intimate. And it transcends every other kind of relationship. You become closer in many ways than you do to your own family, because you're sharing this secret, which is called 'this is my life.' But nobody knows anything else about it except you guys. So bonds are formed of.... And some of them endure, and some of them do not. But in my case, and very luckily, and I've measured all of my success in my life by my friendships, I've walked away with Bob Picardo, who I would call a real intimate of mine, and I'm very, very grateful for that. The work sharpens. It hones.
Stuart Claw: Yeah.
Kate Mulgrew: It steadies. It's a discipline. I think that just that kind of discipline has saved me. Otherwise I'd be a madwoman.
Stuart Claw: And you've moved on now, you're in theatre.
Kate Mulgrew: You smile, but you agree.
Stuart Claw: Well, you're not mad! I think everyone is a little bit mad in their own different way.
Kate Mulgrew: Everybody as well...
Stuart Claw: That's what makes us individuals.
Kate Mulgrew: Yes.
Stuart Claw: If we were all the same person it would be boring.
Kate Mulgrew: How old are you?
Stuart Claw: Twenty-eight this year.
Kate Mulgrew: So young. I have a daughter your age. I could make any number of matches in this room, couldn't I?!
Stuart Claw: So what goes through your mind when you're first invited to events such as SFB?
Kate Mulgrew: Such as this? Great! I'll go over... I love England. I was told by Bob Picardo, who's the one who got in touch with me, that these people ... that this is a wonderful convention to do. That it's small. And that it's sort of got a lot of character. And there's great fun. And everybody's here just to, sort of, really enjoy it. And so on his advice, I said, "Sure. Great. Why not?"
Stuart Claw: It's like Star Trek in a way, because it is a big family. The whole of the SFB, the forums and stuff, they're all a family.
Kate Mulgrew: Is it? For everybody it's a family.
Stuart Claw: Yeah. For everyone. The actors... it's just like being part of a whole, big global family.
Kate Mulgrew: Philosophically, I suppose you could say that's true. Yes. Everybody shares the same sort of thinking. Science fiction's a very special thing. You understand that, don't you?
Stuart Claw: Yeah.
Kate Mulgrew: Are you fond of it yourself?
Stuart Claw: Oh, yeah.
Kate Mulgrew: Oh, are you?
Stuart Claw: Yeah!
Kate Mulgrew: Oh, so what do you...
Stuart Claw: I've watched all of Voyager, I've watched all of Deep Space Nine...
Kate Mulgrew: And what do you think it is about science fiction that's so compelling.
Stuart Claw: I think it presents an alternate view of the world we're in. It's kind of... the best way to describe it... it's a world, really, that you can get in touch with - you can connect with on various levels.
Kate Mulgrew: It's an idea that will come to be realized. That's what's so...
Stuart Claw: If we could just put aside politics and if we could just...
Kate Mulgrew: Well it doesn't matter if we put them aside or not. It will be realized. Einstein knew this. Richard Fineman knew it. It's the law of physics. One day, what we espouse now as imaginary truth will be realized truth. That's just a fact of life.
Stuart Claw: Yeah.
Kate Mulgrew: So it's not... it's much more than a big family, it's a bunch of brains really thinking very shortly this will come to pass and I will have understood this notion as being correct. And that's exciting.
Stuart Claw: And fortieth birthday of Star Trek this year.
Kate Mulgrew: It's the what?
Stuart Claw: Fortieth anniversary...
Kate Mulgrew: That's it?
Stuart Claw: Yeah.
Kate Mulgrew: My god, it's so young. Isn't it young? Fortieth? One would think four hundredth! Fortieth. Hmmm.
Stuart Claw: Are you looking forward to seeing all your friends again? Because obviously you've been invited now to doing all sorts of events. Are you looking forward to catching up with some old friends when you're there?
Kate Mulgrew: At conventions?
Stuart Claw: At conventions. Lunches, brunches. There gonna be all sorts of things, I imagine.
Kate Mulgrew: You mean like... my crew?
Stuart Claw: Yes.
Kate Mulgrew: No. I mean I don't really spend time with them when I do conventions, and I don't do very many conventions. The time to see them is privately. One does that in life, you know.
Stuart Claw: Uh huh...
Kate Mulgrew: I'll call Bob. He's a great cook. Go over there, put my feet up. He'll pour me endless martinis, talk about everything. So you nurture your friendships separately. It's a big thing. You can never get to see your pals at stuff like this, you know. You have to bring your best friend with you.
Stuart Claw: Uh huh. What has Star Trek given to you?
Kate Mulgrew: Well, comfort. We're well compensated for this hard work, so I won't lie about that. And that's terribly important. It's given me a kind of resolve. I mean I did do... I was saying this morning... I was the first female captain. That's not without its great pride. I worked hard, and I worked as hard as any man. And I also tried to bring to life a captain that they hadn't seen before, notwithstanding my sex and my humanity. And I think I achieved that in large measures. I'm... I'm gratified. I also think that the ... what happened scientifically ...
Stuart Claw: Yeah...
Kate Mulgrew: over the outreach of science to young women, was of the moment. And during my tenure the young women were really affected and influenced by Voyager, thinking 'if that woman can achieve the captain's seat, then the sky's the limit for me.' And indeed, I think that it had that ... that impact. So that was very satisfying to me. And the friendships. And just the good... the very... the good luck of it. The nature of good luck. You know you get a good hand and you play it well, and ... it's a nice feeling.
Stuart Claw: Well, thank you very, very much for taking the time...
Kate Mulgrew: I thank you. I will call my daughter and make the arrangements!
Stuart Claw: (laughs)
Kate Mulgrew: You will see nobody until you hear from me!
Stuart Claw: (laughing along with Kate and the radio crew) Yes, Captain!