In The Spotlight: Today, Kate Mulgrew (ex-Mary, RH) stars in a one-woman show, written for her, about legendary Katharine Hepburn. 
Soap Opera Digest (July 15, 2003 issue) spoke to Kate about her role as Mary Ryan in Ryan's Hope and her current role of Katharine Hepburn in 'Tea at Five'. 
In the program for Tea at Five, an off-Broadway, one-woman show in which Kate Mulgrew portrays a pitch-perfect Katharine Hepburn, the former RYAN’S HOPE actress has dedicated her performance to her best friend, the late Nancy Addison Altman (ex-Jill, RH).

“That soap opera changed my life, you know,” smiles Mulgrew, who portrayed Mary from 1975-78 and made several guest appearances after. “I formed some relationships that have really shaped me. Nancy was my touchstone and my great pal. It’s very hard to articulate all this. It was magical. I was so young, and Claire [Labine, co-creator and head writer] had written something very  unusual. We all recognized that. We were full of life, and there was a great deal of  laughter and drama. When you’re young like that, you fall in love and make friends for life. You never forget that kind of happiness. So, that’s always with me, and evidently it translated to the screen because people loved RYAN’S HOPE.”

And people loved Mary, Mulgrew included. “Claire wrote her with such a stamp of originality and verve, intelligence and strength. Nobody had ever seen anybody like that on a soap opera before,” comments Mulgrew. 

In fact, the RH connection lead to Mulgrew's current role. Several years ago, her pal, Addison Altman was watching Mulgrew on STAR TREK: VOYAGER with good friend and writer Michael Lombardo. He had never met Mulgrew, but was struck by her similarity to Katharine Hepburn. "He jumped on a plane, went to Miami and wrote the play in three days," shares Mulgrew. "He sent it to me at Paramount, and I said, 'We must meet.' The rest, as they say, is history - and a lot of hard work."

Mulgrew immersed herself in all things Hepburn. "I had quite a job because I wasn't about to do an impersonation. You can watch any drag queen do that." As for the research she conducted, Mulgrew chuckles, "Is there a word out there I haven't seen? I read everything, watched everything at least 10 times.... My pledge to Hepburn from the get-go was that I would not do anything on that stage that was less than a tribute and to ensure that, I asked there be three sources to verify any statement of fact that I was making on-stage.'

Mulgrew brings two Kates to life eight times a week - one from 1938, the other 45 years later. "The older Kate came first and the younger one later on. I got down on my knees when that happened," she notes. "I didn't think I was going to capture her. I couldn't quite string that together. Then one day, [the character] came after I watched Alice Adams for the 10th time. I said, ‘Bingo, that's it.' " The scene that caused it to click was "when she's sitting at the dance, and nobody is asking her. She's pretending that she's having the time of her life, and she's dying inside. I said. 'That's it. That's Hepburn. So, I use that, and I am quite sure that I am right. Even if I am wrong, it's as close as I think you can get to the truth of Hepburn - so well-concealed she has been, so deeply private. Nobody is that private unless they're a treasure trove of secrets and feelings."

Mulgrew hasn't had any contact with Hepburn about the production. What does Mulgrew hope the other Kate would say? "Not bad, kid."

More about 'Tea at Five'
More about Ryan's Hope