A Supplement of the Toronto (Canada) Saturday Star
March 15 to 22, 1980
Kate Mulgrew’s back is broad but it’s hurting now that NBC had ditched her series Kate Loves a Mystery
Kate Mulgrew is trying to forget the ordeal of the Hollywood TV scene. “1 don’t think I could go through that again,” explained the 24 year-old actress who retreated to her parents’ Dubuque, Iowa home after learning her NBC series Kate Loves a Mystery (Thursday, 10 p.m.) had been cancelled.
“How much can you physically take?” she asked, wincing at the memory of the exhausting demands and pressures of a prime-time TV series. The back-to-back days of “16, 17, 18 hours nonstop with no time for reflection, no time for yourself.”
The reality of TV stardom did not bring the young actress the glamor she had expected.
“I tried to rise above the mediocre stories,” she explained. “I gave it absolutely everything I had. But the writing was not good, the producers didn’t have it together and they expected so much so fast.
“I’m tired now,” she sighed, sipping a cup of coffee and warming herself by the fireplace. I see things a little negatively. Possibly after I’ve fully recuperated I can look at it differently. I’m just one little person. I’m no Sarah Bernhardt, and I just couldn’t give it fast enough. I got burned out by it.”
Hollywood had wooed her and wanted her for her strong personality, free spirit and fine acting. They hadn’t said they wanted a strong back too.
Mulgrew freely admits to her angry outbursts on the set. “I’m very excitable standing before a camera. If I’m not up to par I’m going to get on their case because without their help I certainly can’t do it.”
Confident and outspoken, Kate continued: “If they ask me to do mediocre material they are saying in effect that I am mediocre and I am not.”
Mulgrew admits she wanted her say. “I demanded it.” I would end fighting with all the producers and the writers. It was never my intention to shut down. I wanted to shoot, but I wasn’t going to shoot crap.”
Mulgrew allows that her attitude may have had a negative effect. “But I wasn’t responsible for the cancellation. If anything, I was responsible for its brief success.”
Originally cast as Lt. Columbo’s chipper clone in the Mrs. Columbo series, Kate had to turn herself into a woman in her 30s with a rumpled absentee husband and a seven-year-old daughter in Kate Loves a Mystery.
“When they gave me my own show I thought it would survive the stigma of Columbo but it didn’t.
“Kate was supposed to be a young, bright, funny, compassionate woman who had become a good journalist by a great effort. All of a sudden I was Police Woman. I’m no Angie Dickinson.
“There wasn’t a definite character. Every week I was playing somebody else and desperately trying to get back to the original character. Kate Loves A Mystery was anybody’s guess each week.”
Kate says perhaps she could have been more accommodating, “but only to save my sanity. I would not become complacent, but less angry, less so totally involved. But then, I wouldn’t be me. I’m strong and I speak strongly.”
Kate’s strength comes from her Irish Catholic middle-class upbringing. The oldest daughter in a family- of eight she was taught early to have “confidence and discipline. In the Mulgrew family you had to be an achiever. It was expected of you.”
What she expects of herself now is to shake off that part of her that despaired in Hollywood and to continue that “very clear and practical aspiration I’ve had since I was 12 to be part of the theatre. That ‘tunnel vision’ has rendered me maturity, stability and stamina. I don’t believe in cracking up.”
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