New York Public Radio
Many thanks to my transcriber!
Announcer: Now you may know actress Kate Mulgrew from the T.V. series Star Trek: Voyager. She played Captain Kathryn Janeway for seven years. But now she is taking on a different role, Off Broadway, in a play about the life of Katharine Hepburn. Itís called ďTea atFiveĒ and theater critic Michael Bracken spoke with Mulgrew recently, and talked, among other things, about the similarities between the two characters, Hepburn and Captain Janeway.
Kate Mulgrew: One is an American icon, certainly extraordinary in her very maverick approach to what was in the nineteen thirties in Hollywood an almost unbreakable system. Hepburn put on her trousers and strode into the boys club and broke down the door. Imagine. Thirty-one years old. RKO offers her as aÖ a leading role ďMother Careyís ChickensĒ. This is what sheís looking at after a string of extraordinary successes or I shall say marvelous films.ďBringing Up BabyĒ. ďHolidayĒ. She took one look at the contract and she ripped it up. Bought herself out. You donít do that. You donít do that today. You didnít do that then. ThatísÖ boys playingÖ in the big time.
Kathryn Janeway is, of course, captain of a star ship. So their similarities are their courage. I like to call it grit. Certainly grit in Hepburnís case. She was defined by her guts. And theyíre Yankee guts. And those Yankee guts came from a confidence that was instilled in her by two remarkable people Ė her parents.
Michael Bracken: How about your own family. I know you came from a big family. I did a little research, looked at the websites. It seems to me that there were some parallels. I donít want to be so bold as to go too far with it. Why donít you talk about it a little.
Kate Mulgrew: No. I think youíre being astute. Parallels are as follows. She was one of six children. The oldest girl, second oldest child. Same with me, only Iím one of eight. She lost her brother when she was fourteen. I lost two sisters. And I would say the loss of myÖ certainly my sister Tessie, when I was eighteen, defined me. People who have had early blows are likely to mature rather quickly. And they are elevated to a status that is not usually given, or assigned to young girls before it is naturally appropriate. So we were old before our time, to make a long story short, and in the case of Katharine Hepburn, she was not expected to be just an actress, she was expected, I think, to be a great one.
Michael Bracken: Even just sitting here talking to you Ė your voiceÖ you start reminding me Katharine Hepburn. I donít know if that was already there or if thatís something thatís come on in the course of doing the part, but certainly it is there and I hope the people can hear that at home as well.
Kate Mulgrew: I donít know how to explain it. I think itís alchemy. Itís a marriage, itís a love affair Ė whatever you want to call it. But I know that I have it with this particular character.
Michael Bracken: Talk about the difference between the grueling eighteen hour days you worked on the series and now shifting gears to a live performance every night.
Kate Mulgrew: Itís very different. Film acting is far more immediate. You donít have to have the whole in your mind. Your preparation is not all day to go into the night. Your work is constant and youíre doing take after take after take so itís kind of an immediacy. Get it, throw it away, next. Get it, throw it away. And at night going home and studying for the next day. Itís very grueling. This is a different life. Itís lonelier and itís deeper, and the whole day is about the night. My whole day goes to this performance at night. I would say my whole life shifts for it. So would I be wrong to say that itís more total experience? Itís live. Iím in front of people. A camera Ė sweet charming as it is, is a clinical thing, right? The audience is right there.