VOY@15: Kate Mulgrew Talks To TrekMovie About 15 Years of Voyager & Beyond [AUDIO]

Our 15th anniversary celebration continues today with a very special exclusive interview with Captain Janeway herself, Kate Mulgrew. The actress talks about what it was like at the beginning, the end, in between and beyond, including how she still hopes to once again play Janeway. We also talk about hair. You can read the full interview or listen to it, below.


Listen to the telephone interview with Kate Mulgrew .

Interview Transcript

This week, as I am sure you are aware, is the 15th anniversary of the airing of “Caretaker”…

I can’t believe that. I really can’t believe that. In fact, I wouldn’t have been aware, had you not contacted us. That is absolutely inconceivable. It seems at the most five years ago. Isn’t that amazing?

So, looking back, now that you have the perspective of time, what do you think is the lasting legacy of Voyager, within Star Trek?

Probably, without putting to fine a point on it, the first female captain. That was a bold and I think very wise decision, by the powers that be at Paramount and UPN. It will be remembered that way. It will be remembered as an intrepid ship, an interesting crew, a very innovative creation of The Doctor, and what that meant with technology and embracing humanity and vice-versa. Janeway’s grasp of loneliness and aloneness. The distinction between the two. Her love for her crew and the transcendent nature of that love, which I am not sure had been seen before.

You talked about the first woman captain and the importance of that. Do you feel that looking at your fans and the fans of the show versus other shows, that Voyager was more successful in bringing in women and girls as fans?

I don’t think there is any question about that. I know that! And that is as it should be. We are a society and a culture that lives by example and perseveres by example and so if they see a woman in the captain’s seat, they are drawn to follow that journey. I know that I effected a great many burgeoning young scientists, great girls from all walks of science were drawn to Janeway and her journey. That is perhaps the most gratifying aspect of that decade of my life, that I know that I influenced and impacted so many young lives. And endorsed so many middle-aged women that I think probably otherwise felt, not persona non grata, but society didn’t take them as seriously as their male counterparts. So it is just another leg up on the ladder.

Mulgrew: Trek’s first woman captain was an inspiration

Speaking of fifteen years ago and the shooting of “Caretaker”, was that intimidating for you? Not only stepping into the shoes of those three male captains, but also more literally stepping into the shoes of another actress? [Genevieve Bujold, who was replaced by Mulgrew after 2 days on the job]

I would have to say that I am not easily intimidated, least of all when it comes to my career. This I regarded from the very beginning as an opportunity. There was no time for intimidation. If anything, I was shot out of the cannon and just threw myself on the spears. And as it turns out I survived! [laughs]

Did you watch any of the dailies with Bujold before you started?

No. I had no interest. Why would I do that? That would be like hanging myself. It happened very fast. It was a knock out. I won. I went to work four days later.

Then you had to do it again when they changed your hair.

They didn’t stop changing my hair until I told them I was going to walk off the lot, if they did not take their hands away from me.

How many styles did they go through?

I don’t know but it was appalling. And just another example of hiring a female. I don’t mean to be cruel, but they certainly didn’t do that with Patrick Stewart did they? [laughs]…Men don’t know it is dealing with this. You have no idea how irritating it is when you have ten people buzzing around you like bees, like gnats, and it is all about how you look, but you have to give a five-page monologue on the vortex or the nebulae or whatever the hell it is, and your bosom and your hair and your this and your that. That is where it is uneven, very uneven.

“Hair” video shows the frustrating collection
of styles Mulgrew had to endure

I remember Chase Masterson from DS9 telling me that the actresses would have to spend as long doing beauty makeup as the ones playing aliens spent with all the prosthetics and stuff. I found that surprising.

It is not surprising, it is appalling. We are hired for our looks to begin with. If I were funny looking I wouldn’t have been hired for Captain Janeway. They needed and wanted and had to have a good looking female lead, but then they put you through your paces, it is absurd!

You talked about Janeway’s arc. When I have spoken to Bob Picardo he said he would hang out where the writers smoked to pitch them on ideas…

He did do that. Bob had a little more time that I had.

But did you also work with the writers, did you have ideas?

Of course I did, and I felt very strongly. I was very much part of the Leonardo da Vinci story. I wanted so much to explore her creative side. I thought that would be quite interesting to see over seven years, how Janeway grew creatively, imaginatively. And how she used the holodeck. And so that was me. I think that great themes and questions, such as suicide, were me. Loneliness, as it pertains to a female captain, was me. Going from where she began in her child-bearing years and who when it ended was not! Quite a story to tell there. They touched on that in a gingerly fashion, not a particularly thorough one. I can understand that, the captain is meant to lead. All these things were very interesting and sometime haunting refrains of what it must be like to be stranded in an unknown quadrant for seven years with a crew of 155 whom you are responsible.

Janeway’s ongoing holodeck friendship with daVinci
– one of Mulgrew’s suggestions

During the show there were a lot of debates in the writers room about how to approach the show. Should it be more serialized, more character focused, or more sci-fi focused, etc. Were you aware of these philosophical debates at the time? Did the cast ever weigh in on what they wanted?

Yes, but we were only tangentially involved. Don’t forget we were very separated. We came to work before it was light out and put right into the makeup chair and thrown onto the soundstage. And our soundstages were far removed from the writing offices. In order to see [Rick] Berman or [Brannon] Braga, I would have to get a cart and go over and have to get a break, which I never got. And with just half-hour for lunch, these things are very difficult, and I was shooting up to eighteen hours a day. So you are talking about time and the separation of church and state. [laughs] I mean, Berman, who I just had lunch with last week, he was always very responsive, as was Brannon. I always thought of Brannon as being exceptionally talented. And they listened to me. They listened with great attentiveness, as the numbers grew. They wanted to see if I could carry the male demographic and once that was established they were more respectful.

The show ended with “Endgame”, were you happy with how the show wrapped up? Did you feel the wrapped up all the loose ends or were there a few you wanted done?

I was very involved with “Endgame” and I completely agreed with that idea. I suggested that somebody has to go done, so let’s have the admiral go down. It had to be the admiral or the captain. You cannot tie things up beautifully and succinctly with a nice bow when it comes to a franchise like Star Trek. Too much has happened and too much is at stake, and who knows when it will come again. I think we did the best that we could. I know it was a controversial ending, but so was [the TNG finale] “All Good Things”. You can’t win when you say goodbye, because goodbye is hard.

Mulgrew as ‘Admiral’ and ‘Captain’ Janeway in Voyager finale “Endgame”
– Mulgrew felt one of them had to die

Speaking of admirals, Admiral Janeway came back in Nemesis. But over the years, were there any discussions or the studio about Voyager, you or the cast, in possible feature films?

I think there were some discussions, of course where ever there is profit, there is conversation, but it didn’t seem to lead to anything. However, I think it is a conversation in space, do you know what I mean? It is a part of the continuum. [laughs] And if it ever has legs, it will be realized. But until that time, but it is always about market value. That is why this current movie [JJ Abrams Star Trek] went back and was a prequel. As a culture, we are hardwired to find young people more interesting than older people. That is just the way it is. But there might be a time for some kind of grand reunion, which would be pretty interesting, don’t you? I would like to see Picard and Janeway and Kirk together, it would be fabulous.

Which Kirk? There are two now.

I am talking about my friend, Bill Shatner.

You would be interested in being involved with the JJ Abrams movies too?

I would be. I would hate to think I have said the final and definitive goodbye to Kathryn Janeway. That was almost a decade of my life. I raised my children during that. I lost a lot and gained a lot. I got married and divorced. It was huge in every single way and formed the rest of my life. You then don’t want to say goodbye to that character. You want to hold that character as long as possible, through everything. [laughs]

Janeway in “Star Trek Nemesis”
– Mulgrew
would like to play her again

I don’t know if you heard, but do you know what they have done to your character in the books?

What? I hope she has taken a lover.

[BOOK SPOILER ALERT] I hate to break the news to you, but she’s dead.

Am I dead? Why did they kill her?

Peter David wrote a book [“Before Dishonor“] where Janeway became the Borg Queen for a little while, to try and instigate, and they tried to rescue her and she died in the process, but then her soul–it’s complicated. But basically she is now with the Q Continuum, so there is always a possibility of her coming back, but they pretty much killed her.

That is all that matters. As long as I am with Q, I am good. [laughs]

Actually, I think it was the female Q, the Suzie Plakson Q.

Oh, well that is a drag, I want to be with John de Lancie!

Outside the world of Star Trek, what can you tell us is going on with Kate Mulgrew in 2010?

Well I am doing this series called Mercy for NBC. I play the mother of the leading lady. That is interesting. I did a movie in the summer called The Best and the Brightest, which will be out this year. And I am looking for a great play. I did Equus last year, but now I am looking for a really great play. And I trust that will come. My life as been very full and very rich in the last nine months. I can tell you that, without elaborating, to make it mysterious. Life is good.

Mulgrew takes a curtain call for “Equus” in 2009
– actress looking for another ‘great play’
(Photo: Walter McBride)

More Voyager Week coverage
TrekMovie is celebrating the 15th anniversary of Star Trek Voyager this week. We have more lined up for the week. You can also check out the previous VOY@15 stories:


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