O Captain! My Captain! (Part Two)
After Kate Mulgrew and I talked about her new book, How to Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir, we moved on to more Star Trek-related topics. With the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: Voyager coming next year plus Star Trek: Picard on the horizon, it seemed like the perfect time to talk about Janeway’s legacy.
You’ve written two very honest memoirs now. Would you ever consider doing what Shatner’s done, and write a book about your experiences on Voyager?
If I did, it wouldn’t be as Shatner’s done, I don’t think. I haven’t read his book. And I like Bill and I’m sure that it’s very enjoyable.
If I write about what happened to me on Star Trek: Voyager, I’m going to write the truth, and it’s probably going to come from an unexpected place. So, I would write about what it’s like to take that kind of an arduous journey in a period of great change in one’s life. My sons were young, I was newly divorced. By the time Voyager had finished, my mother had Alzheimer’s. Everything happened in those seven years, and I was not given a great deal of time to assimilate everything because my usual day was a 16-hour day.
I don’t know that the fan base would want to know everything that I would want to share, which is the deeply private feelings of an actress under the gun. The first rule of being a captain is to set the tone on the set, so I didn’t reveal any of what I was ever really feeling. Or if I did, it was only in the very wee hours of the morning, when I was so exhausted I couldn’t do otherwise.
So if I write it, it won’t be, “And this is what happened, and then I met Jeri Ryan, and we were upset,” blah, blah, blah. It’s not going to be any of that … that doesn’t interest me, at all. It would be the examination of who Kate was at that time.
Patrick Stewart’s doing a new show, playing Picard 20 years after the events of the movie, Nemesis, which you were also in. And what interested him about it was that it was this exploration of what he’s done and who he is 20 years after all of this. So, if someone pitched to you, “The character of Janeway 20 years later,” what about that character would you want to explore and where do you think she would be?
I did it on Voyager. I played at the admiral, I did it. I think I did it.
I don’t know. It surprised me when Patrick came out on the stage—I was there that day—and announced it. It surprised me that he wanted to. But I think he knows it will probably have a shot at being quite a hit. And there’s no one who likes to work as much as Patrick Stewart. And for him it will probably be very successful. Picard was beloved. Yeah, it’ll be interesting. I don’t know what to say about Janeway. Seven years is a long time to play a character. I’m not sure that she would enjoy resuscitation. She was a very, very vibrant person, while she was.
So that doesn’t sound like something you would enjoy, particularly?
I would have to cross that bridge when I got there. It’s nothing that I have entertained.
They just released a documentary on Deep Space Nine, done by Ira Steven Behr. A big theme of that documentary was that they felt like they were the middle child, less important than the other Star Trek shows—and that time has validated them. Did you, and did your group on Voyager, feel any of that?
No. I don’t think that ever occurred to me. I was aware of Next Generation being wonderfully received, and Patrick Stewart’s great popularity and success as a captain, but I was absolutely immersed in the business of making Star Trek: Voyager my imprint, and of value in and of itself.
Being the first female captain was seismic, there were tidal waves of publicity and reaction and response because a girl had been put in command. And I had to wrestle with that for at least a season, maybe a season and a half.
I was determined to make Janeway the best captain I could make her, and not for any real feminist reasons—because I wanted as an actress and as a human being to put my stamp on that beautifully written woman. And I thought around me was a very, very good group. I’ve remained very close friends with Bob Picardo, Ethan Phillips. I mean, these guys were pretty terrific, so, no. And I’m aware of the competitive nature of it all. I’m a deeply competitive person myself, or have been in my life as an actress. It always pisses me off when people say that Voyager was less than Next Generation, and Janeway was less than Picard, or less than Kirk. And it’s all so silly, isn’t it?
It is silly. I grew up a fan, since I was 10, and it was in the ’70s, so there was no Voyager coming for a long time. And I loved every single Trek, every captain. But when Janeway came along … for me, just starting leadership positions in my own life, it was huge.
Well, not only because you’re a woman, but because you’re smart enough to realize that if television is willing to sink millions of dollars into the representation of a woman in command, in one of the most successful franchises in the history of television, then it’s to be taken seriously. It’s a harbinger of things to come culturally, societally, and politically. And that’s exactly what happened.
There’s a lot of talk about Janeway’s impact on STEM and women of science, but right now, there are women in politics who are talking about you. Stacey Abrams, and particularly Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Well, I’m a great fan of hers, and she of me. So I went out to her at one of her rallies in Queens, and I surprised her. Whoever was introducing her said, “And now, a person who Alexandria has known since she was a little girl, Captain Kathryn Janeway, Kate Mulgrew.” And she gasped, she turned.
And when I approached her, I think she kind of fell. It was one of those moments. And then when she said that when they lost their screen—they had bad reception in their house, and often the television was just black and white—she’d listen to it, like a radio show. And that was enough. I mean, the whole thing is marvelous.
And look what she’s doing. I doubt that I had anything to do with that spirit, which is a remarkable one. But there is something about her confidence, the way she is scorching that indifferent earth that makes me think, “I wonder… I wonder if she plucked some of this from Voyager?” And I hope she did.
She was six when Voyager premiered, so now she has a wealth–not as many as there should be—but a wealth of pop culture with women in strong roles. So why do you think it was still, for her, Janeway?
You know why. Lost in space, alone. Got to get ’em home. Got to get ’em home. It’s the epic journey of the single female. And look what she’s doing in the House. It’s unprecedented, we have not seen this before in a woman of her youth. She’s untried, and she is stomping at the ground. I am electrified by this performance. May she maintain it.
And she’s giving energy to a lot of the others, the Katie Porters, and the Abby Finkenauers of Iowa, she’s giving energy, she’s giving courage, she’s inspiring all of them. I think she’s probably even getting under Pelosi’s skin, do you know?
Time to show everybody what we’ve got. And it’s so extravagant, isn’t it? I mean, I love men. I love them, and I wouldn’t want to live without them, but we have more than they have.
Once we open that door and we admit that, and we let that stuff go, watch out!
Are you watching any TV these days? Binging anything?
Because I’m down here in Charleston shooting a new series, no, I’m not. I’m immersed in Mr. Mercedes.
If you could guest star on any show that’s current, is there one that you would love to be on?
Yes, I’d love to be on The Crown now, with Olivia Colman. They’re shooting it right now, I’d love to have a part on that. But I’m American as apple pie, so probably not going to happen. And I’d love to do something on Ozark, but guesting on Mr. Mercedes would’ve been among my first choices, and here I am doing it. I’m playing a psychopath, an absolute psychopath. The complete opposite of Kathryn Janeway. And it’s fun.
I’ve had some great shots. I had Mary Ryan, I had Mrs. Columbo, I had Kathryn Janeway, Red, and now Alma Lane. It’s been a great ride.
Kate Mulgrew on her new memoir
Read part one of our interview with Kate Mulgrew about her new book, How To Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir.
Buy the book
Buy your copy at Amazon, in hardcover, e-book, or audiobook (narrated by Kate Mulgrew).
With a message to listeners from Kate Mulgrew.