On Tuesday, the cast of Star Trek: Voyager will celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary with an online reunion at starsinthehouse.com, where they plan to raise some money for The Actors Fund. To get a sense of what to expect—and also catch up, since we haven’t spoken to her in a year or so—we chatted with Kate Mulgrew about the event itself, what she’s up to in quarantine, and her thoughts on what castmates Garrett Wang and Robert Duncan McNeill have been up to.
We started out talking about current events, then quickly switched to “happier Star Trek things.”
Kate Mulgrew: It’s so surreal… talk about science fiction, right?
Well a lot of people are watching Star Trek now for comfort, either because of the familiarity, or for the optimism. So I think it’s a good time for it. In terms of the reunion you guys are doing. I read that Robert Picardo got the ball rolling, but how did getting the full Voyager cast come together?
Yeah, he’s terrific. He did. He manages these things with such dexterity. I am appallingly bad at them. Especially in quarantine, he’s been quite productive. He’s wonderful with press and he’s even better with altruistic stuff like this, like The Actors Fund and gathering us together. He has the energy for it, and he’s got the heart for it. He’s one of the most decent people I know, and we’re very, very close friends. So of course the minute he asked me I said, “I’d be delighted to, sweetheart.”
I read that you two talk all the time. Have you been keeping in touch with anyone else in your Voyager cast group, or will this really be a reunion?
This will be a reunion, but I feel like I just saw them. We were all on a boat in March [Star Trek: The Cruise]. Afterwards I got very, very sick and thought I had caught the virus. I was convinced that I had it because I was in bed for almost a month. But I had my antibodies results last week and they are negative! So, I can’t figure it out, at all, but there is a 50% false-negative on those results, so we will see.
But we had a great time together on this cruise. The only one missing was Robert Beltran and I think that was only because he had last-minute things. We had a great time. One night I threw a huge party and everyone came. Jeri Ryan and I sat out on the deck for hours, reminiscing and catching up on stuff. Everybody came in from Next Gen. It was just a great party that lasted all night long. So I feel that I’ve spent some quality time with them all. But it’ll be fun to do this Zoom with them.
My Voyager cast mates from the Trek Cruise! It was good to seem them again. pic.twitter.com/Y1Riy4ztH9
— tim russ (@timruss2) March 11, 2020
Do you have anything you know you want to talk about at the virtual reunion, or are you going to just let things roll?
Well, I would love to talk about acting. The future of acting. How we feel about it going forward. And I think certainly what it has given to us, looking backward. It saved most of our lives. Some of us have diverged. I think Garrett [Wang] has gone off and done other things, but most of us have stuck with the game plan, which is to act until we stagger into our graves. But I think it’s been imperiled by this pandemic. Also, a lot of us are getting older. I think we should talk about what acting has meant, what it means, and what it means to people.
You just said that everybody is watching Star Trek. There’s a reason for that. Acting is more than just acting. In situations like this you see that it is an imperative in the culture. And for some reason, and this is what we’ll talk about largely, Star Trek signifies hope. Of course, the parallel is terrific, isn’t it: a capsule lost in a dark and dangerous place, the Delta Quadrant, could really be a wonderful comparison to where we are now. The planet is jeopardized, I think, and everybody’s scared and quite overcome by the magnitude of this pandemic, the perniciousness of it. And what it’s going to cost us coming out the other end. And how will we survive? We survive with art and this is an art that we cannot practice while we are contained like this.
So, all of these subjects will be touched on. And I think very well , because it’s an articulate group, and they’re funny. And they’re very very smart. And they’re all very decent, so it’ll be a good and lively talk I should think.
Because this is the 25th anniversary of Voyager, there was a big reunion planned for Star Trek Las Vegas convention this summer. Do you think that’s even possible at this point?
It doesn’t feel like it will happen. Although they have not definitively stated anything. I think they’re clinging to the last hope. But, do we really want to walk into a confined area with 10,000 people is the question, right? For me, I will tell you it’s particularly hard—and probably my cast mates will attest to this—I’m not a touchy-feely person, but when a person in a wheelchair approaches me with a passionate either declaration or confession, or something he or she wants to share with me, it is my absolute instinct to touch that person. So I think that that would probably win out in Las Vegas this year, and I’d be right back in trouble again. [laughs] That will have to be well-considered.
I don’t know. I don’t think so. And too bad for us, too, because it was supposed to be a sort of… the year was supposed to be an anniversary tour. All of those conventions in Europe have been canceled as well as everything domestically, so it’s too bad. It’s not fair! [laughs] But let’s wait and see what those guys think. [Creation Entertainment’s] Adam Malin and Gary Berman are wise, straight shooter kind of guys. I don’t think they would imperil thousands of people for any number of reasons, foremost among them lawsuits. But it looks doubtful, don’t you think? I think most people are just too nervous until a vaccine is available and approved. I’m with Anthony Fauci on this one.
I suppose talking about what else we might talk about, we might also talk about is politics.. Because it’s a cast full of liberals. We’ll get into it.
People are so polarized. How do you anticipate people reacting when you guys start talking politics?
I think that we will state what we will state. We will stay composed. And we will take the questions accordingly. I’m the most outspoken and the most dangerous on her feet. So I’ll have to really sew my lips together. But I will state my mind if asked, that’s for sure. I mean, I’ve got to stop fooling around with this. And if I turn some people off, so be it. That is the way it goes. We have a future to think about here. I have a granddaughter coming in October and I’ll be good and damned if she’s going to walk into this thing, if I haven’t done something. I’ve been out stumping for my native state of Iowa, we’ve got to flip those seats. I am doing everything I can to change this. If Trump gets four more years, I am promising you, I will leave the country. And I will go and live in Ireland. There are very wise people over there. They get it. Anyway, let’s go on.
Yes, back to fun Star Trek things! Robert Duncan McNeill and Garrett Wang have been talking about resurrecting Captain Proton. Is that something you would want ever to do with them? Does that sound fun to you, being Queen Arachnia again?
As Queen Arachnia, that could be fun. What do you mean? How are they are thinking of doing it?
They are talking about making some kind of series or shorts. Robbie says he has talked to David Goodman, a producer on The Orville, about it. Garrett has suggested they could crowdfund it.
Huh. Well all I can tell you, is that was probably the greatest fun I had in the seven years on Star Trek. And I had a lot of fun doing that series, but playing Queen Arachnia with that guy, that actor [Martin Rayner as Doctor Chaotica], who was so good, and so alarmingly funny. I could barely make it through a take. You wouldn’t know this looking at my portrayal of Janeway, but when I go, I go. I am a complete corpser. I just lose it. Tears streaming down my cheeks. The guy was brilliant. S, the memory is sublime, but they haven’t talked to me about it. We’ll probably talk about that on the Zoom reunion.
But you would consider, if the circumstances are right, doing something like that with them?
I never say never, and never say die.
Those two also have a podcast where they are watching every Voyager episode in order and talking about them. It’s called The Delta Flyers.
Tell me something: Are they drinking? [laughs]
[laughs] I’ve been listening to them, and I don’t know if they’re drinking, but their actor insecurities are on full display, because they’re rewatching their own work from twenty-five years ago.
That would go right to my head. Yeah.
Garrett seems obsessed with his ADR recordings and Robert is very worried about how Tom Paris comes across. [Kate laughs] If they asked you to join them for an episode, would you?
I don’t know, they haven’t asked me! Let’s see what they come up with, the little devils. They’re afraid of what I’d say, do you know that? They’re afraid. And Garrett Wang has been dining out on an impersonation of Janeway for years. [laughs]
Oh, they do that a lot.
I wouldn’t mind dissecting his performance. That would be interesting. Mr. Kim, Mr. Kim.
Would you ever undertake such a project, rewatching every episode of a show you were on?
Because life’s too short. I’m trying to write a novel here. I’mm in quarantine, but I’m struggling with this third book, which is a novel. My publisher thinks I can write a novel. Oh my god, I just want to stick needles in my eyes! It’s so hard sometimes. But no, I would not do that, because if you think they’re critical of their performance? I haven’t watched myself in thirty years on television. I haven’t watched myself in anything. No I simply will not. My ego is otherwise directed. Freud would have a field day with me. God knows it’s a substantial ego. But I refuse to endanger myself by watching myself. [laughs]
I’m fascinated by this, because if they did ask you to be on their podcast, you would have to watch the episode they were going to talk about.
Yes, but then I’d say to them that I get to choose the episode. I would choose one that I know I was proud of.
I think that it is funny that they’re doing that. And great, because it’s great for the fans. But I remember it as being such a… it was so big, shooting that series in my life. It was just huge. I’m only now sort of resting. That’s how I feel about the rigor of it and the reward of it, certainly. But Captain Janeway really worked her little patoots off, there’s no question about it. And I wanted so much to make her great, because she was the first female. And that determination was always in my sights, regardless of what was going on at home. And there was a lot, because I was raising two little boys all by myself. And it was tough! Those were tough years. But if you can pull that off with some success, there was a great sense of satisfaction. I saw my great constitutional strength. I can really stand on my feet for a long time. My mind is strong, and my retentive powers are very robust. But my longing was to endow her with such a complexity that the audience would find her very, very compelling and endearing, and I hope I achieved that. I don’t know that I did, but I think that I did. In the later years I did.
You showed a type of female leadership that was so important to so many of us watching. And not just women, very important to men too, to see it.
One could argue it was more important to men to understand that a woman of childbearing years is capable of that kind of single-minded command, that kind of dedication, and that kind of strength. It was great! But you can imagine it was everything.
My sons were not very pleased.. That was hard on them. So they’ve never seen it. And I don’t think they ever will. They’ve come to see everything in the theater. But they won’t watch me on TV. They don’t like it. To them, it touches that nerve of my absence, which for a child is a permanent kind of wound. It was a decision I thought I made in a clear-eyed way, but looking back, their vulnerability is a knife in my heart. But we do what we do. And I cannot tell you I regret it. I am glad I did Janeway and I’m glad that I had my kids. Life goes on, right?
How would you sum up the legacy of Star Trek: Voyager, looking back with twenty-fifth anniversary eyes?
I would say Voyager, intrepid vessel, was full of passionate scientists. Before she was a captain, Janeway was an ardent scientist. I think that our exploration of the Delta Quadrant… let me just speak for Janeway. Her absolute immersion into what it was like to travel within that quadrant and to discover species and to relate to them, and to communicate with them and sometimes to fight them, was just, for Janeway, the very, very pinnacle of life.
It was a wonderful crew. I think that Janeway led with her humanity and therefore each one of them followed. I think having the Maquis on board, that mix was somehow magical. The introduction of Seven of Nine as a half-Borg/half-human was also intriguing. I think the writing was great. I think the intention was sublime. And I think tthat we captivated, or should I say captured, the universal imagination in what we did in those seven years. That’s the legacy.
The last time we talked, Star Trek: Picard had not premiered yet. Have you had a chance to see it?
I haven’t, I am sorry to say. I think I told you at some point in time—and I think this goes for both Patrick Stewart and Bill Shatner too—captains can be quite territorial. We’re on our ship and we shoot our seven years, or at least Stewart and I shot our seven years. And you become very possessive over those seven years. I haven’t watched it, but I don’t have a good excuse.
When we talked about it, I asked you if you had ever thought about what Janeway would be up to after twenty years, or what you might want to explore with her. At the time you said you hadn’t thought of it that much. Have you thought about that at all since?
Only because people are asking me about it all the time, since Picard came on. When are you coming on? When are you coming back? When will we get Janeway on? Blah, blah, blah. On the web somebody created an idea of what Janeway would look like, and it was actually quite stunning when I saw it.
I think it would be wonderful to explore Janeway’s continued love of adventure and perhaps even, love of power. So, there are any number of things that could be delicious to dip into. But I don’t think it is going to happen. I am not saying that summarily, but time’s a wasting, you know?
There is a Janeway memorial going up at her fictional future birthplace. What do you think about that and would you go to the unveiling on October, if it was safe?
Well, my granddaughter is due in October. So I think that I will be falling in love in October. I think it’s a terrific honor. We talked about this on the Star Trek Cruise a lot. I saw the image of it and she looked sort of intimidating, formidable actually. I think it’s a great honor, and I think it’s wonderful. If I could possibly attend, I would. Why wouldn’t I? How many people get a statue made of a character that was so meaningful? It’s quite lovely. Of course I’ll go, if I can. I hope they invite me!
You have been doing a Zoom happy hour with fans during quarantine, how has that been going?
Yes. You should join one, but I only take seven, because we have in-depth conversations about whatever the theme is. Last week was bibliophiles, writers, librarians, editors from all over the world. It was fascinating. What they’re reading and how books have saved them, what they’re writing and their experiences. The week before was fathers alone with children, really fascinating. I thought this week I’d do psychiatry and psychoanalysis, just to see if they’re still practicing, which I’m sure they are, and what they’re getting from the public at large, what they’re feeling about this pandemic and the change it has made to our minds. So, it’s great fun. But that’s just my way little way of saying I’d like to connect with people throughout this time.
It’s such a smart way of doing it—the way you’re grouping people is fascinating.
It is. I mean, we’re talking to somebody in Siberia, and somebody else in New Zealand and somebody else in New York, and it’s all so very moving. At the end of them we’re always—you know it’s a cocktail hour, so everybody’s had a a cocktail, and at the end we’re all quite aware of the fact that this is an extraordinary thing that’s happened. I’m glad I did it.
What’s your cocktail of choice for the happy hours?
A vodka and lemonade, or something like that. I like vodka. [laughs]
How is the novel going?
This is because my editor has asked me to do it. It’s harder than the memoirs, there’s no question. A narrative is a linear kind of thing and for me, a degree easier. A novel has a mind of its own, and a heart of its own. So I have my protagonist and I have my story, but then she goes off and does something I hadn’t planned at all, right in the middle of the chapter. And I have to sort of go with her. It’s intriguing, but it’s also very frustrating. There are days I just want to throw the computer out of the window and myself right out after. But I can and I must persevere. I will. It’s a good day to spend my days and I am a very disciplined person.
Tickets available for Voyager’s virtual reunion on May 27
On Tuesday, May 26th at 8 PM ET (5 PM PT), the cast of Star Trek: Voyager will reunite live on “Stars In The House.” Kate Mulgrew (Kathryn Janeway), Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine), Tim Russ (Tuvok), Roxann Dawson (B’Elanna Torres), Robert Beltran (Chakotay), Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris), Robert Picardo (The Doctor), Ethan Phillips (Neelix), and Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) will all be together for a virtual reunion panel celebrating the 25th anniversary of the show. The live event will be streamed on the Stars In The House YouTube channel and on starsinthehouse.com.
During the event, fans will be able to donate to The Actors Fund for the chance to have their names read on air. The Actors Fund is a national human services organization that fosters stability and resiliency, and provides a safety net for performing arts and entertainment professionals over their lifespan.
For more information visit https://www.starsinthehouse.com.
Keep up with all the interviews at TrekMovie.com.