At New York Comic Con TrekMovie joined a group press interview with members of the cast and producers from Star Trek: Prodigy. This included Kate Mulgrew who talks about what we can expect from both Hologram Janeway and Vice Admiral Janeway in the upcoming second half of season one.
Note: The interview contains some minor spoilers and has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Is there a moment coming in the second half of the season that was really gratifying to voice act? Something that you’re really proud of?
Well, that’s a spoiler if I just say it. Let me just suggest this: there are several iterations of Janeway. And some of them are shocking, and dark, and unexpected. And then the journey takes a harrowing turn. And that was really fun.
So Janeway has experience dealing with an evolving holographic program. But what’s the dynamic going to be like when she deals with a hologram of herself?
Vice Admiral Janeway has matured deeply and she’s very seasoned at this stage of the game. She would be slightly dismissive of a hologram, wouldn’t she? Until that hologram convinces you that it should be otherwise.
Janeway has always had a strong commitment to personal relationships and also to the mission and it’s hard to tell which one is stronger. In Admiral Janeway’s search for Chakotay, how much of it is personal? Or is there a bigger mission?
Well, that’s already very astute of you. Because this is the essence of Janeway. They’re inseparable. Her investment is always personal, even if it’s Species 8472 whom she loathed. In the end, she sort of felt sorry for them. Look at Seven of Nine, how deeply personal that became in short order. So if I’m trying to find Chakotay, you better believe that the investment is going to be huge. And the payoff is going to be – after many bumps and many twists, and many very difficult turns – rewarding.
Did you get to work with Robert Beltran and if so/what was that like?
I didn’t work with him. I don’t even hear his voice. No, it’s just lines and then I do mine. I haven’t seen him. And one can only hope that those old days – that’s like old Hollywood, the golden days when they’d go into recording booths and there’d be two or three of us – those days are over. COVID made sure of that. Maybe there will be an opportunity when Robert and I can get together which I’d love because I love him. But that’s the way it is now. And it’s enough to remember. It’s certainly enough. It’s all in the writing. And the writing is exquisite. Thank God for the Hageman brothers.
Do you record on your own at home or at a studio?
I have to go into a studio. I demand it, and they do too. The quality on this show is so high. I don’t do any of that home stuff. That’s for the birds. I want the exquisite calibration of the engineer in the other room. I want to know that every pitch that I’m striving for, every note, every intention is perfectly recorded. And I just don’t believe that in my bathroom with cardboards up on the wall and taped to the windows it’s going to have the same effect. I don’t like any of this stuff at home. I think we need to go to work. You know what I mean? Go to work! Alright, now that I got that out. [laughs]
How do you approach voice acting as opposed to your time in film and television?
Oh it’s much easier. Much, much easier. It’s very freeing, very liberating. And I’m collaborating with Kevin and Dan Hageman, who are not only genius-level creators and writers. But they’re so kind. They’re such decent men that when I’m working with them I just feel that I can do anything, and that we’re in it together. And I’ve seldom felt this level of collaboration. Because in live-action, it’s very intense. Even in Orange is the New Black where there was a lot of stuff going on, it was hit your mark, cut, print, moving on. We would get a take, at most two takes. Here we work, we play, “Can I get another one? I’d like to try this.” They never say no. And they always say, “Try this, let’s go here.” And it just makes it a great session.
You embody Janeway so during the process were there any things you changed or tweaked for Janeway on Prodigy?
Of course. The Hagemans are completely collaborative. They know that I created Kathryn Janeway, so they’re not going to tell me how to bring this hologram to life. But I think after I finished tweaking the animatics – here physical being, and I did play a big part of that. The humor. Not softness, not tenderness, but empathy. This hologram has empathy for these kids. I mean, they’re all in trouble, especially Dal, who has suffered, arguably more than all of them put together. Hologram Janeway is going to have to really exercise her diplomacy and her wisdom when it comes to dealing with a guy like Dal, who is so sure he’s going to die, that he does everything to upend it. Again, it’s the personal investment. But it has to be always grounded in the fact that I’m there to teach them Starfleet skills. The Prime Directive. Take each other’s hands and let’s get going. I can’t do this alone. If only we knew that as a species, but we don’t know it do we? We cannot do this alone.
What are your thoughts on being the character that’s meant to help introduce a new generation of fans to the Star Trek universe?
But of course, who else could it be? She’s a great choice. They were smart. Alex Kurtzman was smart to ask me. Because I think he understood something that even I could not see, which is why he is the visionary now and has assumed the mantle of all the franchise. I think he knew that the mother would say to the child, “We’re going to watch Star Trek Prodigy and I’m going to tell you who that person is. The child’s going to understand it as Hologram Janeway but the mother is going to support it with her knowledge of who Captain Janeway is. I think that was the intention, to make it a cross-generational passionate conversation. And that will be an extraordinary accomplishment, won’t it?
How did you approach Janeway’s transition from being a captain mentor to a mentor for kids?
It took some adjusting, of course. It’s a hologram we’re talking about so the challenge was how do I endow this hologram with interesting traits without making her a cardboard copy of what once was. So I very slowly, but subtly tried to place humor, warmth, and even some degree of discernment. She likes some, she doesn’t really trust others’ opinions. And I’ve developed that, slowly. But I’ve tried to ground her. She gets this barometer, Hologram Janeway. Vice Admiral gets this. So I’ve just run the gamut when I’m given that shot. And often I have scenes where they’re back-to-back. So I get to switch on and switch off which is really challenging and really fun. Hologram Janeway is a little lighter in tone so that the children are listening to me with a certain degree of comfort. Because I think if you deepen it and you go to the admiral, you’re going to turn them off. But if you lighten it, even in your command, and say “You do that again, you’re going to pay a price for that.” So I have to do according to what’s going on in my imagination but it’s fun. You’d be surprised at the freedom in the booth. A lot of freedom.
Prodigy has already been picked up for another season of twenty more episodes. What do you credit the success of Prodigy to be?
The philosophy. We’re living in very strange times. Have you been watching the news? This is the first time since the Cold War that the President has said, we’re really in peril. The whole thing could go up. I said at a dinner party in Prague last week, next to a renowned Czech physicist. And you know what he said to me? “Any moment and it will happen.” I said, “Oh now you’ve had too much whiskey.” He said, “I haven’t had enough, and neither have you.” So what was your question? [laughs]
More Star Trek from NYCC
We have some more interviews from New York Comic Con to come so keep coming back to TrekMovie.com for all the latest from NYCC 2022. See more of our NYCC coverage here.
Prodigy mid-season trailer
In case you missed it, here again, is the mid-season trailer released at NYCC. [international version at startrek.com]
Prodigy will return on Thursday, Oct. 27 exclusively for Paramount+ subscribers in the U.S., and on Friday, Oct. 28 in Latin America, Australia, Italy and the U.K. Following the premiere, new episodes of the 10-episode-long second half will be available to stream weekly on Thursdays. The series will air later in the year in South Korea, Germany, Italy, France, Austria and Switzerland.
Keep up with news for the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.