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Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an interview from August 25, 2011 with Kate Mulgrew from Warehouse 13.

Kate Mulgrew

Question:
Are you excited to reconnect with the audience of science fiction?

Kate Mulgrew:
There's no question about it. First of all I think Syfy has become a wonderful network. And Warehouse 13 in particular was an absolutely remarkable experience, wonderful for me in every conceivable way.

Question:
Is there anything you could tell us about your character that they won't come after you for?

Kate Mulgrew:
It's a little tough. I'm sworn to secrecy on this one. But suffice it to say, I come as a very powerful Regent bearing an extraordinary secret. And when the secret is revealed I think the audience will be quite surprised. It's both wonderful and rather frightening at the same time. And the arc is thrilling because I'm not just any Regent; I have great powers. And so I think what unfolds will be very, very surprising to the audience.

Question:
What was the experience like on Warehouse 13 on the set compared to some of your past projects, including Star Trek: Voyager?

Kate Mulgrew:
Well hindsight is 20/20; I've had some wonderful experiences in my life and some not so wonderful. Jack Kenny has got to be one of the best show runners I've ever worked with. And he sets the tone for the set. And on the sets there was not only a high degree of amiability, just short of conviviality, but a real sense of camaraderie, and it was collaborative, which you don't always get in episodic television, as I'm sure you are aware.

So I felt very much a part of the creative team, simply adored Jack Kenny from the first moment. And Saul Rubinek, Allison Scagliotti, Joanne Kelly, and the divine Eddie McClintock, who could ask for a better core group? I mean the ingredients were just there for a perfect souffle.

Question:
Let's say if we went back to the beginning of your career and you had a crystal ball and could just see all the many places you've been and the things you'd see. Would that surprise you?

Kate Mulgrew:
It would surprise me. I saw myself as, of course, the next Sarah Bernhardt or preferably the next Eleonora Duse. I thought I was going to be a very, very strictly legit dramatic actress. And the beauty of life is that we don't have a crystal ball. We'd all shoot ourselves I think if we did. It unfolded in a mysterious, unexpected, and in many ways a remarkable way. I think I've been blessed with, one could argue, three iconic roles.

I think Mary Ryan, to start a career playing an iconic role is a great blessing. And the fact that she developed into these other characters was a further enhancement. So I think I've had the career I was meant to have. I certainly loved to act every inch and step of the way. And if I may say this for posterity, I'm having more fun now than I ever have before. You shed a lot of stuff at my age. And when you're younger the ambition I think is probably one of the key ingredients. And when you're older, the key ingredient is simply joy. So that's where I am right now.

Question:
What have you found challenging about your role as this Regent?

Kate Mulgrew:
Challenging is keeping all the secrets I have to keep from all of you wonderful people. I would say it's been more delightful than challenging. I've felt so at home there, which is a very unusual thing at my stage in life to feel, coming in as a guest star. There was a naturalism to it, a complete sense of relaxation. And I feel like I fit there. So it was instantly, deeply familiar. And you very, very seldom get that.

Question:
Was there instant chemistry when you began working with the cast?

Kate Mulgrew:
Instant. Well it may well be a well-oiled machine, and that's thanks to Jack Kenny, who as I've now said ten-million times is really an extraordinary show runner. But I think that the surprise in all of it, Saul Rubinek is one of the great actors, I think of our generation, certainly my generation. And I felt, he's consummate and he's unexpected. So I had to step up to the plate whenever I was acting with him. Joanne Kelly is like a delicious confection. And Eddie McClintock, I would have to tell you, as well as Allison Scagliotti, are natural actors. So it's like playing ball with people who are the best; you really have to play badly not to hit well.

Question:
Why do you think people continue to tune in and watch Warehouse 13?

Kate Mulgrew:
It's smart, very smart, it's tongue in cheek, and it's clever. It's asking the audience, you know, they don't dot the I's and cross the T's, the audience has to stay on its toes. And I think that's exactly what a sci-fi audience prefers; they want to tease out the puzzle along with us. And that's what you get to do with Warehouse 13.

Question:
When you get sci-fi roles offered to you, is that like comfort food or does it give you pause? What sort of is your mentality now when you get offered these sci-fi parts?

Kate Mulgrew:
I don't get offered these sci-fi parts. This was the first one. And I was delighted to take it because it was not only so well written, but it felt different to me Joshua. It felt special, and it felt light and smart. And that's what I want. It didn't carry with it the baggage of some other science fiction shows. It has a real delicacy to it, and at the same time I think it's, as someone had said before, a well-oiled machine, yes, but it's still a very sleek and well run machine.

Question:
Obviously you can only tell us so much about your character, but did you get to participate and play with some of Warehouse toys?

Kate Mulgrew:
I got to play with all those toys, and lots of artifacts to boot. And that's the other thing, I really want to say this, the beauty of it is you're working in a Warehouse and every one of these artifacts is rooted in truth. So I have to tell you, I mean I was there for four episodes, I don't know how many weeks that would be, but I was learning so much. I mean the Caloti bracelet is based on something that's true. And whenever I get to learn I'm at my happiest. So the artifacts were fascinating, and there was the Farnsworth, I think that's their sort of their tricorder if you will. And that was fun to work with. And I'm very familiar with the green screen and the blue screens and I know what that means. So that's always a challenge. And it was great fun.

Question:
Have there been a lot of differences in the nature or just the general feel of working on sci-fi projects versus non-sci-fi projects?

Kate Mulgrew:
Yes of course. You have more green screens, you have many more effects, special effects. And that in itself can be quite challenging. Also you're dealing with a different mentality. And I would say, it's a different kind of an imagination, a different kind of creative imagination. It's very forward-looking, although it's essentially rooted in science, or reality I should say, the wings, the nature of it is to be bigger than life. So in that regard it's very special and wonderful to play.

Question:
What exactly are you looking for in a part these days? Do you like it lighter and smarter and not quite so dark?

Kate Mulgrew:
Absolutely. And by lighter I don't mean silly or dismissive or even cavalier. I mean that there could be depths, great depths to a lightness. But the lightness is just the actor's personal ability to let go of unnecessary baggage such as nerves, a fear of landing the wrong way on a line, all of that. All of that is dispelled and all of that is gone. And on Warehouse 13 it was just like, it was like sprinting. It was like flying. It was just fun, great fun.

Question:
What was your funniest moment working on this particular series?

Kate Mulgrew:
You ask me to find one moment when I'm begging you to understand that I was between Eddie McClintock and Saul Rubinek. All I did was laugh. All I did was laugh, they were so funny. And they're outrageous, you know McClintock has no shame, no shame at all. And even the girls are naughty. So the underbelly is very, very naughty, and you're sucked into the whole thing. But when action is called, it's on point. It's just when you're not actually required to be working, it could be quite silly and delightful.

Question:
So, next project?

Kate Mulgrew:
My next project? Well I'm doing another series called NTSF:SD:SUV, out of Los Angeles which is a comedy on Adult Swim, with Paul Scheer, who I think is a genius. And these guys are all highly regarded comedians, and that's not my thing. And so I think Paul Scheer showed a certain prescience in asking me to come aboard, because he wanted the weight of Captain Janeway, but he wanted me to wear an eye-patch and be obsessed with sex, which I think is exactly right at this point.

Question:
Captain Janeway was all about the science and this character by comparison is somewhat magical. What other differences do you think you could maybe point out between the two characters?

Kate Mulgrew:
Let's say, Captain Janeway was a Captain of a small starship which was lost in the Delta Quadrant. And her responsibilities were very serious. And she was an ardent scientist. This woman, Jane, is a mother, a person, a teacher, and the powers of the Regency have been endowed, because it was her personal choice to help. But beyond that I'm afraid I'm going to get into a rather grey area, which I'm not allowed to get into because the secrets that unfold are such that they're very, very, very unexpected. And they're big.

Question:
There's a certain connection between your character and one of the cast regulars. Would that be part of the secret?

Kate Mulgrew:
That might be part of the secret, yes. You're going to get determined to get this out of me, I can tell.

Question:
I have read about your work that you do for the Alzheimer's charity. I'm just wondering, how is that coming along?

Kate Mulgrew:
Well my job is to talk about it, get it out there, to help the University of Minnesota Hospital, in particular the Grossman Center, I'm working with Dr. Karen Ash, who is I believe a pioneer in Alzheimer's. And she invented the Alzheimer's Mouse. There's been a recent breakthrough out of Canada, I don't know if you've read about it, a clinical trial. But I think that there was a discrepancy so we have to start again and each one of these trials is about $60 million. So raising the money is very difficult. So all I can do is write about it, my experience with my mother, which was deeply personal, as you can appreciate, and speak about it and get it out there, because you know, by 2050 this will be pandemic. And if we do not get our hands around the throat of this thing now we're going to be a lost people.

Question:
When Voyager first started, not only were you the first female Captain lead but you were also on a ship that wasn't called Enterprise. Were you nervous that the fans weren't going to accept you or the show?

Kate Mulgrew:
My ship was called Voyager, which was the best possible name for any ship. I'm sure I was nervous, only insofar as I was the first woman. I know that the expectations were very high, if not in fact unreasonably high. I knew that there was a great deal of money riding on this. It was a seven-year franchise and I knew that they were watching me very, very, very carefully.

So having understood all that and embraced all of that, I just said to myself, "What the hell, I'm going for it." And you know, it stood me in good stead because I had not been familiar with Star Trek, I didn't know anything about it. So I was literally just sort of blown out of a cannon. And that's the way to start something of that magnitude.

Question:
Were you satisfied with the way they ended the show? Did you feel that it did the show justice the way they ended it?

Kate Mulgrew:
I had a very, very active and significant hand in Endgame; I liked it, I helped compose it, I helped sort of decide what the ending should be. And I think that there was no more graceful or passionate way to say goodbye than to have the Admiral die and the Captain go on.

Question:
You were a popular character on Ryan's Hope and later starred in Star Trek, both with very notable rabid fan bases. Have you had any interesting fan encounters over the years from either?

Kate Mulgrew:
I would say that one of the most interesting moments was when I was asked to marry two women at a convention. And when I indicated a slight unease with it they said, "You must understand that you are fully licensed to do this, you are the Captain." And so I did.

Question:
Are you ever planning to write an autobiography?

Kate Mulgrew:
I'm in the middle of doing it right now. I'm writing a book with my daughter, which I hope will be one of a few. I've always loved to write but I've never had the real confidence to support the discipline. So I think that now looking back I'm just going to say, "I'm just going to do it." I think that I have some rather interesting stories to tell and hopefully they would be helpful stories. So let's hope.

Question:
With Ryan's Hope playing out on SOAPnet the last few years, do you ever watch it or watch yourself? And also do you get more fans coming up to you now because of that?

Kate Mulgrew:
I don't watch myself ever. I know that sounds really rough, but I have stopped watching myself. So my answer to that is no. But fans are, as always, gracious and they watch everything.

Question:
With the character that you're playing it seems you may have a chance to get pretty close to the mythology that's behind Warehouse 13. Is there anything you encountered preparing for or acting in the role that you find especially interesting or intriguing about the background material for the show?

Kate Mulgrew:
Yes, I think what I found most compelling is how interwoven the simplicity of a life can be with the mystical element of the life. I don't know how to articulate that any better than to say that, what looks very common proves to be extremely uncommon on Warehouse 13. And behind every door there are 13 other doors. It's like those Russian Dolls. It was an extremely provocative puzzle to tease out and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Question:
As somebody who's played one of the most iconic women in the sci-fi cannon, has your experience as a guest star on Warehouse illuminated to you any changes in the role and portrayal of women in sci-fi or?

Kate Mulgrew:
It's getting better in leaps and bounds. It's getting better. The women are grounded and exalted at the same time, which is of course what a good female character should be. We have dimensionality, we have great truth, we have power, we don't have to sacrifice our femininity, we have honesty, and most importantly we have humanity. So indeed, it is growing. And that's probably the most beautiful thing about Warehouse 13, and I hope that you write this, or say this, "There's no glass ceiling there. Jack Kenny understands that the glass ceiling has long since been shattered. So it's a new day."

Question:
I was reading about some of your theater, and you have quite an extensive and amazing theater background. I was wondering if you ever plan on going back to theater?

Kate Mulgrew:
I never stop doing the theater. he television is obviously what one learns about more quickly. But I live in New York and I'm always doing something. Last year I played Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra and it was a dream that I had longed to do for many, many years. So I've always got my finger in a lot of pots, theatrically in New York.

Question:
Out of all the Syfy shows, is there any other show you would like to make an appearance on?

Kate Mulgrew:
I'm not terribly well versed. I think there's another one, a great one with David Strathairn?

Question:
Alphas.

Kate Mulgrew:
I'd like to do that with him, simply because I adore him as an actor.

Question:
Recently you were involved in the William Shatner documentary, The Captains, that was very interesting and entertaining. Were you involved in any way, or would we be seeing you in the upcoming documentary by Gene Roddenberry's son, Rod Roddenberry, Trek Nation?

Kate Mulgrew:
Yes, I was just in Las Vegas and I had a few words with Rod and he mentioned something to me about that. So I reckon I will give him an interview if he pursues me. Yes, I like Rod. And he is the bearer of the legacy, so one must be good.

Question:
In these positions where it's like you're a woman in power and authority and you can command respect. Has that been something that you've had to really focus on and try for or does it come natural?

Kate Mulgrew:
No, I would hope against hope that comes naturally. I'm the oldest of eight children, I'm the oldest girl. I have one older brother. So I have a natural bossiness. But I also have great love. So if that's what's translating, then I'm very, very pleased. That's what the audience is attracted to. I don't want to be Patton, that's not the point. The point is to have an inherent sense of command and humanity well married. And as I've achieved that then I've done what I intended to do.

Question:
You've been a big part of the science fiction scene for quite a while now. How do you feel about the genre as an actor? Does it offer you more of a range? How do you feel about it?

Kate Mulgrew:
Increasingly honored and interested because, as is true of all things that capture our imagination, I have learned about science through science fiction. And I know that they are joined, they are allied. And that alliance has given me a great deal of intellectual foresight. And I'm learning that this fan base, which is almost inestimable, is very smart. And what they're interested in is the metaphor of the starship and their personal experience and journey through life. So I'm drawing these parallels, I'm learning about the metaphors and I'm having an open conversation with these fans. And it is always fascinating to me.

Question:Kate Mulgrew:
I'm doing Warehouse 13 for the Syfy channel and I have another series called NTSF:SD:SUV on Adult Swim that's on the air right now. I have a play in the works in New York called Somewhere Fun. And that's a lot. I've been working at quite a clip for about seven months and I just got back from Australia where I did two conventions and I'm on my way to Atlanta to do another one and then Germany and then the Czech Republic. So the beat goes on. You know the world of science fiction is a big one and a broad one.

Question:
Not many people know that aside from your acting in the theater and on television, you do a lot of voice acting for video games. How do you feel about voice acting?

Kate Mulgrew:
I love it. It's a pleasure. It's a pleasure because it's so easy; there's no camera, I don't have to get camera ready, I don't have to be on point that way. I'm in a booth with the engineer and the producer and the mic. And it's freedom. It's freedom and I get to use my voice, which I like to play around with. And it's just great, great, great fun.

Question:
What would be advice you would give to your 18 year old actor self just starting out?

Kate Mulgrew:
Find what you love within the field of acting and honor it because discipline in my life has been everything. I was really lucky to find what I loved at the age of I would say 12 when I knew, 16 when I really started to break out, and 19 when I became professional. But once you find what you love you must honor it with the discipline. And that's where a lot of people fall down. Nothing comes to you, it is a real act of faith in one's self. And if you don't have the confidence in yourself pretend that you do. That goes a long way. But never be late, never be sorry, no apologies, no complaints. Know what you're about and do it as well as you can. Passion is everything.

Question:
What was your first professional job?

Kate Mulgrew:
Simultaneously I made my stage debut and my television debut. I played the part of Emily in Our Town at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut, which was just terrific, and Mary Ryan on Ryan's Hope, which was a soap opera on ABC, but it was a very unusual serial written by Claire Labine. And I would say that, Mary Ryan really kicked me off to the races.

Question:
Are there any parts that you're kind of itching to play?

Kate Mulgrew:
I just played Cleopatra and I was really itching to play her. And I'm glad I did because you have to play her, when you can still walk and talk at the same time. Chekhov is still eluding me, and I don't know why. I've begged everybody, I will play any Chekhov. I'm about to play Izigenia in The Millionairess in New York, which will be fun. And there's a new play by Jenny Schwartz which I'm very interested in. I've done about four workshops for that, so I hope that we can get that to Broadway next season.

Question:
How often do you go to the conventions? And do you see yourself continuing with that for a while? Or do you think you'll be retiring from that scene any time soon?

Kate Mulgrew:
Well I think it's one of the great privileges of having done a Star Trek franchise; you get to do them. And I don't have to do them, I don't do them often. I do the good ones, of course they're all good but I would say that I do the big ones. And for instance, I just got back from Australia, it's also just a really lovely way to see the world. So if I do three or four a year I'm quite happy.

Question:
Have you heard about or seen the Star Trek online videogame that's on the Master of Multiplayer level? If they approached you would you be interested in doing voiceover for that game?

Kate Mulgrew:
Always. I love doing videogames. I did Dragon Age last year and it was really a ball.

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