Interview: Voyager banner
KATE MULGREW:
COMMANDING PRESENCE

The ever-gracious Kate Mulgrew on her tour of duty aboard the USS Voyager

An elderly Janeway with Reg Barclay in the series finale Endgame

From our Voyager Farewell special:
TV Zone Special, #41

When Gene Roddenberry first brought Star Trek to television, individuals were promoted not on the basis of race or gender, but on ability. Unfortunately, men still usually won out when it came to being in charge. It wasn’t until the birth of Star Trek: Voyager that fans could see a woman sitting in the captain’s chair on a weekly basis. Kate Mulgrew made Trek history when she took on the starring role of Captain Kathryn Janeway.

“It was a brand new deal and a lot was riding on this captaincy and their choice of a woman,” explains Mulgrew. “It was a pretty unprecedented move and a very bold one. The votes were by no means all in when I stepped onto the bridge. They [the producers and writers] were hesitant, conservative and careful. It wasn’t, I think, until I showed them that I could match their idea of what a good captain should be, that they relaxed a little bit and grew more confident in their choices for me.

“As actors, we very often lead or help the writers, you know? We’ll show them what we’re capable of doing and how great or limited our range is. I think they understood, certainly by the end of the show’s second season, that I’d fulfill my promise to them. I could probably go anywhere they would take me, except into the superfluous, the inane or the stupid, none of which interests me. So they steered away from that. I never became involved in situations that I felt would be beneath Janeway, and I made that clear to them right from the start.

“I remember losing 50 pounds during that first week on the job. I’m kidding,” she laughs, “but it was a high-wire act in the early days, no question about it. The technobabble alone drove me crazy. I hardly slept or ate. It was all I could do to get home and kiss my children goodnight and start studying my lines for the next day...”

Delta Quadrant Captain

As captain, Janeway must make tough decisions in order to ensure the survival of her crew. The last seven years have not been easy for her; she has changed as a person, but, according to Mulgrew, it is for the better.

“Janeway has grown, I feel, as any captain would, in accordance with the situation,” notes the actress. “She’s a veteran Space traveller now. Not only that, but she’s also a seasoned captain and, in many ways, a fearless one, too, which I don’t think she was in the beginning. Janeway has overcome her intrinsic fears about the Prime Directive and being lost in Space.

"Best of all, she has managed to get over the guilt she’s had regarding her original decision which landed them in the Delta Quadrant. She surpassed all that and has become a rather intrepid leader, as is demonstrated in the episode Friendship One, when the Starfleet admiral on Earth with whom she’s talking says, ‘There’s nothing more I can tell you now, Kathryn. You know it all.’

Voyager’s Legacy

Although Mulgrew is looking forward to taking on new roles, it is her personal life, not her professional one, which she is planning to focus on over the next several months. “I’ve been working pretty much non-stop for 30 years. I think I have to stop for a bit,” says the actress. “I need to pay attention to my husband and my marriage as well as my sons, whom I’ve really missed and who’ve missed me. I want to get back to the simple reflective pleasures of reading, cooking, walking, dreaming, etc, all without constraints. However, I’d like to learn to do these things again with grace and generosity. I also hope to write a book about this time in my life and my experiences as Star Trek’s first female captain. Eventually, I’d like to teach, and certainly go back to the theatre. Each of these in due course, though.”

Looking back at her tenure in the captain’s chair, how would Mulgrew like Voyager fans to remember Janeway? “I hope they remember her as I will, and that’s as a really good captain who had courage and heart,” she says. “Nothing would please me more..."

Steven Eramo

Full interview in TV Zone Special #41

Robert Picardo interview here

Star Trek images © Paramount TV

Feature © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction

Previous Voyager covers on TV Zone

TV Zone #137

TV Zone #128

TV Zone #121

TV Zone #118

TV Zone Special #36

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