|Kate Mulgrew at Barnes & Noble|
When I was in middle school back in the 1970s, a new soap opera called Ryan's Hope was broadcast on ABC. A new young actress named Kate Mulgrew played fiesty Mary Ryan and I was hooked. The show was great and she was fantastic. Years later, Mulgrew played a feminist icon, Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager, and recently, she plays tough prison inmate Red on Orange Is The New Black.
Mulgrew just wrote a memoir, Born With Teeth, and the release was celebrated at Barnes & Noble in Union Square in New York City this past week. A full house was there, with fans from all of her TV shows (it was easy to distinguish them from each other) showed up to hear Ms. Mulgrew in conversation with Augusten Burroughs.
After Mulgrew opened with a brief reading from chapter, dealing with her steely mother, an Irish Catholic woman who danced with President Kennedy at his inauguration, Burroughs made a comment stating how impressed he was with the "stylishness of her prose, it's stunning", and I wholeheartedly agree.
He asked her why she wrote her memoir, filled with "lots of love, and lots of darkness" now. She replied that her parents were now dead, and that at her age (she was 58 when she wrote it two years ago), she had a willingness to face difficult things.
Growing up in an Irish Catholic family, she quickly learned that stoicism is key. Important things and emotions were never spoken of in her family. "Austerity, spartan, simplicity- that is the Irish way" she said.
She decided if she was to write a memoir, it had to be honest. She learned that she had a "vast vulnerability" and her book "summed up everything that defined me". She believes that she "put out something that portrays a deeply flawed person", and after reading the book (I will link to my review at the end of this post), I find that to be very true. And aren't we all flawed people?
The process of writing her memoir was a process she "adored from the first moment." She rented a beach house on Long Island, and had a strict schedule. She loved her "solitary life" and "felt blissfully happy" during the process of writing.
Writing a memoir is different from acting in that she was putting herself out there, not becoming a character. The hardest chapter of the book to write was about going back to work right after she gave birth to a baby girl she gave up for adoption. That decision colored her entire life, and is an important theme in her book.
In the scene, Mary Ryan had just given birth and was talking to her baby about the life she would give her. Holding the stunt baby and giving that monologue was incredibly difficult, and reading that chapter was heartbreaking.
Mulgrew took several questions from the audience, about her favorite role (Capt. Janeway of course), what's on her bucket list (mostly travel) and how her memories came back so vividly as she was writing her memoir.
Ms. Mulgrew was very respectful of her fans, and took time to talk to everyone as she signed. I have been an admirer of hers for years, and was delighted to find that she is as intelligent, gracious, kind and interesting as I hoped she would be.
My review of her brilliant, honest and heartbreaking memoir is here.