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The "Orange Is The New Black" star is more than fine with playing the "big, fierce fat-looking woman who runs the kitchen," she said in a recent interview.

Julie Mazziotta
May 01, 2015

Kate Mulgrew is brilliant on Orange is the New Black, as Galina "Red" Reznikov. From her character's extremely memorable introduction in the first season as the inmate-cook who serves Piper, the show's protagonist, a bloody tampon sandwich, to her showdown with second-season baddie Vee, it's clear that Red is a powerful force among the inmates: she's scary, but she's also beloved. And it's hard to imagine anyone other than Mulgrew in this complex role.

In her new memoir Born With Teeth ($18, amazon.com), Mulgrew explains this is a very welcome change in her long career as an actress.

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“I’ll be 60 this month,” she told People. “For most of my life I was very pretty and played the heroine. You’re really boxed in when you’re pretty. They don’t see anything else.”

Mulgrew famously played Captain Kathryn Janeway for six years on Star Trek: Voyager, and said that fans of her former role likely wouldn’t recognize her if they tune in for OITNB.

“I let my vanity go,” Mulgrew said. “What you’re saying is, ‘That’s Kate Mulgrew? But she used to be pretty, [now she’s] this big, fierce fat-looking woman who runs the kitchen.’ So that’s what I get to be now.”

But don’t be mistaken—Mulgrew prefers it that way. “I just have such great joy now.”

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She says that the mere existence of a character like Red is part of a larger shift in Hollywood, telling the Los Angeles Times, “I'm working for a genius by the name of Jenji Kohan, and she's created 50 parts for women. Cindy Holland is running Netflix. These are unconventional, unorthodox, exceedingly bright and ferociously independent women. I think the day is coming where we will be wanted; not just accepted but wanted as the stripped-down, compelling women that we are.”

“Without our plastic surgery, without our bulimia, without our makeup and without 8 million men wanting to go to bed with us, we will be charismatic in and of ourselves,” Mulgrew continued. “That is coming now, but it has taken quite awhile.”

What still hasn’t caught up, she says, is that many women in Hollywood (and elsewhere) are fighting for equal pay, which Mulgrew described to People as “absurd.”

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“I should’ve been paid every cent [Patrick] Stewart was paid,” she said about her Star Trek co-star. “Not to mention the three and a half hours I spent in makeup and hair, and somebody fooling around with my bosoms and somebody fooling around with my shoes.”

The increased attention will hopefully make unfair pay a thing of the past, just like the notion that actresses of a certain age should disappear. “I think it’s changing now,” Mulgrew said. “Because female roles in TV are golden now. This whole game is shifting.”

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