Kate Mulgrew on Aging in Hollywood: 'I Let My Vanity Go'
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.
Kate Mulgrew is brilliant on Orange is the New Black,Â as Galina "Red" Reznikov. From her character's extremely memorable introduction in the first season as the inmate-cook who serves Piper,Â 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.
â€œIâ€™ll be 60 this month,â€ she told People. â€œFor most of my life I was very pretty and played the heroine. Youâ€™re really boxed in when youâ€™re pretty. They donâ€™t see anything else.â€
Mulgrew famously played Captain Kathryn Janeway for six years on Star Trek: Voyager, and said that fans of her former role likely wouldnâ€™t recognize her if they tune in for OITNB.
â€œI let my vanity go,â€ Mulgrew said. â€œWhat youâ€™re saying is, â€˜Thatâ€™s Kate Mulgrew? But she used to be pretty, [now sheâ€™s] this big, fierce fat-looking woman who runs the kitchen.â€™ So thatâ€™s what I get to be now.â€
But donâ€™t be mistakenâ€”Mulgrew prefers it that way. â€œI just have such great joy now.â€
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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, â€œI'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.â€
â€œWithout 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,â€ Mulgrew continued. â€œThat is coming now, but it has taken quite awhile.â€
What still hasnâ€™t caught up, she says, is that many women in Hollywood (and elsewhere) are fighting forÂ equal pay, which Mulgrew described to People as â€œabsurd.â€
â€œI shouldâ€™ve been paid every cent [Patrick] Stewart was paid,â€ she said about her Star Trek co-star. â€œNot 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.â€
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. â€œI think itâ€™s changing now,â€ Mulgrew said. â€œBecause female roles in TV are golden now. This whole game is shifting.â€