Tuesday 20 February 2018

Kate Mulgrew's novel idea: Lough Corrib is the new black

Kate Mulgrew has impressed in Orange Is The New Black but now she's writing a novel in Galway

Kate Mulgrew's novel relates the pain of putting her baby up for adoption
Kate Mulgrew's novel relates the pain of putting her baby up for adoption
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

Kate Mulgrew is sitting in a little cubicle of a vast complex just outside Paris, looking far more glamorous than her faintly IKEA-ish surroundings. She's here to promote the latest series of Orange is The New Black, which premieres on Netflix on June 17. She plays Galina 'Red' Reznikov in Orange, which earned her her first Emmy nomination. She gawps in some bemusement at the canteen workers from the complex, who've been dressed in the orange jumpsuits from the show.

"Ah would ya look at the cut of them", she jokes, in what, to be fair, is the most flawless Irish accent this side of Cate Blanchett in Veronica Guerin. It's no surprise that Mulgrew is so adept at the brogue, because, she tells me, she's been living in Galway since Christmas. She is writing a book in the west. This one is a novel - "you can tell greater truths in fiction" she tells me - and is hotly anticipated because her last book, a memoir, set the publishing world alight and made headlines around the world. In it Mulgrew detailed the pain of finding out that she was pregnant at the age of 22 and subsequently putting the baby up for adoption.

Two decades later, after years of refusal by the Catholic organisation that had arranged the adoption to give her any information about her child, Mulgrew reunited with her daughter. Along the way, she experienced a number of broken relationships and, later, struggled to find a balance between her career as a busy actress and her role as the single mother of two young sons. "My work did cause quite a stir and I was quite open but I felt it was the right time" she tells me. "This book is going to be good too, I hope. I'm on the shores of Lough Corrib in a quite exquisite house. There is the bleakness of Ireland and then the sun comes out and it's just mystical right away. And you know what I saw a few weeks ago? I parted the curtain and there was something staring at me just where you are. A march hare! This big! The size of a five-year-old child! It was Alice in Wonderland."

Mulgrew is "Irish on both sides 100pc" but it was actually her great grandfather who was born here. "He was the real thing - from Cavan." She was a "small-town girl" from Dubuque, Iowa, the eldest of a family of eight. When Kate, as a child, expressed an interest in acting, her mother, Joan, brought home biographies of great actresses and sent Kate to summer acting schools.

At age 17, she left home and traveled to New York City to study acting, but soon dropped out to become a waitress. Nonetheless she continued auditioning and won a role on Ryan's Hope. Her career would build throughout the 1970s and the 1980s - the character of Mrs Columbo was created just for her - and in the early 1980s she married theatre director Robert H. Egan, with whom she had two sons: Ian Thomas and Alexander James.

She and Robert divorced in 1993 and she was on the verge of selling her house before fate intervened in the form of her role of Captain Janeway in Star Trek Voyager. It brought her to a whole new audience and is probably the role she's most associated with. She describes the process of describing her turbulent life in her memoir as "scary, it was putting a lot out there." She won't give any details on her new novel "but knowing you as an Irishman, you'll wheedle it out of me. There is a reason I'm in Ireland: call it the climate, the place, the mystical atmosphere, but it does feed the literary part of me." It all sounds fabulous. Can I come for tea, I squeak as I'm ushered from the room. "Why have tea when we could have you know what!" Kate cries winkingly.

Season 4 of Orange Is The New Black premieres on Netflix on June 17

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