Kate Mulgrew made “Star Trek” history when she became Captain Kathryn Janeway, the first female lead in the franchise. As she told the authors of “Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration,” Mulgrew knew that being the first female lead of a “Star Trek” show was monumentally important. She also knew that she’d be dealing with a lot of sexism on the set because the studio and the producers were nervous about putting a woman in the captain’s chair. However, Mulgrew was determined to live up to the expectations of the studio and the fans.
As she took on the impossibly busy schedule required of a television leading lady, Mulgrew was also navigating single motherhood. She had two young boys at home, who she had to connect with around her work schedule.
The rigorous filming schedule took such a toll on her and her family that at one point, she almost walked away from “Star Trek: Voyager.”
The Grueling Schedule
Mulgrew had been working in television for almost two decades by the time she landed the role of Janeway. So, she was used to the long days required for filming a television show. However, she’d never been the lead in a series before.
Mulgrew told the authors of “The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years” that she was not prepared for the grueling schedule required when she was needed for almost every scene.
“Put yourself in my shoes. My four-and-a-half inch heels that they had to have made for me in Italy because I was so much shorter than everyone else. Take me away from my nine and ten-year-old sons. I’m leaving the house at 3:45 in the morning and I’m returning around 11 at night. It’s an 18 hour day. On Friday nights I go into Saturday mornings. The exhaustion… I lost 20 pounds in a month. Rick [Berman] would call me and say, ‘You might want to eat something.’ The challenges, the dialogue, the heart… and I was in every scene.”
In an interview with Working Mother Magazine in 1995, Mulgrew revealed that she followed this schedule for 10 months out of the year. She had two months off each year to devote to her sons, which she cherished. At the time, Mulgrew believed that though the schedule was tough, it worked for her family because “children enjoy a mother who’s fulfilled.”
Eventually, The Schedule Took Its Toll
By the time the show was in its sixth season, Mulgrew felt differently about how her job was impacting her family and her personal life. In an interview with Starlog magazine in 1999, Mulgrew admitted that she had missed a lot of important times in her sons’ lives, and it was wearing her down.
In an interview with Little Review the same year, she said that her marriage to Ohio politician Tim Hagan forced her to reassess her priorities. Since she worked in L.A. and he worked in Ohio, they had to manage a cross-country courtship. Though they were deeply in love, balancing a long-distance relationship, their careers, and parenting was nearly impossible. Their children didn’t even meet each other until the wedding.
Mulgrew went from being a single mother of two to a married mother of four, negotiating a relationship with two step-children. She struggled to balance a new marriage and parenting her own children and her stepchildren with her demanding job.
When contract negotiations for the seventh season began, Mulgrew demanded more flexibility in her filming schedule. The studio and the producers weren’t keen on the idea.
Mulgrew Almost Walked Away
Mulgrew told Little Review that the contract negotiations for season seven of “Voyager” were incredibly difficult. She admitted that she came very close to walking away.
Mulgrew was vocal about her job dissatisfaction. As Starlog reported, during press for the sixth season, Mulgrew strongly hinted that she wanted to leave the series. This left fans wondering if their beloved captain would be gone before the show’s final season.
Fortunately, the studio and the producers came back with an offer Mulgrew felt good about. Mulgrew told Starlog that if the team behind “Voyager” hadn’t been willing to make adjustments to her schedule, she would have left. The stress of filming constantly for over five years had finally become too much.
“It really involved my happiness quotient. In many ways, I set the tone on the set. My mood and my approach are very important, and I think there’s nothing worse than a professional actress who is unhappy because she misses her husband and children. But [Berman and Braga] realized that. And if I may say so, they were not only gentlemen about it, but very gracious. I am much, much happier now.”
Mulgrew told Little Review that when the contract negotiations were difficult, she looked to Janeway for inspiration.
“My big conflict throughout this renegotiation was that Janeway would not renege. She would complete this mission. And that’s what I’m going to do… All of my creative investment, my ego is invovled in this, my deepest feelings about what I’ve done – not the least of which is the fact that I was the first female captain. To tell you the truth, without me, I think it wouldn’t fly. They’d be all right, they’d find a way, but I felt very strongly that it wouldn’t be the same. So I’m going to complete this series with as much panache as I can.”
“Voyager” wrapped up after seven seasons, with Captain Janeway at the helm until the very end.
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