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Fans of “Orange is the New Black” know Kate Mulgrew as “Red,” the prison’s tough-talking kitchen manager. “Star Trek: Voyager” fans remember her as Captain Janeway. The characters Mulgrew plays are hard-nosed and complicated, much like her. She grew up in a large Irish Catholic family with a father who drank too much and a mother who had big, unrealized dreams. Just as her career was taking off, Mulgrew became pregnant, and decided to give the baby up for adoption. In a favorite interview from the last few years, Diane spoke with Kate Mulgrew about being a mother, a daughter and an actress…and about the gift of best friends.
- Kate Mulgrew Author, "Born With Teeth." She stars as Red in the Netflix TV show "Orange Is The New Black" and played Captain Janeway on "Star Trek: Voyager."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. When actress Kate Mulgrew was a girl, her mother came to school to watch her recite poetry. After it was over, her mother has this message for young Kate. You could be a mediocre writer or a great actress. Kate Mulgrew took her mom's advice and went on to do just that. These days, she stars as Red in the hit Netflix series "Orange Is The New Black."
MS. DIANE REHMBut the path hasn't been an easy one. Kate Mulgrew opens up about her journey in a new memoir titled "Born With Teeth." She joins me today from the studios of WCPN in Cleveland, Ohio. You're, as always, welcome to be part of the program. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Kate Mulgrew, how wonderful to see you.
MS. KATE MULGREWHow wonderful to be here. I'm a long time admirer of yours, Diane.
REHMOh, thank you so much, Kate. You know, when I saw the title of this book, I thought, well, that must be sort of mythological. I've never heard of a child born with teeth, but you actually were.
MULGREWOh, yes. I think it's one out of every thousand have neonatal teeth. And Shakespeare says we're witches. Richard III was born with teeth. At any rate, it was metaphor for what was to come in my life.
MULGREWA harbinger for what was to come.
REHMExactly. But your mother, I gather, put you in a cardboard box to display your teeth to the whole neighborhood.
MULGREWShe did, indeed. She put me in a shoebox. I can't imagine whose shoebox that was. The local giant. Yes, she did. She wanted everyone to see my perfect beauty as she called it.
REHMKate, tell us about your parents, how they met and what their relationship was like.
MULGREWMy parents actually met in Chicago. My mother was private secretary to then Senator Kennedy, Jack Kennedy, and she was living with Jean Kennedy, her great friend who was working at the merchandise mart, I think. And my mother attended Sunday mass on a regular basis and so did my father. And he had set his sights on her and after mass one day, he said to her, I like the cut of your jib and I think we should go and have a drink or dinner or something like that.
MULGREWAnd she gave him the once over and she said, that's interesting, but I don't date short men. And so, cut two, six months later, the campaign was over. She was back in Massachusetts and Jean was married, Effie was married, but mother remained unmarried. So she picked up the phone and she called my father and she said, if you're still interested, I'm game.
REHMWow. And they began a long, very fruitful, shall we say, marriage.
MULGREWI love the way you put that emphasis on fruitful. Indeed it was, yes.
REHMHow many kids...
MULGREWAs all Irish Catholic marriages were in those days, right? Post-war, get down to business.
REHMSo you have eight siblings. You also have two sister who died as children. Do you really think you killed one of them?
MULGREWThe important thing is, Diane, at 4 years of age, I certainly believed it.
MULGREWAnd if you look at any of the photographs, if you were to come to my apartment in New York, of my -- taken with me and mother, you will see there's no smile. It is the face of a very grave little girl, a little girl who has realized her own moral accountability. I did believe it and I followed my mother like a shadow for months until she finally just shooed me out the door. But that -- I start the book there because that is the moment of moral reckoning.
MULGREWI remembered it as being absolutely pivotal in my life.
REHMMy god, your teaching -- your Roman Catholic teaching had to have penetrated so deeply into your heart.
MULGREWI suppose so, but also -- you mean guilt. I think you're referring...
MULGREWYes, yes, the guilt. And the anger, you know, because everybody got to go out and play and there I was in the position of the oldest girl so, of course, I had to look after this little one. I was furious. And between those two conflicting emotions, something happened to me. But it was the moment of recognition of self, I'll tell you that.
REHMHow did you mother react to the deaths of these two children?
MULGREWWell, the first one, Maggie, she was -- I wouldn't say she was blindsided. That was SIDS. That was a crib death. She continued to organize and fold Maggie's laundry for weeks after the death of this baby until my father and his mother, my grandmother, became -- grew quite concerned and sent her on a cruise. And when she returned, of course, she continued to have babies. It was Tessie, the second daughter she lost, that I think fractured my mother's world and possibly a part of her mind, certainly her well being 'cause Tessie, at 12, was diagnosed with a brain tumor, inoperable.
MULGREWAnd my mother brought her home to die. And in the two and a half years that ensued, I think my mother lived through a kind of anguish that no one can understand who has not themselves experienced it.
REHMI think you're absolutely right. You know, as I read this book and I assure you, I did not miss one word of this book...
REHM...it was so compelling for me to read. It really is your mother who is such a force in your life. She is the one who encourages you toward acting. She is the person who really remains the strength that underlies your own strength.
MULGREWYes. Yes, she was defining. She was the one. I suppose if you put my hand to the fire, I'd say she was the great love of my life. But, you know, I was so little when she was big and what you really want, when sibling after sibling is being produced, is your mother's full and undivided attention. So I did what I thought necessary to gain that attention. I followed her instructions, her counsel, I took very seriously. And when she said to me, at the age of 12, you can either be a mediocre poet or a great actress, now which do you think you're rather be, it was clear to me that she wanted me to be a great actor.
MULGREWSo I said, I will do that. So I often think now, in the writing of this book, Diane, and I'll be 60 next week, that my mother not only shaped the arrow that I became, but shot me directly from her bow into the world, wanting, I suspect now, to live vicariously through me, as she was delivering baby after baby in Dubuque, Iowa, and I think probably struggling.
REHMWhat about your father?
MULGREWWhat about him? What about him?
REHMHe drank a lot.
MULGREWHe drank a lot, but, you know, they all did, all those guys, Irish guys. This is post World War II. Irish Catholic men very, very charming. Extremely attractive, my father. Extremely attractive to women. And I think after the war, they liked their drinks and in the production of all of these children, it took the edge off. But he did. He did drink a lot and I don't know how my mother reacted to that, except adversely upon occasion and then she would escape with her great friend.
REHMHow much do you think he influenced your life?
MULGREWHe was imperative to what I became. Had he been my champion as well as my mother, I think I would've been a softie. I wouldn't have been able to do it 'cause the world is a hard place when you're young and I was only 17 when I left. He was the rock against which I was pushed. My mother was my champion and he was my challenger. And between the two of them, a flame was allowed to develop. I couldn't have done it without my dad.
REHMSo then, somehow you had the courage, the wherewithal, the everything to go to New York to study acting with Stella Adler. Tell us about Stella.
MULGREWI was burning to get there, yearning to get there. And when I was a part of her master class, I was accepted, I think there were only 16 of us in that master class. I was in heaven because this was the queen. Her father, the great Jacob Adler and her brother Luther Adler had created the Yiddish theater in New York. She was a great, great actress at the time a wonderful teacher. She'd studied with Stanislavsky and had brought back her own method of acting, which was, if I had to break it down, as simple as this.
MULGREWRise about it. Be bigger than life. Understand what it means to be epic. Your job is to lift the audience up. And she grabbed my ponytail and she dragged me down to the stage floor and she said, now, I'm going to knock the Midwest out of you. Nothing against the Midwest, but it has no place on the stage. Meaning, you can't be polite anymore. Now you have to go deep, very, very deep and you're gonna tap into parts of yourself that you don't like and I want your sadness. I want your tragedy. I want your laughter. I want your passion. I want it all.
REHMKate Mulgrew, her new memoir is titled, "Born With Teeth." We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Kate Mulgrew is with me. She has finally produced a memorable memoir. She really talks about her life in ways I have rarely heard, certainly a famous actress, speak openly and frankly. I want to ask you about getting the part of Mary Ryan on the soap opera, "Ryan's Hope." Tell us about that, Kate.
MULGREWWell, that sort of catapulted me into a minor kind of celebrity, but it was instant. It was a soap opera based on an Irish family who owned a bar in New York. And the central figure was Mary Ryan, the daughter, Mary Ryan, and she was a lot like me and she was a lot like the creator of "Ryan's Hope," Claire Labile, who subsequently became my great, great friend. She was full of life. She wasn't your typical heroine. There was nothing common about Mary.
MULGREWShe was vital. She was irreverent. She was unpredictable. She was smart. She was full of fun. She loved deeply, passionately. She was provocative and she had a lot of my qualities and a lot of Claire's so when we married those, when we synthesized those qualities, what happened was a hugely popular soap opera.
REHMHugely popular and then, Kate Mulgrew, you learned that you were pregnant.
REHMHow did that strike you and how did that fit in with "Ryan's Hope"?
MULGREWWell, I'm sure you can appreciate this, Diane. You're a woman. I was absolutely terrified and devastated. This was not only unexpected and a complete accident, but at this moment, just as my career was beginning and it looked like the flower was going to blossom beautifully, this came to pass.
REHMAnd how old are you?
MULGREWI think I am -- I have difficulty with facts, which you would appreciate if you knew me better. I think that might be part of the trauma of my life. I think I was 21, 20, 21 when this happened and I immediately, of course, went to the doctor who told me that I was indeed about ten weeks along. And from there, I went to Claire Labile and proffered my resignation. And she looked at me and she said, why? And I said, well, I'm going to have the baby.
MULGREWI don't want to argue this or discuss this at length, Claire. I don't know. It's just what I'm going to do. And she looked at me and she had this slow smile and she said, what would you think if we wrote it into the story. We'll make it part of Mary's story. It could be brilliant. Mary and Jack get married and then she gets pregnant and then their marriage difficulties and it will be full of conflict. And I realized what she was offering me was a chance to survive the following eight months with some measure of not only integrity, but happiness.
MULGREWSo I was grateful and I said yes. And from that meeting, I called my mother and I said, mother, something has happened. I'm pregnant. And she said, after a considerable pause, which filled me with fear 'cause she didn't often pause, well, you've made a big mistake this time, kitten, and you're gonna have to step up to the plate and you're going to have to give that baby up for adoption. So I want you to go deep now, tap into the best part of yourself, you know you are brave and strong enough to do this.
MULGREWIt's the best thing for the baby and it's the best thing for you. And, of course, what was going through my mind, Diane, was this is coming from the mother of eight children. She's not even hesitating in this injunction. And I said, but mother, listen. I'm making a little bit of money, not much, but sufficient enough maybe to get a nanny and if I could send the baby home with a nanny for the time being until I get my sea legs, we would work this out.
MULGREWOh, no, kitten. That won't work, you know. We're just getting over Tessie and I have a long way to go with that recovery and your father would not tolerate this. So my answer to that is no, that won't work. You must march over to the Catholic Home Bureau and find yourself a good social worker and get this thing done.
MULGREWTrue to form, I did.
REHM...exactly what you did. And do you have the book there with you?
REHMCould you read for us from the top of page 90 over to the middle of 91?
MULGREW"Yes, I think so, I reply. I had a baby this afternoon and I was wondering if I could see my baby. The beautiful young nurse with the warm brown eyes not stops to consider me. A shadow crosses her lovely face and she asks, what is your name? Kate Mulgrew. She pauses and says, let me see. She consults the large white journal sitting open on her desk. A minute passes during which she intently studies this journal. Finally, she closes the book, looks at me and with a modulated voice says, the birth record shows that your baby is to be put up for adoption.
MULGREWI nod and place a hand on the countertop. The nurse is glancing furtively up and down the corridor while she speaks. Hospital policy forbids the birth mother to see her baby under these circumstances, you understand. I do not nod. I see the brown eyes harden and my pulse races, but the good nurse, the infinitely, good nurse, whispers, if you go quickly down the hall, you'll see the nursery on your right. Stop in front of the window and I'll come and pull up the blinds. But you need to hurry.
MULGREWDown the hall, a little way quickly and there's the nursery. Just as she promised, concealed behind Venetian blinds, the nurse comes up behind me very softly and again, looking to her right as if expecting someone who might disapprove, she manipulates a tangle of silver cords and choosing one, pulls and the room is instantly revealed. Just look for your name on the bassinet. Your daughter is there. And she points to the front row. Daughter. She said daughter. And there, on the front of the bassinet is the label clearly marked, baby girl, Mulgrew.
MULGREWI press my face against the glass, strain to see her tiny brown face under a pink cap, pink cap over black curls, miniature fists suddenly escaping from the blanket, opening and closing. I put my hands to the window, can't be helped, and the little fists are opening and closing, opening and closing and my face is flattened against the pane and then, thwack, the Venetian blinds are dropped, the nursery disappears. I turn in bewilderment, but the nurse is adjusting her cap and saying, just under her breath, that's enough now. You need to go, and hurries off in the direction of a group of doctors coming in to make their rounds."
REHMThat had to have been devastating.
MULGREWWell, it was beyond devastating, wasn't it? It was the separation of a mother from her daughter after the merest glimpse of that daughter.
REHMBut you never, ever gave up hope of finding her.
MULGREWMore importantly, I instantly regretted this. That must be said. I am not one of those people who says, I have no regrets. I have some quite profound regrets and I immediately understood that this was an unnatural thing for a girl like me to have done and that in a large part, I don't know, I'd done it for my mother, I had done it for my career. I don't know what I was thinking, but I regretted it and I immediately returned to the Catholic Home Bureau and said, I've made a mistake. And they said, this is closed.
MULGREWThese adoptions are closed and the vault is tightly, tightly locked. And so I persevered. I mean, I kept going back. I appealed even to the archbishop, but no, no, no, no, no. So then, I hired private investigators as the years unfolded and I understood that she had been adopted not by the couple that I had had a hand in choosing, but a couple out of state and the Cardinal Terrence Cook had intervened on behalf of this couple from Massachusetts and that my daughter had been sent to Watertown and that is where I met her 21 years after the fact.
REHMAnd that was really quite a moving time. Actually, I want to talk about the fact that you did go onto get married. You had two boys and even then, a desire to find your daughter, to see her, to meet her. You never give up on that.
MULGREWNever. So I would say that it was something in my nature, fundamental. Directly after the recognition of the dimension and the size of this mistake came the pledge to myself that I would find her. And, you know, I have a funny quality. When I make up my mind, I must see it through. It's an Irish quality. It's probably a primitive thing, Diane, but it's in me. And so it took 21 years, but destiny is an interesting thing and mystery has often worked in my favor. And one night I was at a gala. I was emceeing it, in fact, with Rosie O'Donnell.
MULGREWI was honoring my great friend Nancy Addison who was then dying of cancer, although we did not know it at the time. And she had been working for something called the Incarnation Children's Center in Harlem. I didn't know that the nun who had facilitate my adoption was also a part of Incarnation Children's Center, but she was present that evening. She asked to speak to me privately. We went into the back and I faced her and I said, sister, how very interesting to meet you here.
MULGREWAnd now that we're face to face, may I say it's over and you are now going to help me. If you are a woman of God and a woman of mercy, it's time. And she did. She said, go home. I will send you documents promptly in the mail and I will send the same documents to your daughter. And the rest is then up to the two of you. And they came. I filled them out. They came to my daughter. She filled them out. We sent them in at exactly the same day. And two weeks later, a match was made.
REHMHow extraordinary after all that time.
MULGREWYes, it was extraordinary. Yes.
REHMYou know, in addition to your daughter, there is another woman in your life besides your mother who has been there with you the whole way and that's Beth.
MULGREWThat's my best friend.
REHMYour dearest, dearest friend. And having had one of those for so many years myself, I know how much she means to you.
MULGREWYou see, up until this moment, I'm fine and now I'm crying, Diane, 'cause there's something about the best friend that's such a gift. Is not blood, is it? It doesn't have to be, does it? And yet, you find each other across the mess hall at NYU. You recognize each other because you've got freckles. You both want to have a drink. And from that moment forward, she sees you through every powerless episode without blinking. She has been my staunchest support. She has been my touch stone and she is the one I love most unconditionally.
REHMI felt the same way about my darling friend Jane who died on Christmas Day two years ago.
MULGREWI'm so sorry.
REHMTerrible, terrible, terrible.
MULGREWBecause it's an irreplaceable thing, isn't it?
REHMTotally. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You get a casting call for "Star Trek: Voyager." You admit you really know virtually nothing about "Star Trek." So what did you think about this?
MULGREWWell, I just kept saying to my agent and my manager, what am I supposed to be doing? Is it a captain of a what? Am I flying around in space wearing one of those funny capes? What's she doing? No. You're an intelligent woman, I remember my manager saying. So listen to me very, very carefully. It is part of the "Star Trek" franchise. They are looking for the first female captain. You will have your own series called "Voyager" so we're asking you to go in and do your best.
MULGREWAnd, of course, you know, the first time I went in, I didn't do my best. It was shockingly bad, Diane, because I had fallen in love with someone who was, in fact, a Clevelander and I went to Times Square and it was pouring down rain and I gave the most despicable, unforgivable audition of my entire life at the end of which, I said to the casting woman to keep the camera running and I looked into the camera and I said, I apologize for this audition. It's really unspeakably bad, but you see, I've fallen in love and I can't get him out of my mind and I've got to go and meet him now so forgive me.
MULGREWI just remember her saying, well, that was interesting.
REHMWe've got to hear this.
MULGREWYou know, I'm really easy to get along with most of the time, but I don't like bullies and I don't like threats and I don't like you, Cullen. You can try and stop us from getting to the truth, but I promise you, if you do, I will respond with all the unique technologies at my command. Janeway, out.
REHMJaneway, out. I love that.
MULGREWI wish we could do that now.
REHMNow, there is, however, a piece I'd like you to read a paragraph on page 269 about playing Captain Janeway.
MULGREWOh, yes, yes. I see that, okay.
REHM"I played Captain Jane way."
MULGREWI got it. "I played Captain Jane way in an era that had not resolved the conflicts surrounding mothers and work. The major studios were still struggling to present their actresses as super women. No one wanted to hear about the difficulties of raising children. Not really. It was only acceptable to talk about rising above these difficulties and managing to do everything well to contribute to the great myth women are master multi-takers who fly through space touting techno-babble at warp 9.9 who then beam themselves home in time for dinner prepared by hand on a four burner Viking stove, tuck their tired, but happy children, into their lavender scented beds, learn 10 pages of dialogue to perfection while soaking luxuriously in a bubble bath and finally, reluctantly, turning out the light because, by god, she still has energy to burn."
REHMHow was it for you doing Captain Jane way and having a family?
MULGREWThat's the word.
MULGREWHard, arduous, constantly in conflict. Constantly in conflict. I mean, I was working long, long hours, Diane, you know, sometimes 16, sometimes 18 hours a day.
REHMAnd on that note, we'll take a break. When we come back, your calls, your email. I look forward to speaking with you.
MULGREWYou called my food disgusting. You're not getting hazed. You're not getting harassed. You're getting starved to death. You'll leave Litchfield as a skeleton in a body bag, pow. Now, march your yuppy (bleep) out of my kitchen.
MULGREWRed alert of a different kind.
REHMRed alert. What attracted to you that character of Red?
MULGREWWhat didn't? First of all, at my age, at that age, so I'll be 60 in a couple of days, I think I must've been, what, 57, 56 when I got the part, to be able to finally let go of my vanity was remarkably liberating for me because even though I'd played strong and smart characters all my life, they were tethered to a certain attractiveness. That was a mandate that I was always very aware of and a discipline that I always had to employ.
MULGREWBut with Red I could let it all go, and in that action I could go so deep, Diane, into the texture of this Russian woman, right, who was supposed to be, you know, fully assimilated, but that's not what I thought, I thought this is a total Russian peasant, and she's an excellent person. She's a deep-feeling person. She's a complex, complicated person. But she has a heart of gold and a spine of steel, and within those prison walls, I am a vivid and important person.
REHMAnd she loves to cook, and you love to cook.
MULGREWThat's right, we have that in common. Her cooking, the kitchen is, for Red, everything. It stands for her excellence of character. It stands for her integrity. Without it I think she loses herself. So you see a lot happen in Seasons 1, 2 and 3 to Red.
REHMAnd can you tell us anything about the next season that starts in June?
MULGREWOh, you people always want some spoilers, and then they come, and they shoot me when I talk. I think Season 3 is lighter in tone than the previous two seasons although at its core there's a story involving two characters, so unexpected in their partnership that the audience I think will be absolutely riveted. If you took the two least likely people to come together on that show and the magic that follows is just remarkable, and it's about something that I think happens a lot in women's prisons, and these two conspire to solve the problem as only Litchfield prisoners can.
REHMAll right, here's a comment from Ally on Twitter. I was impressed and surprised at Mulgrew's performance as Hesther Soloman in "Equus." I love "Star Trek" and "Orange is the New Black," but don't forget the stage. Tell us about your yearning to be onstage.
MULGREWWell, I love the stage. I was trained to be on the stage. The stage is my heart. That's how it all became, like Stella Adler. That I think is what the foundation of my skill is all about. And I continually yearn to return to it because the dynamic between the audience and the actor in the theater is somehow more robust and more vital. You know, the camera is -- although wonderful, it can be clinical. So I return to the stage as often as I can.
MULGREWBut having said that, I must be very frank. I cannot imagine a character that I would rather be playing at this point in my life, in a medium that I would rather be playing on, than Galina "Red" Reznikov on television, especially for Netflix. It's a wildly interesting time. Netflix is breaking the rules. The model, the brand, it's exciting, intriguing and innovative.
REHMThat's wonderful to hear from you, and as you say, here you are 60 or nearly 60.
MULGREWApril 29. Give me my 24 hours or whatever it is.
REHMI'm going to give you your 24 hours, and here I am at 78, continuing to do what I love.
MULGREWYou look so pretty from what I can see -- the audience, you know, that we're Skyping together.
REHMThank you, you're very kind. I want to ask you, though, about a tougher time in your life, and that begins on Page 195, and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.
MULGREWOh, this is a rough one, yeah, yeah.
REHMAnd it goes over to the end of the first paragraph on Page 197.
MULGREWMaybe the second -- yes, all right. We were driving across the Mojave Desert, toward Mammoth Mountain. Ian was in the front seat next to me, and Alec was in the back. It was late afternoon. I could feel the sun withdrawing. So I accelerated, hoping to make it to the mountain before dark. The energy in the car was high, lit by a strange, blue flame. Why isn't dad with us, Ian demanded. When is he coming up? Yeah, Alec chimed in, where's dad? Yeah, mom, where's dad, Ian asked again, but this time it was provocative, threatening. Where's dad, where's dad, Alec intoned from the backseat, and immediately his brother joined in.
MULGREWAs the two of them chanted, and the sound grew in volume, the car filled with a wild, unbearable tension, and although I struggled to hold on, to maintain composure, to hold tight to the awful secret, the voices of my children cracked me open, and I suddenly swerved and pulled the car off the road. Even then, I said to myself there was time, hold on, hold on. But the sun had now turned to deep orange and sat heavily above the horizon. The children were silent, looking at me with dark, curious eyes.
MULGREWI turned off the ignition and turned to face them. Boys, I said softly, I wanted to wait until we got home next week, when your father and I could do this together. Ian interrupted, loud and sharp, do what together? Alec instinctively clapped his hands over his ears. Your father and I love you very much. Oh, Ian shouted. We love you very much, but we have decided that we can't live together anymore. Ah, Ian screamed. And I forced my voice over his, stifling the sounds he was making.
MULGREWWe haven't been happy for some time, and we've decided to get a divorce. Ian was the first to go. He unsnapped his seatbelt and threw open the door. Then he started to run, as if running for his life, disappearing into the desert. Alec, in the backseat, looked at me. He didn't understand. He couldn't at first grasp it. His eyes were pleading with mine. But that was no more than a moment. Then his little face fractured as quickly and shockingly as if I'd taken an ice pick to it.
MULGREWHe wept quietly, strapped into place. He did not howl or shriek. He wept very quietly. I looked out the window and could barely make out Ian's figure as it melted into the sun. I knew that I must go after him, but for the moment I could do nothing. It was enough to stay in that car with my youngest child and do nothing. It was enough. It takes a very long time to sever a marriage in which children are involved.
MULGREWThere is a table, two chairs and a small pile of bargaining chips. This is how it begins, but it ends with one chair in an empty room. The days darken, the children are sliced open and split down the middle. Someone takes an arm. Someone takes a foot. The car pulling into the driveway on a Friday afternoon becomes a hearse, and everything is couched in lies. The house of old assumes a silence.
REHMYou know, I wanted you to read that because it's such a heart-wrenching passage as to how children receive that kind of news. It's the most vivid telling I've ever read of such an incident. How long did it take your sons to get over it?
MULGREWWell, they're different. I think for Ian, he's still feeling it. That's my oldest boy. He's 31. Alec has a greater resilience, I would say, and he's learned to accept it, and he has a good relationship with both of us. But I think you're right, Diane, something happens to them, which is almost irreparable. And of course we all long to avoid that moment. But in the end, if one is being honest, one is seeking one's own happiness.
MULGREWSo I knew I needed to get out of that marriage, and I needed to leave their father, and I have recounted this as truthfully as I can. Indeed it was like taking an ice pick to their beautiful little faces and hearts.
REHMWhat do you think might have happened had you stayed in that marriage?
MULGREWMurder may have happened. I'm exaggerating, but it would not have been good, and two boys would have come out of that filled with anger, filled with conflict. Certainly I would have been.
REHMAll right, it's time to open the phones. Let's go first to Christie in Reading, Pennsylvania. You're on the air.
CHRISTIEHi Kate, it's nice to meet you, and I wanted to just thank you for sharing your story in relation to giving up your daughter. I'm an adopted adult myself, and I'm on the board for Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights, and we have been fighting here in Pennsylvania in support of HB 162, which would open up original birth certificates for adoptees and, of course, bypass a lot of the hell that you dealt with.
MULGREWTerrible red tape, yeah, yeah, yeah.
CHRISTIEExactly, and here in Pennsylvania, Catholic Charities is a major, major opponent of the bill, and what -- your story is not uncommon. I just wanted to tell you, which I'm sure you know, and, you know, we'll always be fighting for truth in this community. And I just wanted to ask you how you felt about all of that, if you have spoken out at all or anything...
MULGREWWell, you know, I write in the book, Christie, that I found it just so antiquated. I couldn't believe it. I mean, to close the door on humanity in such a succinct way and to call yourself the Catholic Church was a shocking revelation to me because the church is to lead with mercy. Is it not? Mercy and goodness, and I got the exact opposite. We as women are forced to make decisions when we get pregnant. It's sometimes a very, very, very difficult thing. And the least you can expect from an institution like the Roman Catholic Church would be great empathy, and I did not feel that I received that.
MULGREWFor whatever reasons they put forward, I think that the birth records must be available, they must be open because someone like you then has the opportunity to contact your birth mother. And this can open up marvelous things.
REHMAnd let's hope it happens. And you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Now to Todd in Cleveland, Ohio, you're on the air.
TODDGreetings from Cleveland. Kate, thanks for coming by and including us in your book tour. I just read that you were here yesterday. I'm so sorry I missed that opportunity to thank you for a wonderful story.
TODDA longtime fan of course since the days of "Star Trek," not only because I was already a fan of that genre and that set of shows and movies but also because I thought it's not only about the story but about how strong an actor carries the story. And I always thought, you know, it takes a strong actor to lead that sort of thing. So my kudos to you and your work. I wanted to know what brought it to this time to write the book. Was there a reason that you decided, okay, before I reach a certain point in life, or I better get this done sooner or later, or what was that impetus.
MULGREWYes, before they carry me out in a body bag, I better write this book. It's a good question and especially good coming from a man because it indicates to me that you have empathy and depth because there is a time that is right and a time that is not right. And I know that I could not have written this book had my parents been living or had I not developed my relationship with my daughter sufficiently to give me the license to tell the truth.
MULGREWSo this happened two years ago, six, eight years after the deaths of my parents, and 18 years into the relationship with my daughter. And I felt I want very much to be known for who I am, not the roles that I played but for who I am because my own life, I think, has been pretty interesting. And it's a need. It's a yearning to reveal oneself as one truly is, to be vulnerable before the fat lady puts on her shoes, if you'll pardon the expression.
REHMBut, you know, you leave us hanging at the end of this book, as far as Tim Hagan is concerned.
REHMDid you and he actually marry, or is there another book coming?
MULGREWI think there will be another book coming, but suffice it to say about Tim Hagan that he is the love of my life, and I think I will say no more on that note in the event that I would discourage people from buying the next book.
REHMAre you already working on it?
MULGREWI'm, thinking about it, which is where the work takes place. It's in my wild imagination and in my mind because what happened after this was equally as interesting and equally as dramatic, at least certainly from my point of view, and it's all about love, and again it's all about the relationships that formed. You know, my capacity to love.
REHMAnd there was that five-year hiatus before you and Tim finally met in that book.
MULGREWYes, a hiatus of his choosing, which I make clear in the book. That is part of the mystery, as well. And you know that I end it by saying, you know, I've been -- I have had some time in the past, but now I have no time left. I'm very, very busy, very, very busy playing Captain Janeway on "Star Trek: Voyager." Ah, but look, I have Friday afternoon. I do happen to have Friday afternoon off. I will be the Bel Air Hotel at 1:00, hung up the phone, and he was there.
REHMHe was there waiting.
MULGREWHe was there, he was indeed.
REHMAnd that is precisely where Kate Mulgrew's book, "Born With Teeth," her first memoir, ends. Kate, it's been such a joy to talk with you.
MULGREWI can't tell you how I've enjoyed this. I do hope I meet you one day, Diane.
REHMWe shall, we shall.
MULGREWThank you, thank you very much.
REHMThank you. And thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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