'OITNB's Kate Mulgrew (AKA Red) Was Once A Trekkie
When the highly anticipated second season of Netflix's popular prison dramedy Orange Is The New Black debuts this Friday, viewers will rejoice to see some beloved (and lovely) faces roaming the halls of Litchfield Penitentiary: Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren. Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett. Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson. Yoga Jones. Sophia Burset. And many, many more. But some faces may look more familiar than others. Sure, everyone knows that Laura Prepon (who plays Alex Vause) is from That 70's Show. And everybody knows Jason Biggs (who plays Larry Bloom) as Jim from American Pie. But what about the Litchfield's Master Chef, Galina "Red" Reznikov? Why does she look so dang familiar?
It's probably because Red's portrayer Kate Mulgrew is most famous for starring in the Star Trek series Voyager as Captain Kathryn Janeway. Voyager, which was a spin-off of Deep Space Nine that ran from 1995 through 2001, is still the only entry in the space franchise to feature a female lead. We almost didn't get to see Mulgrew's Janeway — originally, feature film actress Geneviève Bujold was cast as the intrepid captain, but dropped out on the second day of filming the pilot, feeling unprepared for the rigorous schedule of TV production. Mulgrew, who had previously auditioned for the role, was brought in to replace her. She requested that the character's name be changed from Nicole to Kathryn, and the rest is history.
Of course, Orange Is The New Black and Star Trek: Voyager aren't the only credits on Mulgrew's resume. The 59-year-old Iowa native (and NYU dropout) is, in fact, a Golden Globe-nominated actress. She was recognized all the way back in 1980 in the Best TV Actress - Drama category for her leading role in Mrs. Columbo. The show was a spin-off of the popular detective series Columbo created specifically as a vehicle for Mulgrew, and although it only lasted for 13 episodes, it put the budding star on the map.
More recently, Mulgrew has recurred on such television show's as NBC's The Black Donnellys, Syfy's Warehouse 13, and NBC's medical drama Mercy (which coincidentally starred OITNB's own Taylor Schilling). Mulgrew also has extensive experience on stage, appearing around the country with such prestigious companies as the American Shakespeare Theatre in Connecticut, Seattle Repertory Theatre, California's La Jolla Playhouse, and NYC's Roundabout Theatre Company. In 2002, she won acclaim for her performance as Katharine Hepburn in the one-woman play Tea At Five, which was written specifically with Mulgrew in mind.
She won an Obie Award for Outstanding Performance in 2008 for her role as Clytemnestra in the off-Broadway production of Iphegenia 2.0 at the Signature Theatre Company. Most recently, Mulgrew appeared on Broadway in the 2008 production of Equus starring Daniel Radcliffe. She co-starred as Hesther Saloman, a sympathetic court magistrate trying to help Radcliffe's troubled Alan Strang.
Mulgrew recently cultivated a certain amount of controversy after lending her voice as the narrator of the film The Principle , a strange little "documentary" that, five centuries after Copernicus, argues that the Earth is the center of the universe. Fans were worried — was Mulgrew a crazy geocentrist? Why was she supporting a project funded by a notorious anti-semite and Holocaust revisionist? Thankfully, since the news broke of her involvement, she (alongside scientist Lawrence Krauss, who appears in the film) has come forward to say that she was essentially "tricked" into participating in The Principle.
Thank goodness. We couldn't stand the thought of our beloved and heroic Captain Janeway being a proponent of such backwards thinking. Orange Is The New Black is one of the most excitingly progressive shows on television, and we can't wait to cleanse our brains of that geocentric nonsense by watching Red kick some ass and take some names in the new season.
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