Kate Mulgrew Plays 'Not My Job' On 'Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!' Kate Mulgrew plays an inmate named Red on Orange Is the New Black and was a former Starfleet Captain on Star Trek. She's recently written a book called How to Forget: A Daughter's Memoir.
NPR logo

Not My Job: We Quiz Kate Mulgrew, 'Red' On 'Orange Is The New Black,' On Colors

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/726777389/726994094" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Not My Job: We Quiz Kate Mulgrew, 'Red' On 'Orange Is The New Black,' On Colors

Not My Job: We Quiz Kate Mulgrew, 'Red' On 'Orange Is The New Black,' On Colors

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/726777389/726994094" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now the game where we reward a lifetime of achievement by offering a few minutes of a pale imitation of it. We call it Not My Job. In the far, far future of "Star Trek," humans have created a paradise of equal opportunity. But weirdly, it still took them 30 years to find a woman to captain a starship.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That was Kathryn Janeway, played by Kate Mulgrew. She also starred as Red in "Orange Is The New Black." She has a new memoir. She joins us now.

Kate Mulgrew, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

(APPLAUSE)

KATE MULGREW: Thank you.

SAGAL: So you - it's very rare for an actor to play one iconic character on television. You've done two. What do you get recognized most for when you're walking down the street?

MULGREW: Oh, Captain Janeway...

SAGAL: Yeah, I bet. I bet.

MULGREW: ...Followed closely by Red. And sometimes, I get the double whammy, which is an absolute neck-twister. Red, Captain Janeway, Captain Janeway, Red.

(LAUGHTER)

MULGREW: And I'm - you know.

SAGAL: That's a very interesting Venn diagram intersection. But I'm sure...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...They find you.

MULGREW: They do.

SAGAL: I myself am a "Star Trek" nerd, so I'm going to start by asking you about that. Was - when you were offered that role of Captain Janeway in "Star Trek: Voyager," did you know what you were in for? Did you know?

MULGREW: I had no clue.

SAGAL: Really? You...

MULGREW: I certainly had no idea that it was going to be as life-changing as it was.

SAGAL: So you...

MULGREW: Well, just imagine. I'd gone from leading a sort of normal life as a typically ambitious and forward-leaning young actress in Hollywood raising my two sons, and suddenly I'm spouting technobabble, which is absolutely like learning Greek overnight...

SAGAL: Sure.

MULGREW: ...Working 18 hours a day in 4 1/2-inch heels.

SAGAL: Wait a minute. I can't remember seeing your feet. They made you wear heels on the bridge of the starship?

MULGREW: Because the men were so tall.

SAGAL: Really?

MULGREW: And if I had not had those heels, I would have looked like a little cartoon character.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: They could have made you - decided you were just a particularly short kind of alien.

MULGREW: They could have done that.

SAGAL: They could have done.

MULGREW: But then Captain Janeway would have been really, really pathetic (laughter).

SAGAL: And how did you - how have you found - and I'm sure it continues to this day - your interaction with the fans?

MULGREW: I think the fans - the "Star Trek" fans are the best fans in the world.

SAGAL: Really?

MULGREW: Yeah. Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: But you never had a moment that it was represented by that classic "Saturday Night Live" sketch with Bill Shatner - get a life. You've never been cornered by these people arguing with you about the way...

MULGREW: I wouldn't...

SAGAL: ...You steered the Voyager?

MULGREW: I'd rather have my hands chopped off than say such things. I mean, it's so rude. And I said that to Bill.

SAGAL: Really?

(LAUGHTER)

FAITH SALIE: What did he say back to you?

MULGREW: These people have given you your career.

SAGAL: Wait a minute...

MULGREW: Why are you acting as if they haven't? It's no big secret. And it works both ways.

SAGAL: You...

MULGREW: (Unintelligible).

SAGAL: You lectured...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...William Shatner about how...

MULGREW: I lecture him all the time, and he only laughs at me.

SAGAL: Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So then, a while ago, you were cast as Red, who is the chef in the kitchen and a powerful person.

MULGREW: She was the cook in the beginning, yeah.

SAGAL: She was the cook. She changed.

MULGREW: Yeah.

SAGAL: But did you - I mean, I imagine there's not a lot of research you can do to be a starship captain. But did you actually have to do, like, the classic, like, actor research to play that role or did you go into...

MULGREW: Well, I had to audition for the role. We all had to audition. They gave me a very small piece of paper on which was written, this is Galina Red Reznikov. She's been in prison for some time. She's of Russian extraction, but we only want you to tap it.

SAGAL: Tap it.

MULGREW: We're just looking for the slightest flavor...

SAGAL: Right.

MULGREW: ...Of Russia. (Imitating Russian accent) But that isn't what came out of my mouth.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I wanted to talk about your new book, "How To Forget," which is...

MULGREW: Yes.

SAGAL: ...Quite a remarkable book. I've been reading it all week. First of all...

MULGREW: Have you really?

SAGAL: I really have.

MULGREW: Tell me the truth.

SAGAL: All right. I'm going to tell you the truth.

(LAUGHTER)

MULGREW: Make the sign of the cross in front of your viewing audience.

SAGAL: I'm making - it's really - I could make the sign of a cross. It's not going to make much difference.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Seriously. But I - the truth of the matter is is that a lot of the people we have on the show have written books, and I often make an attempt to read their books. In your case, I actually got quite involved in it. It's beautifully written. And the story is - I'm not going to say entertaining as much as as deeply involving. The book is about the death of your parents.

MULGREW: Correct.

SAGAL: And I am told that your book "How To Forget" is the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon under the category dysfunctional families.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Congratulations.

(LAUGHTER)

MULGREW: Thank you. That's wonderful to know.

SAGAL: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So there's a lot of very intense stuff about your family, about your father, your mother. I know your parents are no longer with us because, as I said, I read the book. But...

(LAUGHTER)

MULGREW: I wouldn't have written the book had they still been living.

SAGAL: That is...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Let me just say that that is obvious.

MULGREW: Correct. Good.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Did they live long enough to understand and appreciate how successful you became?

MULGREW: He never saw me act.

SAGAL: Never - did - he didn't even watch...

MULGREW: He never watched me on television.

SAGAL: He...

MULGREW: Not...

SAGAL: Not even, like, "Star Trek," which is pretty much a guy thing?

MULGREW: He never watched me on "Star Trek." That just confused him.

SAGAL: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

MULGREW: He seemed to be absolutely perplexed by it. What the hell are you doing up - where are you?

(LAUGHTER)

MULGREW: I said, I'm in the Delta Quadrant, Dad. Don't you get it? He said, oh, just go get the vodka. Forget about it.

(LAUGHTER)

MULGREW: Yeah.

SAGAL: I'm just going to ask you about one more thing. The - your first book, your more autobiographical memoir, is called "Born With Teeth..."

MULGREW: Correct.

SAGAL: ...Because you were born with teeth.

MULGREW: I was, yes.

SAGAL: What does that mean if the baby is born with a full set of teeth?

MULGREW: That she's a witch.

SAGAL: Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Are you a witch?

MULGREW: I'm a kind of witch.

SAGAL: Sure. Because I've always wanted to say this, and now I can. Ready?

MULGREW: Yeah, ready.

SAGAL: Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

(LAUGHTER)

MULGREW: Wow.

(APPLAUSE)

MULGREW: I've always wanted to say this to you.

SAGAL: Go ahead.

MULGREW: (Imitating witch) I'll get you, my little pretty...

SAGAL: Very good.

(LAUGHTER)

MULGREW: ...And your little dog, too.

SAGAL: Well, Kate Mulgrew, we are delighted to talk to you. We've invited you here to play a game we're calling...

BILL KURTIS: Red in "Orange Is The New Black," meet the rest of the spectrum.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So we want to explain the theme. We noticed a lot of color in your recent work, so we thought we'd ask you about some other colors that didn't show up in your TV show. Answer two out of three questions, and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of their choice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Kate Mulgrew playing for?

KURTIS: Sebastian Clarkin of Fall River, Mass.

SAGAL: All right. Ready to do this? I think you're ready to do this. I get that sense, yeah.

MULGREW: Ready - I'm going to give it a shot.

SAGAL: All right.

MULGREW: Let's go.

SAGAL: Here's your first question. The nomadic Tuareg people of the Sahara don't have a word for the color purple, which has resulted in some interesting quirks, such as which of these? A, when Tuareg filmmakers did a remake of Prince's "Purple Rain," they had to call it "Rain The Color Of Blue With A Little Red In It..."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B, instead of saying it turned purple with rage, they say, chewing on one's own toes; or C, they refer to purple jelly beans as the ones that are at least better than the black ones.

(LAUGHTER)

MULGREW: Definitely B.

SAGAL: Definitely B. It was actually A.

MULGREW: I know it was.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You know it - yes. That's...

MULGREW: I know it was. But it was so obvious that I thought I'd just...

SAGAL: Yeah, right.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: This was actually true. It was reported on NPR. These Tuareg filmmakers made their own remake of "Purple Rain."

MULGREW: Yeah.

SAGAL: They called it "Rain The Color Of Blue With A Little Red In It." And apparently, it's not bad. All right. Your next question - Pantone 448 is the technical name for a brownish color that has what distinction? A, dogs adore it, which is why all dog food is that color; B, it is the color of everything once you turn the lights off...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, it is the very worst color in the world.

MULGREW: C.

SAGAL: You're right.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That's what happened.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: What happened was an Australian marketing company did a survey. They found out that this shade of brown is the least appealing color in the world, and thus they then used it for cigarette packaging.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: OK, last question - you may think you know all the colors, but you don't. Which of these is a real color? A, fulvous; B, gamboge; C, smaragdine?

(LAUGHTER)

MULGREW: I bet it's A, but I'm going to go with B.

SAGAL: B, gamboge.

MULGREW: Yeah.

SAGAL: You're right, but they're all real colors.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

MULGREW: That's not fair (laughter).

SAGAL: It's true. Fulvous can be described as a brownish yellow. Gamboge is a transparent mustard. And smaragdine is a kind of green.

MULGREW: What do you mean? How can it be mustard if it's transparent?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, I think the idea is it's - like, it's a mustard color, but it's, like, lighter, I think.

MULGREW: Oh, do we have to do colors? Are we finished?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: We're not quite finished. We're only finished when Bill gives the score. So, Bill, how did Kate Mulgrew do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Well, proving gamboge is the new black...

(LAUGHTER)

KURTIS: Kate got 2 out of 3, so she wins.

SAGAL: Congratulations.

(CHEERING)

MULGREW: (Laughter) I did it. I win.

SAGAL: Kate Mulgrew stars as Red on "Orange Is The New Black" and is a former Starfleet captain onboard Voyager. Her new, very powerful memoir is called "How To Forget." Kate Mulgrew, what a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much...

(APPLAUSE)

MULGREW: It's been all mine.

SAGAL: ...For being on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

MULGREW: Thank you very, very much.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.

MULGREW: Take care.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FANCY COLOURS")

CHICAGO: (Singing) Fancy colors, fancy colors...

SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill orders the beef tongue extra rare, if you know what I mean. It's the Listener Limerick Challenge. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.