Believe it or not, this is Orange Is the New Black star Kate Mulgrew's first-ever Emmy nomination. Mulgrew, who has been on TV since the '70s with roles in Ryan's Hope, Mrs. Colombo and, of course, Star Trek: Voyager, got her first nomination for playing Galina "Red" Reznikov on the hit Netflix series that took the Emmys by storm in 2014.
"I don't know, there's a poignancy to that," Mulgrew said about her first nomination coming for OITNB. "I mean, seven years as Captain Janeway was no walk in the park, I can assure you, but I think that science fiction always falls into some crack, don't you?"
How is the new Emmy nominee celebrating? Is there more Star Trek in her future? The conversation continues below.
Your work as Captain Janeway was amazing.
Thank you. But to be recognized for Red...it moves me because clearly it indicates that the viewers see how much I love her, how organic the chemistry is between Red and Kate Mulgrew and how the threesome of Jenji Kohan, Kate Mulgrew and Red work so symphonically. I mean, let's face it—if Jenji had not written this gorgeous part within the confines of this outrageously good series, none of these commendations would be upon us. You have to have a genius at the helm and you've got it in Jenji Kohan.
How are you celebrating?
Celebrating is another thing. I'm down at the beach writing a book right now and my boyfriend is here with me, but since we both are working, we're going to put it off until tomorrow night then the sky's the limit. No holds barred, it's wild down here in Virginia, you know what I mean? We'll have a great dinner, we'll have fun.
Have you heard from your co-stars?
I've heard from everybody! [Laughs.] I'm so happy because I care about them so genuinely. Taylor Schilling and I are friends for now many years, I played her mother on Mercy. I quickly fell in love with Natasha Lyonne. I found Uzo Aduba to be one those extraordinarily singular actresses. Nobody on Earth could've created Crazy Eyes but that girl. To see her recognized in this way makes me very, very happy. And Laverne Cox bringing transgenderism to the fore in a manner that is both gracious and courageous and unprecedented is also very, very moving to me. I'm of an age now where I see how emboldened women have become, how confident they are now and it's liberating. It's marvelous.
What do you think it is about Red that people love?
I think they love her very red-ness and by that, I mean her vividness. The red hair, the red lips, the red fingers—all emblematic for someone who is quite, quite vivid, who wishes to survive in a vibrant way. The kitchen is not just the kitchen, it's a way of feeding people, nourishing people, raising everything up a little bit. [In Russian accent] "I'm Russian, I'm complex." The Russian people are epic, right? They're very, very eccentric, deep. This is the world of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and Chekov...and all of that...resides within her. And therefore it resides within Mulgrew. And I cannot tell you how delicious it is to tap into that. It's extremely freeing, do you know?
JoJo Whilden for Netflix
Yes. Whenever I watch Orange Is the New Black—especially this season, I was so rooting for Red.
Thank you, [In Russian accent] because that is a bad girl who is coming after me.
Yes, she was!
[Still in Russian] Very bad.
And I was pleased with the ending.
[Laughs.] OK, good!
Are you excited to explore Red's backstory more? I feel like we only scratched the surface.
Yes, it's true; you only have the tip of the iceberg there, but you know that those Russian mobsters were not carrying candy bars into my deep freezer, right? So we have to figure it out. My gut—although I do not know, I really don't, Jenji doesn't say and Jenji's right not to say because maybe Jenji doesn't even know yet. This is part of the mysterious and wonderful quality of Orange Is the New Black, we're all sort of walking on the razor's edge. I think that she will reveal the backstory a little bit further. I have a gut instinct that tells me that Red took the fall, I took the heat for the family. Now, why I was chosen or if I was self-elected—we have to know more...I think maybe she will touch on that this season. I hope so!
Do you think you have played Captain Janeway for the last time?
I never say never, and I never say die. She was wonderful to play. That was a hell of a ride too. You know, that was almost a decade of my life and I went from Janeway to Katharine Hepburn. I don't know. I don't have a crystal ball. If you asked me three years, "Do you think you'll be playing a Russian prisoner with magenta hair you're going to have to cut?" I would've said, "You're out of your mind!" But you see, this is the beauty of the unexpected. This is life.
Do you want to add anything about Orange or your nomination?
Just that I think it needs to be absolutely clearly stated that all of this is springing from the remarkable and beautiful pen of Jenji Kohan and I am very aware of that. If it's not on the page, then it cannot be. I feel so lucky to have her behind the illustration of Red.