Kate Mulgrew is just finishing lunch when I call at the pre-arranged time and she asks for a moment so she can order coffee. She’s eating and talking because her schedule is so tight it requires serious multi-tasking. Right now, she is juggling filming a new season of Mr. Mercedes and is also on a multi-city book tour to promote her just released book, How to Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir.
It is a book, she tells me, that she felt compelled to write as it chronicles “the turbulent, tragic and joyful “time she spent in Iowa with her dying parents.
Knowing that sometimes expressing raw and painful emotions can be a psychological relief or catharsis, I ask if that was true for her.
“It was the opposite of that,” says Mulgrew. “Instead writing took me into deeper waters. But I told myself you have to do this; you have to write this.”
Those deeper waters were both emotional and physical as Mulgrew holed up in a friend’s house on Lough Corrib, which is, she describes as a desolate, deep and col lake near Cornamonai west Ireland.
“Writing this book was lonely,” she continues after taking a sip of coffee. Since I’m drinking a cup as well, it’s almost like we’re having coffee together. “It took three years to write because I had to keep leaving to film Orange is the New Black.”
Was it necessary to live on Lough Corrib to write the book, I ask?
“It is the only way to write a book about them and how much I loved them,” she tells me, in that husky voice I remember from her playing Captain Kathryn Janeway of “Star Trek: Voyager.”
Embracing the remoteness and isolation while writing about death, Mulgrew talks about the Ireland’s short winter days.
“The sun is out for just short time, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then the darkness is upon us again,” she says. “I shed many tears I would force myself to write until four and then light the fire and go for a walk or make dinner.”
In the end, it was worth it.
“These were the people who shaped me,” she says, as she sets her cup down for the last time, a clinking sound on my end of the phone signaling an end to the interview. “It’s important, that experience of saying goodbye, to be present with your parents at their mortal illness, to take the journey with them. We know that the turn in the road to sickness and then to death is universal. We know that bend in the road does not go into a flowering meadow, but into a darkening thicket from which no one will ever return. I’m one of eight children, each one of us has a different story and each one of us gets to go their own way in telling it. And this was mine and this is how I decided to tell it.”