​Kate Mulgrew's quest

Actress Kate Mulgrew has played a number of roles in her time, but none of them can match the real-life drama she writes about in her new book. She sat down with Anthony Mason for some Questions and Answers:

So what made Kate Mulgrew decide to write a book now?

"I wanted to be known," she told Mason. "For 40 years I've been an actress playing other people."

kate-mulgrew-orange-is-the-new-black-244.jpg
Kate Mulgrew in "Orange Is the New Black."
Netflix

She's known for playing "Red" Reznikov, the head of the prison kitchen in "Orange Is the New Black" ... Captain Kathryn Janeway on "Star Trek: Voyager" ... and one of Sam Malone's girlfriends on "Cheers."

But to become known for herself meant Kate Mulgrew had to write about some painful subjects: the early deaths of her two younger sisters; a rape; and perhaps most painful of all, her choice to give her first born child up for adoption.

She said confronting her own past was at time shocking and scary. "The scariest part was that I would be dishonest in anyway," she said.

Katherine Kiernan Mulgrew grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, in a large Irish Catholic family. Her dramatic talents were apparent early. By age 20 she moved to New York, and quickly landed a starring role in a new soap opera about an Irish family bar in the city, called "Ryan's Hope."

kate-mulgrew-ryans-hope-abc-244.jpg
Kate Mulgrew with the cast of "Ryan's Hope."
ABC

She was catapulted overnight to stardom: "Whole gaggles of girls would stop me on the streets of New York, 'Mary Ryan! Mary Ryan!' I remember that. It was big."

That first season she was on top of the world. And then, she got pregnant. The father was an assistant director. Marriage was out of the question.

"He's a good, good guy. We were just too young," she said.

They broke up on a bench outside Central Park: "And he looked at me and, not unkindly, said, 'I wish I'd never met you.'"

At her mother's urging she went to Catholic Charities and agreed to put the unborn baby up for adoption, while the producers of "Ryan's Hope," wrote her pregnancy into the plot line.

"Six million people watched me have this baby," said Mulgrew. "And I had the baby. And I gave the baby up and went back to work two days later."

"And you had to have the baby on the show," said Mason. "How did you get yourself ready for that?"

"That was the hardest moment of my life -- walking onto that set with that stunt baby and delivering a monologue about love, fidelity, endurance, and 'I will never leave you,' without falling apart."

She instantly regretted giving her up. "It was instant. I went immediately, the first week. I begged."

"You went to the church?"

"Yeah, I begged."

"And said, 'I made a mistake.'"

"Yeah."

"And they said?"

"No, no, no, no, no."

The decision, the church said, was unalterable.