Take Five with...'Orange Is The New Black' star Kate Mulgrew: Why I’m Telling My Story

Kate Mulgrew’s mother once joked that if her daughter’s life story were a book, she wouldn’t have been able to put it down. Now the actress proves her mother right with her page-turning memoir, Born With Teeth.

From her rise as an actress in New York City to her search for the daughter she put up for adoption in her twenties, the actress known to Orange is the New Black viewers as Red, 60, has written an incredibly moving and entertaining first book.

Speaking to Hello! Online over the phone ahead of her visit to Toronto (she’ll speak at the Toronto Reference Library’s Bram & Bluma Appel Salon on May 1), Kate says, “I’m looking forward to that. A lot of my very dear friends are Canadians. I think Canadian actors are among the finest in the world.”

Here, she tells us five reasons why it was the right time to write down her experiences on and off camera.

Photo: Augusten Burroughs

The catalytic moment that led to my writing the book happened at a dinner party about two years ago at my dear friend’s home in New York. I sat next to a man whom I found charming and delightful, and we talked about books at length. At the end of our conversation he said, “I know you’re an actor, but you talk like a writer.” I said, “Only in the closet.” He said, “Come out of the closet and send me fifty pages. I’m a literary agent. Write anything you want and it will stay between us.” I did. And he called me the day after I sent them and asked if he could represent me. After that it was full steam ahead.

My daughter Danielle has read it and loved it and she, of course, is key. I needed her stamp of approval because finding her is in a large part the arc of the book. The reviews have been almost unilaterally positive and I must say I’m a little surprised because it’s a daunting prospect to write a first book at the age of 58, and yet it was the right time. The stars were aligned! I think maybe that’s why it’s fallen into a state of grace.

When I finally engaged in the process of writing I realized the seriousness and the discipline that it would require. Happily for me, I’m very accustomed to that. What I’m not accustomed to but absolutely loved was the solitary nature of writing. I adored the solitude. It was between seasons of Orange is the New Black so I was lucky. I was alone at the beach, where I had the days to myself, and that was just glorious to me. Throughout the process of looking back I learned that vulnerability is every bit as imperative as courage, if not more so. It was a fascinating experience and I loved it.

I’ve always kept a journal. I’ve always written long letters, which I know is not fashionable, but I loved to write them. When I lived in Italy with [then-fiancé] Roberto Meucci, I had a beautiful room in the villa with an electric typewriter. I was lonely there, and so I wrote endless, copious tomes to my friends.

It was very difficult to open up about my personal life because so many feelings are associated with the birth of my daughter, feelings of guilt, remorse, shame and regret, all of which I touch on in the book. Revealing something that has been held close to the vest for forty years is a risky thing, isn’t it? It’s a bit like skydiving. I’m going to steal from the great William Saroyan who says, “In the time of your life, live.” And I subscribe to that.

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