Kate Mulgrew has always showcased women of strength and power. From imitating Katherine Hepburn to appearing on Star Trek: Voyager, she has been there and done that.
However, she feels differently about Galina “Red” Reznikov. Red is a jailbird who is hard in the outside yet soft on the inside. This is a role she plays in Orange is the New Black.
Red, according to Mulgrew, is full of energy and has a lust for life that far surpasses the desire for fun that others possess. The women of “Orange is the New Black” are not your typical bored and desperate housewives.
“Red is a broad, wide and deep canvas,” Mulgrew said of her current role. “There is none of the patina of the other characters I have played. She is not particularly gracious. Her attractiveness does not leap out. What grabs you by the throat is her absolute lust for survival and for what she considers her level of excellence. That is what you see within this very bleak environment of Litchfield Women’s Prison.”
They are wild and honest ladies with an independent streak lurking somewhere in their characters. The prison culture shown so brutally and realistically in the series has the sort of standard discipline to break the spirit of its inmates. Yet they have made a vow that they will prevail despite the odds.
The inner politics of the jail environment makes life a tough affair for Red. As she loses her kitchen job she finds the rest of her fellow inmates in a state of protest against her very existence.
But, Red is not a loser who retreats from challenges with her tail tucked into her hind legs. She is a fighter who makes her grip tighter with each passing second.
“You must always remember one thing about Red: She never gives up,” Mulgrew said. “There is always something strategic going on. … If you remove the component of loneliness, which is very real, Red is determined to scratch her way back up. She is no kid. Time is passing quickly by, so her brain is always turning, turning, turning.”
But the solitude she faces makes the prison conditions very difficult to tolerate. The complexity of human relations and events that transpire behind the barbed wire and brick walls of the penitentiary create a mental hell that has to be endured since it cannot be cured.
“What is at the root of this relationship is what Red has always hoped was an alliance, a friendship, because she is absolutely matched by this character in every respect: the capability, the intelligence, the strength, the humor, the capacity for popularity,” Mulgrew said.
“Red finds all these elements intriguing, but there is a part of Red that understands that on the most base level, they are entirely different people, and this is what is revealed as the season unfolds. More than that I cannot say, but it’s chilling.”
Some other characters interact with Red and the consequences are so interesting and curiosity-evoking that the audience members will be on the edge of their seats in no time.