Catching Up With Diana Muldaur, Part 1
Diana Muldaur is a most-formidable woman, and many of her best characters over the years have shared that same trait. Two, of course, immediately spring to mind: Dr. Katherine Pulaski on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Rosalind Shays on L.A. Law. Crafting those ladies, Muldaur brilliantly meshed an icy-cool demeanor, smarts, a certain sense of style and – more with Dr. Pulaski than Shays – a touch of warmth. Fans haven’t seen much of the actress lately, as she spent several years back in her family home on Martha’s Vineyard tending to her husband, film and television writer Robert Dozier, who passed away on January 6, 2012, following a lengthy illness. Now, however, Muldaur – who also portrayed Dr. Ann Mulhall in the TOS hour “Return to Tomorrow” and Dr. Miranda Jones in another TOS episode, “Is There In Truth No Beauty?” -- is slowly stepping back into spotlight.
She attended Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas this past August, sat for an interview included among the extras on the recently released Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Two Blu-ray set, and told StarTrek.com during a recent conversation that she’s eager to get back into the game, perhaps as a producer. Below is part one of our extensive interview with Muldaur, and be sure to visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read part two.
First, how are you? Please fill us in on what life has been like for you the past few years…
Muldaur: I’m doing well, thank you, other than this cold I’ve been fighting. I’ve been keeping busy. One of my projects has been working for an animal shelter. It’s called the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard, and it’s up and running. Of course, it’s a huge job to keep dollars coming in to non-profits, but every cent that comes in is used. We have two employees, but we don’t have an executive director. The board is the executive director, and I’m on the board. So, everything that does come in goes directly to the animals.
You don’t consider yourself retired, right?
Muldaur: You have to understand, actors do not ever retire. They just fade away.
Can we assume you’re not comfortable fading away?
Muldaur: Not very (laughs), because I’ve always been a workaholic, which is why I did what I did when I did it. I did just about everything. I must say that I turned a lot down that I didn’t approve of or that I thought was violent. I’m not into violence. I’m into the dignity of human beings. So I did anything that I thought I could bring an ounce of dignity to, no matter who it was. Certainly by the last 10 years of my career I only did things for people and with people who I thought were really good people. I’d found that making a living with people who were not good people wasn’t worth it anymore. So, now, after many years of caregiving and my husband’s death, which kept me out of almost everything, which I was happy to do for him, and which I would do 900 times again, I’m trying to find myself again and who I am again. So it was fun to go to the Star Trek convention this summer and go, “Wait, there was another part of me, and that was a very strong part of me. And these people are a part of me, also.” So that’s what I’m doing, working on who I am and what I want to do. Do I want to produce something? Do I want to get up on the stage in New York, because I haven’t had my face fixed and I’m not going to be doing film? So I’m working on that.
You mentioned the convention. What was that like for you? Did you enjoy it? What did the fans most want to hear about?
Muldaur: I absolutely loved doing the Star Trek convention because the people are so wonderful. They’re third generation now, and possibly fourth generation, for all I know. Some of them have named their children after my characters. So they are my extended family. Often you don’t see your extended family for a long time, so it’s always a joy to see them. There was a nice turnout, I thought. I had a lovely time. The people’s questions are mostly, as anyone in any family would ask, along the lines of “How are you?” or, if they knew I’d lost my husband, they’d say, “I’m so sorry that you lost your husband.” And they asked about the shows, of course.
You also sat down before a camera to share your memories of TNG for the Season Two Blu-ray. How quickly did the memories of your year on TNG return to you?
Muldaur: They will be there forever. It was hard work. Either I carried a whole episode occasionally, or I was on and off the set a huge amount of time. Those things never leave you. Also, there was a lot of confusion at Paramount and what The Next Generation was really about and, etc., etc., etc. We had lot of interesting people coming through: interesting writers, an interesting cinematographer in the second year. It was a lovely, lovely group of people to work with, but there was a lot of change and chaos, to some degree, to go through.
We’ll talk more about TNG, but let’s first turn the clock all the way back to 1968, to almost 45 years ago, when you made your first appearance on TOS as Dr. Ann Mulhall in “Return to Tomorrow.” How did you land the role?
Muldaur: I don’t have a clue. I’m assuming they called my agent, that they’d seen something I had done and put in a call. Or maybe my agent sent in my name. I have no idea. I do know that I was sent the script and that I didn’t have to go in and read for it. I actually never read for any Star Trek thing.
What do you remember of playing Dr. Mulhall?
Muldaur: I actually have (laughs) a VHS tape of the episode. I don’t have a DVD of it. And I have to look at it. The episode is still bound. It still has the plastic wrap on it. But I do remember an incredible crew. I remember a brilliant costume man. I remember meeting all the people. Shatner was one of the best young actors out of Canada. He wasn’t young by me; he’s older than I, but he was a very good actor who’d done some very wonderful performances in things before Star Trek. All of them were very interesting, very good people. I remember incredible lighting. They could make you incredibly gorgeous in a second.
Your second TOS episode was “Is There In Truth No Beauty?”…
Muldaur: That second one I did, I remember going over to meet with Sidney Furie, to talk to him about a movie he was doing called The Lawyer. That was also at Paramount, and because I had no time, I went over to him to talk about this movie while I was in my wig that I was wearing for Star Trek. And I got that. I ended up doing that movie out of the second Star Trek episode I did. I actually remember more about “Is There In Truth No Beauty?” than I do about the first one. Like always, it went through my agent. It’s always through your agent. You get a script and tell your agent you’re interested or not interested. What was interesting on this episode is we sat down, did a reading, and they threw out the entire script. We then got scenes brought to us every morning, which we read, memorized and shot, and none of them were in sequence. I remember thinking, “How can they possibly do it this way? This is totally inane. I can’t believe this is happening.” They had no idea what happened before we did a scene or what would happen after we did a scene. And it was extraordinary. That one, I really did look at the episode because I couldn’t believe they’d ever put it together. It was absolutely wonderful and there was no way you could tell, absolutely no way you could tell that that’s what happened with that.
For part two of our exclusive interview with Diana Muldaur, in which she discusses her memories of Star Trek: The Next Generation in detail click HERE. And for information about the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard, click HERE.