Diana Charlton Muldaur (born August 19, 1938) is an American film and television actress. Muldaur's television roles include L.A. Law's Rosalind Shays and Dr. Katherine Pulaski in the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She has been nominated for an Emmy three times: twice for L.A. Law and once for Born Free. She was also nominated twice for a Q award for L.A. Law.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard, Muldaur started acting in high school and continued on through college, graduating from Sweet Briar College in Virginia in 1960. She studied acting under Stella Adler and made her name on the New York stage. She was at one point a board member of the Screen Actors Guild and was the first woman to serve as president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (1983–1985).
In 1965, Muldaur landed the role of Ann Wicker in the CBS daytime soap opera The Secret Storm. She then did a five-episode arc as Jeannie Orloff in the final season of Richard Chamberlain's NBC medical drama, Dr. Kildare.
Various roles as a guest star in episodes of numerous television shows followed, including"Gunsmoke", Bonanza, I Spy, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, The Invaders, Mannix, Mod Squad, Hawaii Five-O, The F.B.I., The Virginian, and a two-episode arc on the Ben Gazzara drama Run for Your Life.
Multiple collaborations between Muldaur and Burt Reynolds began when they met while guest-starring on the third season of The F.B.I. episode An Act of Violence in 1965. Subsequently, Muldaur turned in memorable guest performances on Hawk (1966) and Dan August (1971), both weekly procedurals with Reynolds in the title role.
In 1967, Muldaur guest-starred on the Gunsmoke episode "Fandango" with James Arness. An excerpt of that episode's dialogue was sampled on the Pink Floyd album The Wall, after "Hey You" and before the brief song "Is There Anybody Out There?"
In 1968, she appeared in the original Star Trek episodes "Return to Tomorrow" (as Science Officer Dr. Ann Mulhall), and in "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" as Dr. Miranda Jones. During this time, a friendship with creator Gene Roddenberry formed that led to him casting Muldaur as Marg in the television movie Planet Earth (1974) with John Saxon. Later she appeared as Dr. Katherine Pulaski in 20 episodes of the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988–1989).
Harold Robbins' The Survivors afforded Muldaur her first big break, when in 1969, she landed the role of Belle in the high-profile new ABC primetime serial. Unfortunately, the soap, a comeback vehicle for Hollywood icon Lana Turner, was canceled early into the 1970 television season after 15 episodes. The cast also included Ralph Bellamy and George Hamilton.
After the cancellation of The Survivors, Muldaur accepted a bevy of critically acclaimed supporting roles in many high-profile motion pictures: She received critical acclaim for a pivotal supporting role in The Swimmer (1968) with Burt Lancaster, which she filmed prior to gaining notoriety in Star Trek and The Survivors; Number One, released in August 1969, was a crowd-pleasing football film starring Charlton Heston and Jessica Walter, and the moody psychological thriller The Other with Uta Hagen was released in 1972.
In actuality, her more substantial film roles during this time were those that garnered the most commercial success: Sidney J. Furie's The Lawyer (1970), One More Train to Rob (1971) with George Peppard, and the John Wayne crime drama McQ (1974).
Muldaur appeared in the ensemble-apocalypse thriller Chosen Survivors (1974) with Jackie Cooper, Richard Jaeckel and Barbara Babcock. In 1977, she played Elaine Mati, the concerned wife of mentally-unstable doctor Telly Savalas in the independent film Beyond Reason.
Muldaur guest starred in the first season episode of Alias Smith and Jones, The Great Shell Game in 1971. In the second season of the Kung Fu in 1973, opposite David Carradine, she guest-starred in the episode "The Elixir" playing a traveling show-woman who yearned for freedom from men—topical at the time—and starred in the pilot episode of Charlie's Angels. In a 1972 Hawaii Five-O episode she was guest star, along with Ricardo Montalban.
She had a recurring role as Judge Eleanor Hooper on The Tony Randall Show during the show's 1976–1978 run, and was a guest star in season 2 of Fantasy Island. Muldaur guest-starred on The Incredible Hulk, playing the part of Helen Banner, David Banner's sister, in the Season 3, Episode "Homecoming" in November 1979. In 1981, she played a nun in the fifth-season episode "Sanctuary".
In 1975, she made a guest appearance in an episode of The Rockford Files as "Mrs. Bannister", a woman who has an affair with a former cellmate of the series' title character. During this time, Muldaur also appeared on Police Woman, Quincy M.E., The Streets of San Francisco, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and Hart to Hart, among others. She appeared in the first season of Angela Lansbury's Murder, She Wrote.
During the seven season course of the show, Muldaur had a recurring role on the Dennis Weaver mystery anthology McCloud as dependable fan-favorite Chris Couglin. Her character is introduced in the pilot episode in 1970 and makes her last of 16 appearances in April 1977. She reprised her role as Chris for the 1989 reunion movie The Return of Sam McCloud.
Muldaur was cast as conservationist Joy Adamson in the television drama Born Free about Elsa the Lioness. Filming for the ambitious project, which co-starred Gary Collins, took place in Kenya and the NBC series, which debuted in Fall of 1974, lasted one season. The series was released on DVD in 2012 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Guest stars on Born Free included Peter Lawford and several of Muldaur's future co-stars, including: Alex Cord (Chosen Survivors) and Susan Dey (L.A. Law).
In 1979, Muldaur starred with David Huddleston in the short-lived NBC sitcom Hizzonner, which lasted just seven episodes and co-starred Kathy Cronkite, daughter of news presenter Walter Cronkite. She played the Mayor's dependable secretary, Ginny.
First an Emmy-winning miniseries and then a weekly drama, A Year in the Life was a critical darling for NBC with a cast including Richard Kiley and Sarah Jessica Parker. As Dr. Alice Foley, Muldaur praised the show as an example of how television was becoming more realistic about women.
Muldaur is known for playing "dignified, sophisticated characters". Consequently, for the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the producers—who were unaware of her involvement with the original series—chose her to play the role of Dr. Pulaski, the new chief medical officer who would replace Gates McFadden's Dr. Crusher. "We needed someone with a little more of an edge," Rick Berman explained of the choice. "Kate's a strong, confident woman with a crusty edge who can hold her own with Captain Picard. Their relationship is not all that unlike the one between Kirk and McCoy ... although from the onset we had no intention of trying to duplicate the original team."
Muldaur said after her casting:
I hadn't kept in touch with Gene over the years. I'd only done a pilot of his, Planet Earth, in 1974. So this call was totally out of the blue. I love being back in Star Trek. It's a challenge, but a healthy challenge. I find so much TV depressing—even the sitcoms. The chances of shows working and being funny or meaningful are very slim. But this show is very exciting. It has such an uplifting view of humanity in the 24th century. They want the crafty old doctor, so basically I'm a woman Dr. McCoy.
Of Pulaski's willingness to stand up to the captain, Muldaur said:
We've been in a fairly stormy relationship due to two very strong personalities. But we end up admiring each other. I'm also giving Brent Spiner (as the android, Data) a very hard time, treating him as a total machine, because that's how I see him, a machine that I can't treat and I don't deal with. But I'm also beginning to see the wonderful android that he is.
Some television critics praised Muldaur's performance, with one noting her "wry, no-nonsense warmth that plays nicely off of some of the icier regulars". The addition of Muldaur, along with Whoopi Goldberg, also served to redress the absence of women from the principal cast, as the departure of McFadden and Denise Crosby had left only Marina Sirtis, a rapid attrition of women that recalled the imbalance of the original Star Trek series.
Ultimately, however, Muldaur found working on the syndicated show an "unhappy" experience, saying, "The imagination and joy wasn't there." "Everybody was out for themselves. I don't think they were happy to have me there." "It wasn't what I hoped it would be. I thought it would be wonderfully inventive and wonderfully creative, and I found it was not any of those things. But it did give me Trekkies. I love Trekkies. I find them very dear."
The "crusty" character also proved unpopular with some fans, who among other things found her treatment of the lovable android Data to be mean-spirited. Muldaur left the series after only one season. Show representatives denied that she had been fired, saying, "Technically, she's just not returning", while other sources said that her option had not been renewed. Roddenberry described Muldaur as "a most talented actress", and said that the decision "to let her go was made solely because the hoped-for chemistry between her and the rest of the starship cast did not develop." Berman added, "The thought of bringing Gates back was a good idea to us. The feeling was that we had perhaps made a mistake, and the best way to remedy it was to bring her back." The "revolving door" and the limited opportunities for female crew led critics to suggest that the mostly-male series still had a problem featuring women.
Muldaur subsequently earned two Emmy nominations for her role as pushy and power-hungry lawyer Rosalind Shays on L.A. Law. Of Roz's creation, by prolific television writer David E. Kelley, Muldaur said:
We didn't think of her as an evil wench at the time. I don't think they knew, and I don't think I knew, what she was going to evolve into. Obviously, they wanted her to stir things up in the office. I don't think they quite understood how she was going to stir things up in America ... The hardest part is having to gear up to play her because some of the things she does are so horrifying. I just say, "Oh, no, they can't have her doing that." If it were a man doing the same thing, no one would blink. In fact, it wouldn't even be good copy. It goes on every day. It's that a woman is doing... things a man has done forever and ever.
In one episode of the Stephen Bochco-drama, Jill Eikenberry's character Ann Kelsey tells Shays: "If you were a man, you'd be applauded for your achievements." Muldaur insisted her character "was just too strong for a lot of men".
Muldaur described the L.A. Law actors as "the closest family", and said she was "thrilled" to play a villain like Shays after portraying "everybody's mistress for 20 years", and expressed fascination with the public reception for Shays:
Not my kind of lady at all. I often read a script and am just horrified. I can't believe they'd be having me do these things. I find very little to like about her. But I'm shocked by the reaction of people. They say, "Yea! Rosalind!" A lot of women come up to me and say, "I wish I could have said something like that when so-and-so said such-and-such to me." I think, "What a terrible thing to want to do," but they mean it. I don't think anybody would have really noticed if it had been a man. They would have said, "He's a pain in the neck," or something, but they wouldn't have doubted his word for a second. I'm doing some things now that horrify me, but if Leland had done the same things, nobody would be reacting the way they are now.
The surprise scene where Roz and Leland are seen in bed together was ranked as the 38th greatest moment in television in an issue of EGG magazine. Equally spectacular was Roz's fatal exit from the show, falling down an elevator shaft. Muldaur joked: "I was as shocked as everybody else. I thought maybe I had asked for too much money!"
After L.A. Law, Muldaur retired from show business. At one point she contemplated a face-lift, noting in 2000 at the age of 61, "You don't see many people my age on television", but eventually decided against it, remarking, "Somebody has to look the right age." Her stated ambition is "to play all the great women's roles... I'd love to play Lady Macbeth."
Jill Eikenberry, who played Ann Kelsey on L.A. Law, said on E! True Hollywood Story that the whole L.A. Law cast loved the dynamic between Muldaur and Richard Dysart, and that they were all very sad to see Muldaur leave the show.
In 1975 Muldaur appeared in one episode in the first season of The Rockford Files. In 1977, she guest-starred in the second episode ("Mirror Image") of the short-lived CBS espionage series Hunter. In the early 1990s, she also guest-starred on two episodes of Matlock as well as Empty Nest with Richard Mulligan and the pilot for Aaron Spelling's Hearts Are Wild.
In 1973, Muldaur was cast in the lead of Call to Danger as Carrie Donovon, a Justice Department investigator trying to free a kidnapped crime-syndicate informant from a west coast farm compound. The film aired as a CBS New Tuesday Night Movie and co-starred Peter Graves and Clu Gulager, who Diana worked with previously on the Lana Turner primetime soap The Survivors in 1969-1970 and would work with again in the John Wayne crime drama, McQ, (1974).
In 1979, she starred in the made-for-television film version of The Miracle Worker in which she played the role of Katie Keller, the mother of Helen Keller. The NBC film starred Melissa Gilbert and Patty Duke Astin.
In an attempt to capitalize on Burt Reynolds's international superstardom, Muldaur's performance in the pilot episode of the Reynolds-Norman Fell crime series, Dan August, (1970-1971), was edited together with a subsequent episode and repackaged as a 1980 ABC Movie of the Week titled Dan August: The Jealousy Factor.
In 1991, Muldaur played Lauren Jeffreys, the main guest-star client of Perry Mason (Raymond Burr) and lifelong friend of Della Street in the NBC television movie Perry Mason and the Case of the Fatal Fashion. Valerie Harper, Scott Baio and Ally Walker also appeared. Muldaur worked previously with Raymond Burr as a special guest star on both the detective series Ironside in 1971 and his short-lived 1977 series Kingston: Confidential.
Other television films include: the Black Beauty mini-series (1977), Pine Canyon is Burning (1977), Maneaters Are Loose! (1978), The Word (1978), and Joseph Wambaugh's two-hour film Police Story: A Cry for Justice (1978) with Dennis Weaver and Larry Hagman. Muldaur teamed with The Smothers Brothers for Terror at Alcatraz (1982) and turned in strong dramatic performances in Murder in Three Acts (1986) opposite Peter Ustinov and Locked Up: A Mother's Rage (1991) with Jean Smart and Angela Bassett.
Muldaur is a 1960 graduate of Sweet Briar College, a small private women's school in central Virginia.
She is the older sister of singer-songwriter Geoff Muldaur, who is the former husband of singer Maria Muldaur. She is also the aunt of singer-songwriter Jenni Muldaur and singer-songwriter Clare Muldaur-Manchon. She lived in Los Angeles from 1970 to 1991.
Muldaur was married to actor James Vickery, her co-star on the television series The Secret Storm, until his death from cancer in 1979. She then married writer and producer Robert Dozier (son of producer William Dozier), who died of cancer in 2012.