The star of Orange Is the New Black talks about reuniting with the daughter she gave up for adoption

By Mary Green
Updated April 15, 2015 06:40 PM
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Credit: John Huba

One early morning in 1999, while sitting in her trailer at Paramount Studios, Kate Mulgrew got the call she’d been waiting two decades to receive: “Hello, Kate? This is Danielle.”

After a 22-year search for the child she gave up for adoption in 1977, the Orange Is the New Black star was finally reunited with her daughter, Danielle.

“Time stopped,” she tells PEOPLE. “I remembered the notes dancing in the first light of dawn in the Venetian blinds. There was this voice, unrecognizable, but I knew it was her.”

Danielle, now 37, laughs at the memory, recalling, “I remember three questions came from her. The first one was, ‘Are you pretty?’ And then the second one was, ‘Are you happy?’ And then the third one was, ‘Do you believe in God?’ That is Kate in a nutshell.”

“I wasn’t thinking, just desperate to keep my daughter on the line, and the fact that I asked her if she was pretty – let alone if she believed in God – shows how out of it I was,” Mulgrew responds. “I have no recollection of asking Danielle these questions and find it fascinating that Danielle remembers them so clearly.”

In her new memoir Born With Teeth (yes, she was born with them), the Emmy-nominated actress opens up about her life, her loves, and the long journey to find Danielle.

What she does clearly remember from the 5 a.m. conversation is that she was about to be called to the bridge of a Starfleet ship. At the time, Mulgrew was in the fifth season in the groundbreaking role of commander Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager, and a production assistant was going to be knocking on her door.

“I remember really lowering my voice. Because hers was very high – I could sense her anxiety. I explained that I was an actress on the set, and there was going to be knocking on my door, but that nothing was more imperative to me than making a plan with her.”

Four days later, mother and daughter met in the lobby of the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

For more on Kate Mulgrew, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday