The Orange Is the New Black actress, 64, had a good reason: she’d already played Hepburn in 2002.
“I played it for a long time. She was still living [then],” Mulgrew told Lola Ogunnaike on PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing. “She died when I was in performance at the Promenade in New York City. It was just the last wave of interest in her life.”
Mulgrew continued, “But to play her at that time and to have her die while I was playing her — there was a moment of silence that night in the theater.”
To get into character — and Hepburn’s distinctive accent — Mulgrew “watched every movie, I read every book. I went over and over and over, what I thought she may have felt at a certain point in her life, her inflections.”
Mulgrew then pointed out the play was returning to theaters, asking Ogunnaike, “Guess who’s playing it? It’s unbelievable, I think.”
“They wanted me to play it but I said no,” the actress claimed, adding, “Faye Dunaway is doing it.”
Ogunnaike asked, “What do you make of that choice?”
Laughing, Mulgrew said, “I don’t know, I’m glad I played it when I did. I’m glad. I’m glad, glad, glad.”
Dunaway, 78, was fired from the play by the show’s producers, Ben Feldman and Scott Beck before it could premiere on Broadway.
“The producers of Tea at Five announced today that they have terminated their relationship with Faye Dunaway,” a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter read.
“Plans are in development for the play to have its West End debut early next year with a new actress to play the role of Katharine Hepburn,” the statement continued.
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A rep for Dunaway did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Tea at Five is a one-woman play that follows the story of Hepburn as she embarks on her acting career, winning her first Oscar and surviving a car crash. Dunaway was set to play Hepburn.
A report by the New York Post on Wednesday alleged Dunaway had slapped crew members backstage, causing a July 10 performance to be canceled moments before the play was about to begin its pre-Broadway run in Boston.
Matthew Lombardo, the playwright of Tea at Five, shared the article on his Facebook page with the caption, “Ummm. Yup.”
He did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Couch Surfing is a 30-minute live daily online show which airs from NY Friday at 8 am E.T. on PeopleTV. Hosted by Lola Ogunnaike, PeopleTV’s weekly Couch Surfing features famed film and television stars as they stroll down memory lane to watch and react to their own notable performances.