Maria Doyle Kennedy
25 September 1964
Clontarf, Dublin, Ireland
Maria Doyle Kennedy (born 25 September 1964) is an Irish singer, songwriter, and actress. With a singing and acting career that has spanned more than 30 years, she has established herself as one of Ireland's most prolific artists and entertainers. As an actress, she is best known for her extensive television roles as Patsy in Father Ted (1998), Catherine of Aragon in The Tudors (2007-2010), Vera Bates in Downton Abbey (2011), Siobhán Sadler in Orphan Black (2013-2017), and Jocasta Cameron in Outlander (2018-present).
Doyle Kennedy has also appeared in numerous films, including The Commitments (1991), The General (1998), Miss Julie (1999), Tara Road (2005), Albert Nobbs (2011), Byzantium (2012), Jupiter Ascending (2015), Sing Street (2016), and The Conjuring 2 (2016). In 2020, she was listed as number 46 on The Irish Times list of Ireland's greatest film actors.
As a singer, Doyle Kennedy has released two studio albums with The Black Velvet Band and nine as a solo artist.
Doyle was born in Clontarf, Dublin, before moving with her parents, sister, and brother, Feargal, to Enniscorthy, County Wexford, for her father's career as a broker. They eventually settled in Bray, County Wicklow, and she still claims a close, personal connection with the town. She began singing early in life and comes from a family that appreciates "party pieces" and the tradition of gathering friends together with singing.
At the age of 9 or 10, she would go to a friend's house every Sunday evening to listen to the top-20 broadcast on the radio. Her first experience singing in public was at one of her parents' parties at the age of 13. She recalls that, as a teenager, her mother was able to gauge her mood according to how much singing she was doing. When she was 14, she was given a Billie Holiday album that was the first piece of music to affect her emotionally. She was then opened up to artists such as Patti Smith, Radiohead, and Low, artists whom she still cites as some of her favorites. She never considered a formal career in singing until after she graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, with a joint honours degree in political science and business, and she never considered becoming an actress until after she established herself as a singer.
Doyle Kennedy joined a band while still in college, performing with Hothouse Flowers during the band's early years in the mid-'80s. She appeared on their 1987 single "Love Don't Work This Way". She left the band shortly after to join The Black Velvet Band with her future husband, Kieran Kennedy. They formed originally to enter a Slogadh competition, that they eventually won, but music quickly became a motivating force in her life. The band released their first album, When Justice Came, in 1989. Recorded in Los Angeles in 1989, it reached number four on the Irish charts, and is ranked among the best Irish albums of the late 1980s. She then united with producers Clive Langer and Allen Winstanley to record her second Black Velvet Band album, King of Myself, in 1992.
The Lady Sings The Blues, a compilation album featuring Doyle Kennedy alongside Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, and Annie Lennox followed, and proved to be a best-selling album in 1994. It also established Doyle Kennedy in new markets throughout Europe, the U.S., and Japan. Touring Europe for the first time, she got rave reviews from The Guardian and The Times. She produced a documentary, Golden Boy, based on the life and work of Irish artist Patrick Scott, for which she specifically created the production company Mermaid Films. She has appeared as a broadcaster on Irish television, filling in for John Kelly on his Mystery Train show and for Tom Dunne on Pet Sounds. Doyle Kennedy also hosted an RTÉ musical series Borderline in the late 1980s.
After releasing music with The Black Velvet Band, Doyle Kennedy left the group to pursue a solo career in music. In 2001, Doyle Kennedy released music on Mermaid Records, a label she founded herself in 2000. Her debut solo album Charm was released in 2001, following the release of the two lead singles, "Stars Above" and "Babes". She coordinated Sirens, which is a compilation album of female artists and was released in 2003. In the same year, she performed on the first series of Other Voices. She released the album Skullcover for a limited time between 2004 and 2005. The album contained her covers of songs such as "Lovesong", "Video Killed the Radio Star", and "Still in Love with You".
Doyle Kennedy then released the alternative folk album Mütter in 2007 along with accompanying singles "Fuckability" and "Forty Days". After the release of "Fuckability", Hot Press praised the single and stated that Doyle Kennedy "is one of the finest voices this country has ever produced." She was subsequently nominated in the Best Irish Female category at the 2008 Meteor Awards. An accompanying DVD album for this record was also released in the same year. Entitled The Band of Maria's, it included exclusive live material from some of Doyle Kennedy's promotional tour venues. In 2011, Doyle Kennedy and her husband Kieran released a collaboration album entitled The Storms Are on the Ocean. The album features a collection of Appalachian folk and country songs. In the same year, Doyle Kennedy released La Sirena 1992-1997, a collection of rock-oriented tracks that had been recorded prior to her solo career. Her sixth album project, the folk-infused Sing, was released in September 2012 with Warner Music Group holding distribution rights to the album within the UK. In 2014 and 2015, Doyle Kennedy released two more albums: Maria Live, an album of songs performed live at Vicar Street and Pepper Canister Church, with her husband Kieran providing the instrumentation and production; and Mütter's Daughter, an album containing unreleased and re-released tracks from the album Mütter.
Doyle Kennedy worked with her husband to create a follow-up album to Sing. In 2015, she wrote a song entitled "Pride" as a response to the Irish Marriage Referendum of 2015. She also composed a song about the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in response to international media coverage of the Ferguson unrest and other police-related violence in the United States. Both songs are confirmed to be appearing on the record. "Pride," the first single from her self-titled ninth studio album, was released on 10 June 2017, with the album itself being released on 25 September.
Irish music magazine Hot Press called her "truly one of Ireland's greatest vocalists" and one of their "best-kept secrets," while BBC Music reviewer Andy Fyfe opined that Doyle Kennedy's "transcendence sets her apart from the avalanche of female singer-songwriters." Upon its release, Nicole Byrne of Shout4Music called Sing "one of the best Irish albums of the year - if not the best" and referred to Doyle Kennedy as a "Celtic angel." Her voice has been credited as one of Ireland's national treasures.
Doyle Kennedy's first experience with acting came in 1991 when she played Natalie Murphy in the musical comedy-drama The Commitments. Director Alan Parker recruited her, and other established singers, for the film. An image of Doyle Kennedy in character as Natalie Murphy in the film The Commitments was featured on an Irish postage stamp as part of the Ireland 1996: Irish Cinema Centenary series issued by An Post. The image also includes her The Commitments co-stars Angeline Ball as Imelda Quirke, Bronagh Gallagher as Bernie McGloughlin, and Andrew Strong as Deco Cuffe.
She continued to expand her acting platform with roles in John Boorman's 1998 crime drama film, The General, Alan Bleasdale's 1999 miniseries Oliver Twist, and the 1999 British television series Queer as Folk. In 2006, she received small-screen success in the television series Hide & Seek.
In 2007 and 2008, she received widespread recognition for her role as Katherine of Aragon on the British historical fiction television series The Tudors. In 2010, Doyle Kennedy portrayed Sonya, a nanny to Dexter Morgan's son Harrison in the fifth season of the Showtime crime drama series Dexter. She also appeared on Irish screens early in 2011 on TG4's Corp & Anam in her first Irish-language acting role. Also in 2011, she joined the cast of ITV's period drama series Downton Abbey, appearing as Vera Bates, estranged wife of the valet of the Earl of Grantham. In the same year, she also played a small role as a maid, Mary, in the period drama film Albert Nobbs, alongside American actress Glenn Close.
In 2012, Doyle Kennedy played a leading role in the ITV miniseries Titanic and also appeared beside fellow Irish actress Saoirse Ronan in Neil Jordan's horror fantasy film Byzantium, which premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
In 2013, Doyle Kennedy began co-starring in the Canadian science fiction thriller series Orphan Black, as Siobhán Sadler. She officially decided on joining the series when showrunner Graeme Manson mentioned that Patti Smith was the inspiration for her character. The series received critical acclaim, earning multiple accolades. She received a Canadian Screen Award for her role, from two nominations, and remained part of the main cast from the first season until the series' fifth and final season.
She reprised her leading role as Mairéad Mhic Iarnáin for the second series of Corp & Anam in 2014. She also appeared as Jupiter's mother Aleksa in The Wachowskis' 2015 science fiction action film Jupiter Ascending. In 2016, Doyle Kennedy starred as Penny in the musical comedy-drama film Sing Street, which made its debut at South by Southwest. She appeared in the 2016 sequel to the supernatural horror film The Conjuring, entitled The Conjuring 2.
In 2017, Doyle Kennedy was cast as Jocasta MacKenzie Cameron in the fourth season of the Starz historical romantic drama series Outlander, which is an adaptation of novel series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon. The season premiered in 2018 and she continued in the role for multiple seasons. Also in 2018, she starred as George Cusack in the second season of the RTÉ One drama series Striking Out, in which she appears as a series regular.
She first met musician Kieran Kennedy at a gig she was performing, and he subsequently invited her to sing on one of his demos. This event turned into a first date for the couple, and they married soon after in 1988. The couple have four sons, including one of Doyle Kennedy's sons from a previous relationship; they are Lewis, Jesse James, Daniel, and Salvador.
Doyle Kennedy considers music to be the most integral aspect of her life, and she prefers her musical endeavors over her acting ones. She states "I do not miss acting when I am not doing it, but I would not spend a day without singing, even to myself."  She still experiences nerves before she sings on stage, but she has learned ways to control them through pacing and breathing techniques. When acting, Doyle Kennedy is attracted to characters who are multifaceted and able to display not only a loving, motherly side, but also a fierce, determined side.
She draws musical influence from jazz musician Billie Holiday, American country singer John Prine (with whom she went on to duet on her Sing album), and fellow Irish folk musician Dónal Lunny, a close personal friend of hers, and has been referred to as "an Irish Patti Smith". Additionally, she draws acting influences from her personal heroes Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton, with whom she starred on Downton Abbey.
Irish artist Patrick Scott, one of Doyle Kennedy's dearest personal friends, also served as one of her biggest inspirations for her life, in general. She admired his ability to allow his life to inform his art and found inspiration in his sentiment that improvement, and not degradation, can still happen in old age.
|When Justice Came|
|King of Myself||
|The Storms Are on the Ocean||
|La Sirena 1992-1997||
|Maria Doyle Kennedy||
|The Band of Maria's (Live)||
|"How You Remind Me"||2003||Even Better Than the Real Thing Vol. 1|
|"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"||2009||Non-album single|
|"The Storms Are on the Ocean"||2011||The Storms Are on the Ocean|
|"Am I Choosing Right"||2012||Sing|
|"Yes We Will (feat. John Prine)"||2013|
|"Hola Luna (feat. Paul Brady)"|
|"Sing (feat. Damien Rice)"||2014|
|"Stuck (Epic version)"||2015||Mütter's Daughter|
|"Stuck (Extended Indie version)"|
|"Stuck (Orphan Black version)"||Non-album single|
|"Pride"||2017||Maria Doyle Kennedy|
|"Keeps on Spinning"||2020||Non-album single|
|"And the Wind Just Cries"||Non-album single|
|"Need a Little Luck in This Life"||Non-album single|
|"Revenge is Sour"||Non-album single|
|"L'Amour c'est nous"||Non-album single|
|1991||The Commitments||Natalie Murphy|
|1997||The MatchMaker||Sarah Kelly|
|1998||The General||Frances Cahil|
|1999||I Could Read in the Sky||Maggie|
|1999||Gregory's Two Girls||Bel|
|2004||Spin the Bottle||Anastasia|
|2005||Tara Road||Rosemary Ryan|
|2010||(She Owns) Every Thing||Object of Affection||Short film|
|2012||After the Triumph of Your Birth||Sister Roisin|
|2013||A Thousand Times Good Night||Theresa|
|2013||Eliza Lynch: Queen of Paraguay||Eliza Lynch|
|2015||Jupiter Ascending||Aleksa Jones|
|2016||Sing Street||Penny Lawlor|
|2016||The Conjuring 2||Peggy Nottingham|
|1998||Father Ted||Patsy||Episode: "Night of the Nearly Dead"|
|1999||DDU: District Detective Unit||Emma Pearson||2 episodes|
|1999||Oliver Twist||Irish Shop Assistant||Miniseries|
|1999-2000||Queer as Folk||Marie Threepwood||3 episodes|
|2000||The Fitz||Rita||Episode: "Dirty Book Deal"|
|2002||No Tears||Kitty Fogarty||Miniseries|
|2002||Home for Christmas||Cora Quirke||Television film|
|2003||Thursday the 12th||Nina Bannister||Television film|
|2006||Hide & Seek||Emma Holden||4 episodes|
|2007-2010||The Tudors||Catherine of Aragon||17 episodes|
|2011-2014||Corp & Anam||Mairéad Mhic Iarnáin||8 episodes|
|2011||Downton Abbey||Vera Bates||3 episodes|
|2013-2017||Orphan Black||Siobhán Sadler||40 episodes|
|2015||Call the Midwife||Attracta||Episode: "4.6"|
|2018||Striking Out||George Cusack||6 episodes|
|2018-present||Outlander||Jocasta MacKenzie Cameron||10 episodes|
|TBA||The Wheel of Time||Illa||Upcoming series|
|2002||Meteor Music Award||Best Irish Female||Herself||Nominated|
|2003||Irish Film & Television Award||Best Actress in a Film||Mystics||Nominated|
|2008||Meteor Music Award||Best Irish Female||Herself||Nominated|
|Gemini Award||Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Series||The Tudors||Won|
|Irish Film & Television Award||Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Television||Won|
|2009||Irish Film & Television Award||Won|
|Golden Nymph Award||Outstanding Actress - Drama Series||Nominated|
|2011||Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series||Dexter||Nominated|
|2012||Irish Film & Television Award||Best Actress - Television||Corp & Anam||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress - Film||Albert Nobbs||Nominated|
|2014||Canadian Screen Award||Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Program or Series||Orphan Black||Won|
|2015||Irish Film & Television Award||Best Actress in a Lead Role - Drama||Corp & Anam||Nominated|
|2016||Canadian Screen Award||Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Program or Series||Orphan Black||Nominated|