Maria Doyle Kennedy

Maria Doyle-Kennedy

Maria Doyle Kennedy (Wikipedia)

Maria Doyle Kennedy is an Irish singer, songwriter, and actress. With a singing and acting career that has spanned nearly 30 years, she has established herself as one of Ireland’s most prolific artists and entertainers.[2] As an actress, she is best known for her extensive television roles as Patsy on Father Ted (1998), Catherine of Aragon on The Tudors (2007–2010), Vera Bates on Downton Abbey (2011), and Siobhán Sadler on Orphan Black (2013–2017). As a musician, she is well known for her world-wide hit folkalbums Mütter and Sing. Her new self-titled album was released in 2017.

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 SmithRadiohead, 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 Flowersduring the band’s early years in the mid-’80s.  She appeared on their 1987 single “Love Don’t Work This Way”.[9] 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.[3] The band released their first album, When Justice Came, in 1989.[9]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 FranklinBillie 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“.

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 Commitments. Director Alan Parkerrecruited her, and other established singers, for the movie. 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 film, The GeneralAlan Bleasdale‘s 1999 miniseriesOliver Twist, and the 1999 British television series Queer as Folk. In 2006, she received small-screen success in the TV series Hide & Seek.

In 2007 and 2008, she received widespread recognition for her role as Catherine 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 Showtime‘s 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 Downton Abbey, appearing as Vera Bates, estranged wife of the Earl of Grantham’s valet, one of her most recognizable roles within the UK.[24] In the same year, she also played a small role as a maid in the 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. She began co-starring in the Canadian TV series Orphan Black as Siobhán Sadler in 2013.  Doyle Kennedy officially decided on joining the series when Graeme Manson mentioned that Patti Smith was the inspiration for Siobhán’s character.

She has won one 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 film Jupiter Ascending. In 2016, Doyle Kennedy starred as Penny in the 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.

On 12 April 2016, Doyle Kennedy was announced as having been cast as Roisin Kelly in the 2017 six-part miniseries Redwater, which began airing on 18 May 2017 on BBC One.

In 2017, Doyle Kennedy was cast as Jocasta MacKenzie Cameron in the fourth season of the Starz TV series Outlander and as George Cusack in the second season of the RTÉ One drama series Striking Out, where she appears as a series regular.

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