Maria Doyle Kennedy

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Maria Doyle Kennedy
Maria Doyle Kennedy (2014)
Doyle Kennedy at a panel for Orphan Black
Born Maria Josephine Doyle
(1964-09-25) 25 September 1964 (age 51)
Clontarf, Dublin, Ireland
  • Actress
  • singer
Years active
  • 1980s–present (singing)
  • 1991–present (acting)
Spouse(s) Kieran Kennedy (m. 1988)
Children 4;
Jesse James
Musical career
Instruments Vocals
Labels Mother, Mermaid
Associated acts Hothouse Flowers, Kieran Kennedy, The Black Velvet Band, John Prine, Damien Rice, Paul Brady

Maria Josephine Doyle Kennedy[1] (born 25 September 1964) is an Irish singer, songwriter, and television/film actress. With a singing career that has spanned nearly thirty years and an acting career that has spanned twenty five, she has established herself as one of Ireland's most prolific artists and entertainers.[2] As an actress, she is best known for her film role as Natalie Murphy in The Commitments and for her extensive television roles as Catherine of Aragon on The Tudors, Vera Bates on Downton Abbey, and Siobhán Sadler on Orphan Black. As a musician, she is well known for her world wide hit folk albums Mütter and Sing, as well as for releasing two albums between 1989 and 1992 as part of The Black Velvet Band.

Early life[edit]

Doyle Kennedy 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.[3] They eventually settled in Bray, County Wicklow, and she still claims a close, personal connection with the town.[4] She began singing early in life and comes from a family that appreciates "party pieces" and the tradition of gathering friends together with singing.[3][5][6] At the age of 9 or 10, she would go to a friend's house every Sunday evening to listen to the top twenty broadcast on the radio.[6] Her first experience singing in public was at one of her parents' parties at the age of 13.[5] She recalls that, as a teenager, her mother was able to gauge her mood according to how much singing she was doing.[7] When she was 14, she was given a Billie Holliday 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 that she still cites as some of her favorites.[8] 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,[4][5] and she never considered becoming an actress until after she established herself as a singer.[3]

Music career[edit]

Doyle Kennedy joined a band while still in college in the mid-80s, performing with Hothouse Flowers during the band's early years.[4][5][9] She appeared on their 1987 single "Love Don't Work This Way".[9] She left the band shortly after in order to join The Black Velvet Band with her future husband, Kieran Kennedy[4][9] 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 4 on the Irish charts, and is ranked among the best Irish albums of the late 1980s.[citation needed] She then united with producers Clive Langer and Allen Winstanley to record her second Black Velvet Band album, King of Myself, in 1992.[9]

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 andThe 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.[10][11] 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.[12]

After releasing music with The Black Velvet Band, Doyle Kennedy left the group to pursue a career in solo music.[9] In 2001, Doyle Kennedy released music on Mermaid Records, a label she founded herself.[5] Her debut solo album Charm was released in 2001 following the release of the two lead singles, "Stars Above" and "Babes".[9] 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.[9] She released the album Skullcover for a limited time in 2005. The album contained her covers of songs such as "Lovesong", "Video Killed the Radio Star" and "Still in Love with You".[9] Doyle Kennedy then released the alternative folk album Mütter in 2007 along with accompanying singles "Fuckability" and "Forty Days".[9] 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."[13] She was subsequently nominated in the Best Irish Female category at the 2008 Meteor Awards.[9] An accompany 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.[9][14] 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.[9] 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.[14][15] 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.[5][9] 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".[14][15]

Doyle Kennedy is currently working with her husband to create a follow-up album to Sing.[8] 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.[7]

Irish music magazine Hot Press called her "truly one of Ireland's greatest vocalists" and one of their "best kept secrets,"[16] while BBC Music reviewer Andy Fyfe opined that Doyle Kennedy's "transcendence sets her apart from the avalanche of female singer-songwriters."[17] 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."[18]

Acting career[edit]

Doyle Kennedy's first experience with acting came in 1991 when she played Natalie Murphy in The Commitments. Director Alan Parker recruited her, and other established singers, for the movie after not being able to find the right kinds of actors for the roles he had in mind.[19] 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.[20] The image also includes her The Commitments co-stars Angeline Ball as Imelda Quirke, Bronagh Gallagher as Bernie McGloughlin, and Robert Arkins as Jimmy Rabbitte.[20]

She continued to expand her acting platform with roles in John Boorman's 1998 film, The General, Alan Bleasdale's 1999 miniseries Oliver Twist, and the 1999 Britsh television series Queer as Folk.[1] In 2006, she received small-screen success in the TV series Hide & Seek.[1]

In 2007 and 2008, she received widespread recognition for her role as Catherine of Aragon on the British historical fiction television series The Tudors.[19] In 2010, Doyle Kennedy portrayed Sonya, a nanny to Dexter Morgan's son Harrison in the fifth season of Showtime's Dexter.[21] She also appeared on Irish screens early in 2011 on TG4's Corp & Anam in her first Irish language acting role.[22] 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.[19][23] In the same year, she also played a small role as a maid in the film Albert Nobbs, alongside American actress Glenn Close.[19]

In 2012, she played a leading role in the ITV mini-series 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.[19] Doyle Kennedy began co-starring in the Canadian TV series Orphan Black as Siobhán Sadler in 2013.[24] She was originally unsure about joining the series, afraid that it would interfere with her hectic touring schedule, but series creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett assured her that they would be able to work around her gigs. Doyle Kennedy officially decided on joining the series when Graeme Manson mentioned that Patti Smith was the inspiration for Siobhán's character.[25]

Doyle Kennedy reprised her leading role as Mairéad Mhic Iarnáin for the second series of Corp & Anam in 2014.[22] She also appeared as Jupiter's mother Aleksa in The Wachowskis's 2015 film Jupiter Ascending.[8] Doyle Kennedy is currently set to star in the upcoming 2016 sequel to the supernatural horror film The Conjuring, entitled The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Doyle Kennedy first met 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.[5] The couple have four sons, including one of Doyle Kennedy's sons from a previous relationship; they are Louis, Jesse James, Daniel, and Salvador who range in age from 7 to 31.[3][5] One of her sons has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.[19] She states that music is what still keeps her and Kieran together after nearly 30 years of marriage.[5] Doyle Kennedy, Kieran, and their four sons currently live together in Dublin.[27]

Doyle Kennedy considers music to be the most integral aspect of her life, and she prefers her musical endeavors over her acting ones.[3][6] 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." [6] She still experiences nerves before she sings on stage, but she has learned ways to control them through pacing and breathing techniques.[7] When acting, Doyle Kennedy is attracted to characters who are multi-faceted and able to display not only a loving, motherly side, but a fierce, determined side, as well.[25]

She draws musical influence from jazz musician Billie Holiday, American country singer John Prine, and fellow Irish folk singer Dónal Lunny, a close personal friend of hers,[5] and has been referred to as "an Irish Patti Smith".[3] Additionally, she draws acting influences from her personal heroes Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton, with whom she starred on Downton Abbey.[5] 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.[2]


With The Black Velvet Band

Studio Albums[edit]

List of studio albums
Title Album details
When Justice Came
King of Myself
  • Release: 1992
  • Label: Mother Records
  • Formats: LP

Studio Albums[edit]

List of studio albums
Title Album details
  • Release: August 2001
  • Label: Mermaid Records
  • Formats: CD, DL
  • Release: September 2004
  • Label: Mermaid Records
  • Formats: CD, DL
  • Release: May 18, 2007
  • Label: Mermaid Records
  • Formats: CD, DL
The Storms Are on the Ocean
  • Release: January 27, 2011
  • Label: Mermaid Records
  • Formats: CD, DL
La Sirena 1992-1997
  • Release: June 27, 2011
  • Label: Mermaid Records
  • Formats: DL
  • Release: September 2012
  • Label: Mermaid Records
  • Formats: CD, DL
Maria Live
  • Release: March 17, 2014
  • Label: Mermaid Records
  • Formats: CD, DL
Mütter's Daughter
  • Release: June 2015
  • Label: Mermaid Records
  • Formats: DL
  • Release: TBA
  • Label: Mermaid Records
  • Formats: CD, DL

Compilation Albums[edit]

List of compilation albums
Title Album details
  • Release: 2008
  • Label: Mermaid Records
  • Formats: CD

DVD Albums[edit]

List of DVD albums
Title Album details
The Band of Maria's (Live)
  • Release: January 2008
  • Label: Mermaid Records
  • Formats: DVD


List of singles
Title Year Album
"Stars Above" 2001 Charm
"How You Remind Me" 2003 Even Better Than The Real Thing Vol. 1
"Fuckability" 2007 Mütter
"Forty Days"
"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 EP 309 Version)" Non-album single



Year Title Role Notes
1991 Commitments, TheThe Commitments Natalie Murphy
1995 Nothing Personal Ann
1996 Moll Flanders Alice
1997 Break, TheThe Break Roisin
1997 MatchMaker, TheThe MatchMaker Sarah Kelly
1998 General, TheThe General Frances
1999 I Could Read in the Sky Maggie
1999 Gregory's Two Girls Bel
1999 Miss Julie Christine
2003 Mystics Foxy
2004 Spin the Bottle Anastasia
2005 Tara Road Rosemary
2010 (She Owns) Every Thing Object of Affection Short film
2011 Albert Nobbs Mary
2012 After the Triumph of Your Birth Sister Roisin
2012 Byzantium Morag
2013 A Thousand Times Good Night Unknown
2013 Eliza Lynch: Queen of Paraguay Eliza Lynch
2015 Jupiter Ascending Aleksa
2015 The Timber Maggie
2015 Sing Street Penny Post-production
2016 The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist Filming


Year Title Role Notes
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 Jones 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
2006 Sorted Roisin 6 episodes
2007–2010 The Tudors Catherine of Aragon Regular role; 17 episodes
2010 Dexter Sonya 8 episodes
2011-2014 Corp & Anam Mairéad Mhic Iarnáin 8 episodes
2011 Downton Abbey Vera Bates 3 episodes
2012 Titanic Muriel Batley Miniseries
2013–present Orphan Black Siobhán Sadler Regular role; 24 episodes
2015 Call the Midwife Attracta Episode: "4.6"

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Maria Doyle Kennedy". BuddyTV. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Dunne, Steven. "Interview: Maria Doyle Kennedy". State. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Maria on the Eamon Dunphy Show". Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Maria Doyle Kennedy Biography". Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k O'Halloran, Shauna. "Soul Sister" (PDF). Irish Tatler. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d Earnshaw, Helen. "Maria Doyle Kennedy Exclusive Chat". Female First. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c Burke, Sinéad. "Extraordinary Women: Maria Doyle Kennedy". Minnie Melange. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c "Maria Doyle Kennedy". Hugh's Room. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Maria Doyle Kennedy Biography". Irish Music DB. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  10. ^ "Patrick Scott". Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  11. ^ "MCD Presents Maria Doyle Kennedy". The Sugar Club. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  12. ^ "Borderline". RTÉ News. 
  13. ^ "Single of the Fortnight" (PDF). Hot Press. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  14. ^ a b c "Mermaid Records". MariaDK. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  15. ^ a b "Greetings from the Ocean Bed". MariaDK. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  16. ^ Tyaransen, Olaf. "Well-Kept Secret Delivers Exuberant New Record" (PDF). Hot Press. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  17. ^ Fyfe, Andy. "Maria Doyle Kennedy Sing Review". BBC Music. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  18. ^ Byrne, Nicole. "Maria Doyle Kennedy - 'Sing'". Shout4Music. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f Iley, Chrissy. "'Thank God I'm nothing like evil Mrs Bates': She adored playing Downton's villain but her real life revolves around her family". Daily Mail. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  20. ^ a b "Ireland 1996: Irish Cinema Centenary". Emerald Isle Gifts, original stamps from An Post. 17 October 1996. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  21. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (10 June 2010). "Maria Doyle Kennedy Joins 'Dexter' Season". Retrieved 29 October 2011. 
  22. ^ a b "Corp+Anam returns to screens tonight". Irish Times. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  23. ^ Blackburn, Jen (23 September 2011). "I love playing the most hated woman in Britain". The Sun (London). Retrieved 29 October 2011. 
  24. ^ Ross, Dalton. "'Orphan Black': Maria Doyle Kennedy talks about the mysterious past of Mrs. S". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  25. ^ a b Wicks, Kevin. "Interview: Dead on ‘Downton,’ Maria Doyle Kennedy Resurfaces on ‘Orphan Black’". BBC America. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  26. ^ "Delaney and Doyle Kennedy for The Conjuring sequel". RTE Ten. Retrieved 31 October 2015. 
  27. ^ "This is who I am" (PDF). Sunday Times. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 

External links[edit]