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Singing queen

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Amazingly enough, the actress who had recurring roles the British TV dramas “Sorted” and “Queer as Folk,” was initially reluctant to consider playing Henry VIII’s Spanish consort in the high-profile, 10-part series filming in her own backyard.
“It was one of those kind of crazy things for me,” Doyle Kennedy told the Irish Echo in a recent phone interview.
Finishing up her work on “Sorted” and putting the final touches on her “Sirens” CD, the star of “The Commitments,” “The MatchMaker” and “The General” had her hands full when her agent called and told her Showtime wanted to see her about playing the strong, educated woman whose inability to give the king a male heir indirectly served as the catalyst for Britain’s 16th Century split with the Roman Catholic Church.
“I said, ‘No, I’m completely wrong for it; I don’t think so,'” Doyle Kennedy recalled. “And [my agent] said, ‘That’s absolute rubbish and I think you’d be great and it’s really good.'”
The former Hothouse Flowers and Black Velvet Band songstress, who also writes her own music and heads her own Mermaid Records label, decided to try for the role and, a couple of days later, the producers of “The Tudors” had some good news for her.
“They said: ‘You have the part. You start in 10 days and will be working on it for five months,'” she related. “It was kind of mental. I had to think about it, but I had to decide fast. But, in some ways, that is very good because you’re not dithering around for ages, weighing out the pros and cons. I’m a Libra and I can take my time doing that and I can always see both sides of every argument and every possibility, so I have to focus really sharply and just go: ‘OK, this is what this means. Can I do that now? Would it be right for me and my family?’ And when I did it, I just really felt that it would be.”
The 43-year-old brunette beauty says she was glad everything got sorted out since she had long been an admirer of Catherine of Aragon, the first of Henry VIII’s six unfortunate wives.
“I think she was such an interesting woman and her journey was just so incredible,” the actress observed. “I just couldn’t say, ‘No,’ really. I was very lucky that they weren’t asking me to go to the end of nowhere for five months and disrupt my children’s schooling and all kinds of things. It was being made on my home turf, so that made the decision much, much easier for me.”
Doyle Kennedy says she was even able to go home each night after working on the film, which was shot at Ardmore Studios in Bray, Co. Wicklow, and other close-to-Dublin locations, since the sets weren’t very far from where she lives.
“It’s dreamy, that kind of stuff,” she said. “I don’t go away from my family for long periods of time, anyway. I work things around, so that I can bring them with me, so that I work more on the holidays or just go shorter distances for shorter periods of time, so that I’m only away for a little while and then I come back because it doesn’t really suit me or them to be apart.”
Although she loves to act, Doyle Kennedy says she never felt the urge to uproot her family and chase jobs that “ultimately wouldn’t have made me feel very happy, anyway.”
“It’s great to get the chance to tell stories, really,” she said, adding that she turns down more projects than she actually signs on to. “I really enjoy it, but I have to do it on my own terms and I have to have a real life and my children have to have a real life.”

Inspired casting
For Doyle Kennedy, the cable network’s choice to cast Cork-born cutie Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the voracious, bulky Henry VIII, was nothing short of inspired.
“That was where they stuck their flag in the ground and said, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ He’s so different than anybody’s impressions (of Henry) have ever been up until now,” she said, emphasizing his reported substance-abuse problems were not an issue at work. “We got along really, really well, even though he treats me just like s*** [in the series]. He wasn’t like that off-screen, thankfully.”
In fact, the actress reveals, she and the “Match Point” star spent a lot of time discussing Henry and Catherine’s relationship, as well as their own insights into their characters.
“They were married for 23 years, which was longer than all of the other wives put together and they really were devoted to each other, although he certainly would have philandered his way around the court,” Doyle Kennedy explained. “If they had had a son [who lived,] they would not have divorced; they would have stayed together. He really felt he was on shaky ground and he felt he needed a male heir to cement his [monarchy]. The irony is he never had one. “
Asked if that means Henry’s decision to cast Catherine aside siring a male heir was business, not personal, Doyle Kennedy replied with a laugh, “It was a question of state, but he’s still a bollocks!”
Armed with a respectable knowledge of Tudor history and lore, Doyle Kennedy admits that learning to speak with a Spanish accent and wearing those gorgeous period costumes, created by fellow Dubliner Joan Bergin, also went a long way towards helping her bring her character to life.
“The costumes are just so beautiful. Who doesn’t want to swan around in incredible clothes and crowns for a few weeks?” she asked rhetorically. “

“The Tudors” airs on Showtime Sunday nights in the United States. Doyle Kennedy’s new album, “M_tter,” is due out May 18 and can be purchased through her Web site, www.mariadoylekennedy.com.

The Maria Doyle Kennedy File

Born: Dublin, 1964
Home Life: Lives in Dublin with her musician husband and fellow Hothouse Flowers alum, Kieran Kennedy, and their children.
Career: Has co-starred in the films “The Commitments,” “The MatchMaker” and “The General” and has had recurring roles on the British TV dramas “Sorted” and “Queer as Folk.” She can now be seen playing Queen Katherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII’s first ex-wife, on the splashy Showtime series, “The Tudors.” Once described as a “Celtic Patti Smith,” She also heads her own Mermaid Records label through which she released her debut solo album, “Charm,” as well as “Sirens,” a compilation of tracks by various female artists and “Skullcover,” a limited-edition CD on which she covers an eclectic mix of songs by other artists. She has a new CD, “Mutter,” dropping May 18.

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