Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Actor, Musician, and Once a Queen- Maria Doyle Kennedy



I became a fan of The Tudors during Season 2. For one reason or another I never watched the first year's episodes- why I didn't, I don't really remember all that well. The show is about the reign of Henry VIII of England and his multiple wives, his many affairs, the intrigue of his court, and the lives of his many friends and numerous foes- and it didn't take too much to go from friend to foe in Henry's eyes. Season 4 of the series is in production now, and is tentatively scheduled for premiere on April 11, 2010 at 9:00PM EDT on Showtime.

Showtime has begun airing the earlier episodes of the series, as well as making them available via ON DEMAND services. I went back to Season One to catch up on all that I had missed that first year. The series is enjoyable and interesting, even though at times there are some historical inaccuracies, and combining of several real characters into one composite, eliminating some real people of note, and inventing characters who never existed. The series also, at times, presents historical incidents out of order for dramatic effect. It doesn't really bother me because this is historical fiction on Showtime and not The History Channel. The Tudors does challenge me to find out for myself what is fact and what are "facts according to the genius of the writer". Good historical fiction will make the viewer want to know more about a subject. JFK by Oliver Stone was based on a factual event as interpreted by a filmmaker- you just have to accept it as such. But Oliver Stone's movie helped to sell a lot of books and documentaries by others who did REAL research into what happened in Dallas.

Few questioned Stephen Speilberg about the accuracy of Saving Private Ryan, or Clint Eastwood for Flags of Our Fathers....I read the book and saw the movie; Clint did take some liberties but the spirit of the events portrayed were real. In that light, the viewer has to look at The Tudors as an entertainment, but one with a very real factual base and that the story told is true, with embellishments.

Of all of the performances in Season One of The Tudors, one stood out for me- that of Maria Doyle Kennedy as the ill fated Queen Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife. Ms. Kennedy spoke Spanish fluently in the production, and her English had a decided Spanish accent. She looked like the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. I assumed she was a Latina with Irish ancestry from her father's side of the family, like Anthony Quinn. But she looked vaguely familiar....and I couldn't remember where I had seen her before. So I did some research.

And it turns out that Joss Stone (Anne of Cleves) wasn't the first "musical wife" of Henry VIII

The Commitments- Maria Doyle (Kennedy) at the far right, with Bronagh Gallagher (l) and Angeline Ball.

The amazing stuff you can find on the internet. Maria Doyle Kennedy was then known as Maria Doyle, and sang with the Irish band Hot House Flowers in 1987. By 1991 Ms. Kennedy was in the movie The Commitments, playing "Natalie Murphy". The story was about a group of young Irish musicians who put together a white R&B group, bringing some soul to pubs and clubs of Dublin. In the clip below from the film, Maria sings "Bye By Baby".



Maria Doyle Kennedy has maintained successful acting and musical careers in the time since. More information can be found on her official website. Her music can best be labeled as alternative. Below, the video of her release, Skin.



And the stars of the Commitments are still slugging away. Check out their official website.

In closing, here's a look at a blooper reel from The Tudors, featuring Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jeremy Northam, and Sam Neill.

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