Starting this Thursday on AMC+, Maria Doyle Kennedy will be seen as Birdie Kinsella in the new Irish crime series, Kin.
Kennedy has been charming audiences since her debut in the movie The Commitments. Her television roles are downright iconic at this point, including her role as Queen Catherine of Aragon on The Tudors, Siobhan “S” Sadler on Orphan Black, and Jocasta Cameron on Outlander.
On Kin, she’s Bridget “Birdie” Goggins, one of the sprawling Kinsella family, who run a Dublin drug syndicate.
We managed to catch a few minutes with her to talk about the show, which features a superb cast, including Charlie Cox, Aidan Gillen, Claire Dunne, Ciaran Hinds, and Emmett Scanlan.
There is another highly-acclaimed show set in Dublin about the drug trade, Love/Hate, but Kennedy says that it won’t be difficult for Kin to make its own mark on the audience.
“The visuals are much different, and I think that Dublin as a backdrop is kind of represented in a completely different way,” she began.
She continued, “They’re certainly both set in Dublin crime-land for want of a better phrase. Some gang members doing crime-land, with Kin less about the crime and more about the impact of that activity, particularly on the people who perpetuate it, which I think is kind of an interesting way to look at it, to try and understand how people get to the place that they’re in.”
Kennedy was drawn to the material before filming began, calling the scripts real “page-turners.” The episodes, in turn, are equally charged, and she says it all comes down to the characters.
“I just was so compelled by these really dysfunctional, angled up, emotionally-wrecked characters and the idea of how they impact on each other so much in this deep, dysfunctional family relationship, but they can’t help themselves but to return to it again and again and be lured into repeating and making the same patterns all the time.
“It’s just this sort of emotional vortex they’re all drawn to. I find that really, really interesting. I’m very curious about people anyway and the way that we operate in connection to each other and families in particular. It’s such a mine of emotion and feeling and behavior, and so much of it is unavoidable and pre-programmed almost.”
Kennedy says that’s particularly true for her character, Birdie.
“She loves family and loyalty above all things, but at the same time, she suffers at the hands of her family, and she makes them suffer at her hands a lot. It’s this constant push and pull. I think that’s the strongest thing about the series, the family shenanigans that are going on all the time.”
There are some very heavy, emotionally dark places for the characters. Since Kennedy isn’t a method actor, she doesn’t go into character so far that she can’t set it aside before going home at the end of the day.
There’s no doubt that if you’re really playing something emotional, you have to believe it yourself so that you can play it in a way that other people believe it,” Kennedy said.
“It does seep in a little bit, and certainly, in the beginning of our series. One of our family members dies, and it was really upsetting, and all of us stood around crying for two days. It was exhausting and just made you feel sad,” she said.
She said that everyone has their own process to bring the character’s experiences to life by bringing their own experiences to set or something from friends or family who may have experienced something similar.
“There’s no doubt that it leaves me a bit raw,” Kennedy shared, admitting how much she enjoys going home on those days to visit with family and talk about their days. “It just brings me back to myself and how lucky I am not to be in the real-life position that I was pretending to be in all day.”
As I mentioned earlier, the cast is splendid, and Kennedy said that the caliber of talent “raises the bar for everybody” because “you’re determined not to suck [when] standing in front of Clare Dunne or Charlie Cox or Aidan Gillen.”
When standing opposite them or Emmett Scanlan or Sam Keeley or Yasmin Seky, Kennedy felt that she was in the presence of greatness, and she really enjoyed creating the Kinsella family dynamic.
She’d previously worked with Gillen and Hines, but other cast members she met for the first time on the Kin set.
“It was a very, very joyful bunch of people. We’re all very savvy; we’re a very chatty crew. We would sit around in our little distance chairs with our masks on and just try and think of ways to hang out because we enjoyed it,” she said.
“It was a really good way to learn about each other and to start acting like a family, like a real family. We would sit around and tell jokes and talk about new bits of art that somebody learned about, and play stupid trivia games. [chuckles]
“I always lost. Sally and Emmett always won. They’re just brilliant people. They’re really brilliant. It was a great experience.”
At first, I thought that Kennedy had to juggle her role on Kin with Outlander, where she plays Jocasta Cameron. But Outlander got pushed several times because of the pandemic, which worked out very well for her, schedule-wise.
As soon as Kin wrapped, Kennedy joined Outlander for Season 6, and she’s happy it turned out that way because she doesn’t carry on dual roles very often.
“I think I’ve only ever done it once, actually going between productions at the same time because you get confused, and you bring the wrong things with you may be in your little mental bag of wordiness or whatever. I was glad not to have to do it.”
We realized how calamitous that could have been. Kennedy laughed, “I know, right? Birdie and Jocasta. It’s like quite a mash-up.”
Kin premieres Thursday, September 9 on AMC+. It’s got all the makings of the next big thing, so tune in, and return here weekly to get full reviews of each episode.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.