On Outlander, Maria Doyle Kennedy plays Jamie Fraser’s Aunt Jocasta, who might not be able to see, but somehow can see right through everyone. In her new show, Recipes for Love and Murder on Acorn TV, Kennedy plays Tannie Maria, a food columnist turned romance advice columnist who dabbles in a little murder mystery, too. Think Agatha Christie meets Julia Child meets Scottish Sherlock Holmes. I sat down with Kennedy for SheKnows to get the scoop on her new show — and of course, talk a little Outlander.
I asked Kennedy what kind of relationship advice her Love and Murder character would give Jamie and Claire if she sauntered over to the Outlander universe, what she’s learned from working with Outlander leads Caitríona Balfe and Sam Heughan, and will she be heading back to the 1700s for Outlander season 7 after she’s done whipping up some love and murder?! Check out our chat below to find out.
Reshma Gopaldas: Maria, this show is so fantastic. But they only gave me the first three episodes, which I honestly found rude. I need more. And the opening credits make me so hungry every time, I need a chef.
Maria Doyle Kennedy: I need to have snacks!
RG: I usually ride my bike when I watch TV shows, and I realized, “Oh, this isn’t going to work.” As you must know, everyone loves you on Outlander. I think they’re going to be so excited about this new show. They’re gonna eat it up — bad pun intended. What drew you to this show?
MDK: Well, totally randomly, one of the story consultants, a woman called Annie Griffin. I had worked with her on Outlander, because the character I play in Recipes for Love and Murder is Scottish, Tannie Maria, which is the only time actually that I’ve ever played anybody called Maria, which is kind of nice. It made usual instructions, you know, a lot simpler. So I played Jocasta on Outlander, who was Scottish, obviously. They actually auditioned a lot of people for it, but they sent it to me, and I read it, I was reading a lot of stuff at the time. And to be honest with you, so much of it was about serial killers, and the many, many gruesome ways that they kill women. And I was so exhausted by it. I picked this up, and I looked at the breakdown. I saw these beautiful pictures of South Africa, sunshine, and food. And then I read it, and I literally read all 10 episodes in one night. It was like a jewel in a sea of absolute crap. I just was so excited about it.
RG: That’s how I felt when I was watching it. I thought, “I could consume this in one night.” What I love is that it’s unexpected. You think it’s going to be this cute light show about romance, advice columnist, and then you’re like, oh, wow, they’re covering serious topics, like domestic violence, and you weave it in organically, it’s terrific.
MDK: Oh, thank you. That’s what I found when I read it. It’s lighter than all of this that I was reading. And the intention is not malevolent. It’s something I could watch, with my mother and my children, and they’re not many of those programs, like The Simpsons. At the same time, it isn’t trivial. It’s not just kind of a little snack box. They really look at people’s relationships and how they communicate. They discuss the issue of domestic violence — one in five women in South Africa experiences domestic violence. [When I watch shows,] I want to feel like I’m learning something or there’s something to discover. It just had all those things for me.
RG: What shows inspired this show? When you were reading it, were you like this reminds me of….
MDK: The one I thought about most, the Agatha Christie books. I started reading Agatha Christie books when I was about 13. I read them really, really fast, because I really wanted to find all the clues. I wanted to figure out the relationships and solve it. So I’d speed read them, then they’d be over I’d be furious. That’s mostly what I what I identified with, because of particularly because of Tannie Maria’s character. It’s more of a Miss Marple kind of take on things in a way, isn’t it? She doesn’t think in a linear fashion, she doesn’t make decisions based on what people tell her.
RG: It’s interesting, I thought it was going to be like one romance column per episode. But, I love that it’s a mystery that runs throughout the season.
MDK: I love that as well, a lot of shows don’t do that. They want to wrap everything up in one episode. But I think it’s much more compelling to have this one big thread that goes through them all. I think you want to stay with the characters.
RG: Your character has some fun Julia Child vibes too. It’s like Julia Child meets Agatha Christie, and it’s just perfection. As I said, everyone loves you on Outlander… what if your character, Tannie Maria, wandered over to Outlander for a day, accidentally touched a rock and fell back in time? What relationship advice would she give to Jamie and Claire? And more importantly, what recipe?
MDK: Oh, geez! Relationship advice. I mean, I don’t think there’s anything that anybody can say to those two. I mean, the reason that people love that show and watch it is because it is love beyond anything else… they’re going to cross time for each other. That’s what everybody wants in their lives isn’t it? Or what they want to see and believe in. So I don’t think there’s any advice that you could give them at all! Except occasionally to listen more to each other. Sometimes they just get stuck into their own thing, and they’re off in their own world. But then, of course, they always discover that they should have been listening, and they come back to each other. But a recipe?! Oh, geez.
RG: I feel like they should just get a cake. I mean, they’re so good at love. Give ‘em a love cake.
MDK: [laughing] A love cake will be good. Also, because of the time, and because I’m personally kind of good at making comfort food. I’m not an enormously good cook, but there’s a few things I do really well. I have a family house that’s always like a train station. I make really good stews and things like that. For them, I’d give them some kind of like ancient elk stew!
RG: With like little horns sticking out of it? Okay, maybe not, I won’t help.
MDK: Oh vegans will hate us now! Oh, geez!
RG: Sorry everyone! They can have vegan elk? I don’t know? Jamie and Claire didn’t have access to things like that. So you’re working with the time you’re in. Sorry, vegans. Okay, what kind of relationship advice and recipe would you give to Roger (Richard Rankin) and Bree (Sophie Skelton)?
MDK: Oooooh! They definitely need — they’re both from a different time. And they’re both so worried about that, always trying to figure out, “Should we be here? Should we be there?” Now that there’s small people involved? “Should we be bringing them up here or back there?” But they also again, often do their tasks kind of separately. I think that a way for them to bring the new time into the old time is definitely to do more together. And for a recipe, I’d love to see them cooking the dinner together. It would be such a bonding thing for them, they could kind of jump time (by cooking together). People (in that time) might not like it, but that’s what we’re always trying to do, move things forward, not stick to gender roles. Yeah, I love all those people, I must say, I’m really, really fond of them. I keep in touch with Caitríona all the time. She’s a very, very special woman.
RG: That whole cast is amazing, but before we get into that. One last thing, if Jocasta and Tannie Maria, your two characters, met. What relationship advice and love recipe would Tannie Maria give Jocasta?
MDK: I don’t really know what the recipe would be. But Maria, she’s a very practical person, I think her instruction for Jocasta would be all about scent and herbs because Jocasta can’t see obviously. So she would be sewing lavender into all of her things, she would have sharp lemon scents. It would all be about scents and herbs — obviously Jocasta got into the herbs a bit of the last season.
RG: Oh, I want to talk about that scene!
MDK: I wouldn’t give her a recipe though, because Jocasta doesn’t cook you know, that’s all done for her.
RG: Oh, yeah, that would be dangerous. You’re right. Now that I’m thinking about it. What recipe would she recommend to Murtagh? Rest in peace. I would have told him, “Make bread, not war, man.”
MDK: Oooh!! Yeah! Okay, I think if Tannie Maria met him, she would probably give him a really good recipe for homebrew, a homebrew whisky or homemade beer or something. I think that’s where she’d go with him. All about the alcohol.
RG: I love how it’s like elk stew for one recipe and you’re like, “Just whisky. A bowl of whisky.”
MDK: Yeah! Just whisky for him.
RG: You brought up that Outlander scene in season six. So, I think Outlander fans will be really mad at me if I don’t ask, have you been to set in season seven? Will we get a Jocasta sighting?
MDK: I ca— I mean, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. So…
RG: Oh! Wow. I feel honored that you’d have to murder me. It’s like a real recipe for love and murder, you’re not kidding around.
MDK: No, they’re so strict about all of their stuff. I just, I just can’t!
RG: But tell me, if you can, what was your favorite scene from last season?
MDK: I think it was that one. I think sitting around smoking the hemp! The three women. It was so funny. Even at my age and Jocasta’s age, we did feel very bold, that we were breaking a whole lot of rules somehow. We had a lot of fun. It was really good.
RG: You mentioned working with Caitríona, that whole cast, what a great group of people-
MDK: They are! They’re really, really solid, and open for each other. Very, very supportive.
RG: What have you learned from working on that show? Seeing how Caitríona and Sam kind of run that set, in terms that you’ve tried to bring over to your new show?
MDK: Well, I think they’re gracious people. And the show that I’ve done before that, Orphan Black with Tatiana Maslany — also an absolute jewel of a woman, she’s a jewel. And I think when you see people, I mean — just don’t be a dick. There’s no need for it.
RG: Can you make a recipe called, “Don’t be a dick” soup?
MDK: [laughing] You know, everybody is there! The show is not going to get made without the input of 100 people. Everybody’s work is valuable and crucial to the operation. So if you see people acting as if their work is more valuable, more important than the other people’s work — Well, you just know you’re dealing with an idiot. You would have no time for them whatsoever!
RG: I love it! So… you’re such a great musician. Do you think at any point you’ll be singing on this new show?
MDK: Yes! They actually licensed a couple of our songs for recipes for love and murder.
[In episode 10, Kennedy’s song, “Sing,” written by Kennedy and Kieran Kennedy, includes vocals by Damien Rice and can be heard here.]
RG: I can’t wait! Next time we talk, I’m going to give you real-life romance problems from the internet and you’re going to give us relationship/romance columnist advice!
MDK: [laughs] Oh, geez!! What a responsibility!
RG: Congratulations on the show. I do hope there’s a Recipes for Love and Murder – Outlander crossover, because I think you could really cook up something fierce on the Ridge.
Recipes for Love and Murder premieres on Monday, September 5 on Acorn TV.
Before you go, check out the all-time best ‘Outlander’ episodes you need to watch.