Diana, the Sculptor & A Deeper Look at Season 4’s Jocasta: Maria Doyle Kennedy

Photo: Maria Doyle Kennedy, BBC America

This post contains straight up SPOILERS for non book readers, so proceed with that knowledge. 

Jocasta Cameron… we meet this intriguing new character, (who as book readers know, will be around for a while), in this next season: the visual adaptation of Diana’s fourth book in the Outlander series: Drums of Autumn. I’ll kick off this exploration with a wonderful view into Diana’s writing process, which she illustrates below…

Diana locates an evocative object as a point of entry, and then her imagination takes her into the scene. She describes what she is sensing, constantly refining her word choice, like a sculptor with a chisel, until the the words capture precisely and eloquently where she is and what is happening. The pattern of these scenes, and how they fit together gradually takes shape, and eventually become her magnificent stories.

Here is Diana conjuring (as I like to call it), Jocasta…

Born in 1702, Jocasta Cameron is 65 years old when we meet her in Drums of Autumn, and her eyesight is failing. Jocasta is the youngest of the MacKenzie children, her older siblings being: Dougal, Colum, and Ellen. This makes her Jamie’s aunt, of course, (and Jenny’s), and Brianna’s great-aunt. True to MacKenzie form (Campbells are sneaky, Frasers are stubborn, etc.), she is charming but sly.  A shrewd woman, Jocasta is nobody’s fool. She’s not been lucky in marriage, nor as a mother (poor woman), but is wealthy due to being widowed three times and especially to her adventures with third husband, Hector. 

Maria Doyle Kennedy has been cast as Jocasta. Maria is only 53 years old, which leads me to believe there will be flashbacks, as Jocasta’s age in Drums is 65-69. Let’s see how the new MacKenzie fits in with her clan…




Yep, I’m buying it, how ’bout you? Kudos, once again to our casting team – Suzanne Smith et al.

Many of you probably know of Maria and her many talents, as she has already had a prolific career. Born in Dublin, Ireland (like our Caitriona), Maria grew up in Bray, County Wicklow, and received degrees in political science and business from Trinity College in Dublin. She got into singing before acting; her early influences were Billie Holiday and Patti Smith, among others. Maria sang with Hothouse Flowers during college, and joined The Black Velvet Band in the late ’80’s with future husband, her Jamie, Kieran Kennedy. Here is the story of both the romantic beginning of their life together, and of their band…

Above photo: Maria with husband Kieran

Maria’s first role as an actress came in 1991, when she played Natalie Murphy in The Commitments.

Here is Maria’s soulful performance of “I Never Loved a Man” with the Commitments at a reunion concert in 2010…

In 1994 the above song was featured on the compilation album, The Lady Sings The Blues, including some major names in music: Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Ella Fitzgerald, Tina Turner, Annie Lennox (to name a few), as well as Doyle Kennedy’s own paragon, Billie Holiday.  Maria branched out as a solo artist in 2000, establishing a production company and a recording label, both bearing the same name: Mermaid Films, and Mermaid Records. She has thrived as a singer song writer for 30 years, and her work has been described as “transcendent.”

Along with giving birth to and raising four boys, Maria has also had a very successful acting career. In addition to her role in The Commitments, Maria is most well known for her roles as: Siobhan Sadler in Orphan Black, Vera Bates in Downton Abbey, and Queen Catherine of Aragon in The Tudors. I wager that playing Jocasta Cameron will be another wonderful and life changing adventure for Ms. Doyle Kennedy.

Vera Bates in Downton Abbey

Queen Catherine of Aragon in The Tudors

Siobhan Sadler in Orphan Black

Book readers all know Jocasta well, but I’ll just include the Outlander Wiki description of her: 

“Jocasta is described as a striking woman that exudes a sensual vitality. She is possessed of the broad cheekbones and high, smooth brow that Claire had observed of Jocasta’s brothers, Colum and Dougal, many years before, as well as the striking height and presence of her nephew and great-niece. She has white hair with a tinge of ruddiness to it, suggesting that it might once have been as red as Jamie’s. When Claire and Jamie first meet Jocasta at River Run, Claire makes note of Jamie’s response to his aunt’s appearance, and surmises that Jocasta likely bore a great resemblance to her older sister Ellen, Jamie’s mother.”

Now, let’s get this part out of the way… Maria is 5’6″, which is obviously not tall, but will play well against Sophie’s 5’8″. And let’s face it, Colum is supposed to be tall, yet Gary Lewis absolutely killed it playing Colum – all 5’6″ of him ?.

I, for one, think Maria will be a phenomenal Jocasta, and I can’t wait to see her in this role. I think she will be a grounding presence, in much the same way Murtagh was in Season 2, and Jenny and Ian in Season 3. I also can’t help thinking that she’ll be a pretty great person to have around for Caitriona – who is newly engaged and hasn’t had a consistent older sister/mom co-actor since Annette Badland as Mrs. Fitz in Season 1 – not to mention, a fellow Irishwoman. 

Below is a great interview between George Stroumboulopoulos and Maria. Among other things, she talks about what singing means to her vs. acting, who she admires ❤️, and when asked what two historical figures with whom she’d like to have dinner, she mentions Isadora Duncan. Caitriona also finds Isadora Duncan fascinating (who doesn’t, really?)…

Full Cait Q&A

Now we have an Irish powerhouse threesome in the Outlander cast: Caitriona Balfe, Laura Donnelly, and Maria Doyle Kennedy. I have a feeling that Maria is gonna knock our socks off in Season 4, and bring a maturity to the set that will raise everyone’s game – just my hunch. 

I’ll close with a super cute Q&A with Maria about her characters in Downton Abbey vs Orphan Black.

Welcome Maria Doyle Kennedy – I cannot wait to meet you, and we look so forward to seeing your Jocasta! 


Source: Wiki

Source: Outlander Wiki

Source: IMDB

15 comments on “Diana, the Sculptor & A Deeper Look at Season 4’s Jocasta: Maria Doyle Kennedy

  1. Thank you Courtney, as always!

    I did not recognize Maria in DA but she was absolutely terrific in Orphan Black.

    Yes!! to the below!

    “I have a feeling that Maria is gonna knock our socks off in Season 4, and bring a maturity to the set that will raise everyone’s game – just my hunch.”

    Irish actresses seem to be on a roll right now on the international stage (though not in Outlander, there’s also Sirsha Ronan – will not even try to spell her first name correctly).

    Love all your postings!

    • Thanks Piper! I had a lot of fun researching Maria. And it’s Saoirse – my daughter has one in her class! Glad you enjoyed. xo

    • Maria will be great in the role. I do not know if one can assume that Caitroina is looking for a sister on set, but she will show the greatest respect for her fellow actor.

  2. Gary Lewis was cast in the role because Colum *isn’t* tall — he’s severely stunted because he has Talouse-Lautrec Syndrome. That’s why Dougal acts as War Chief.

    I know you know this — I think you must have had a wee brain fart there! It happens to us all with these densely-populated and plotted books! 😉

    • Actually Anna, this is what I found about Colum… “Colum shares several of the strong MacKenzie traits with his brother, Dougal, though Colum’s eyes are dove-gray like his older sister Ellen’s. From the waist up, Colum has the long torso and imposing presence of the MacKenzies, but his legs are crippled by the degenerative disease he suffers, which Claire privately diagnoses as Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome.” Gary doesn’t have a long anything! ?

  3. I think Maria Doyle Kennedy will knock it out of the park (to use a very American metaphor). There are strong similarities of features between Ms Kennedy and Ms Skelton. Ms. Kennedy made Mrs Bates a woman to despise in Downton and while she was miscast as the Spanish Catherine of Aragon, her performance made me forget for a while how much that show’s casting failed. Looking forward to meeting Mrs Cameron at River Run.

  4. Thanks so much for finding these! I didn’t realize she was in “The Commitments”! Love that flick! I love her voice. I actually have that song on my iPod!

  5. Thank you Courtney for this post and all of your posts. I always love reading your insights (still loving the expression “Autumn Beauty” discovered in one of your previous posts). Maria Doyle Kennedy is an awesome actress. I was excited to read that she had been cast to play Jocasta. I think the first film I saw her in was The Matchmaker (1997). If you’re in the mood for a Romantic Comedy that was filmed in Ireland; it’s a cute one. The movie also stars Milo O’Shea (Lord rest his soul), adorable Irish actor with his soulful brown eyes and very full eyebrows. Milo plays the village matchmaker. You’ll laugh during the scene when he describes the “Relationship Pie.”
    Thanks again Courtney for your post.

  6. I think she looks perfect and I hated her in Downtown Abby, so she can act for sure. Her height isn’t a problem it’s Sophie not being six feet tall and too pretty.

  7. Thank you for your wonderful insight. Always appreciated. I must comment on Jocasta’s age as opposed to the Ms Kennedy’s age. I hope for the day that 65 yr old actresses will be cast in roles. Other than Maggie Smith and Judi Dench…I do agree that this actress is perfect for the part. She’ll be terrific. I have no issues with casting as the choices has been fantastic. Until Ms Skelton. I have hopes she will change my mind this coming season, but apparently America has no actresses that are tall. Hair can be dyed. But Brianna’s height is huge! And she’s English. English folk are brilliant at American accents. So the height thing…. I also feel her acting comes across as acting. Jury is still out…

  8. Great article! I don’t know how I missed the 1st posting! I didn’t realize she was in “The Commitments!” LOVE that movie & her voice!! I have the soundtrack on my iPod. I looking forward to seeing her in season 4!

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