Today, Acorn TV releases the first two episodes of its original series, Recipes for Love and Murder
, based on the book by Sally Andrew, starring Maria Doyle Kennedy. Kennedy plays Maria, who writes the local recipe column, and when it is cut, competes for the position of advice columnist against rookie journalist Jessie (Kylie Fisher). When a woman who writes Tannie (literally, Auntie) Maria about her abusive husband is unexpectedly found murdered, Maria teams up with Jessie to investigate, all while comforting her readers with advice and recipes.
Kennedy was attracted to the role from the beginning. “I was reading a lot of stuff, and so much of it was about serial killers and the many gruesome ways that they dispose of women, and I was so tired of it,” the actress told SciFi Vision during an exclusive interview. “I was actually getting a bit angry about it as well. The next thing I opened was Recipes for Love and Murder
, and I was just delighted with myself.”
Kennedy and her family moved to South Africa and didn’t look back.
The actress said that she read all ten episode scripts right away and could visualize Tannie Maria easily. “I thought she was warm and loving, but also, she had this tragedy to her as well, a darkness, and she clearly dealt with the world by sort of repressing her feelings, and that was how she put one foot in front of the other,” she explained.
The character was a lot different from the television series, according to the actress. “Tannie Maria is not Scottish in the book, for example,” Kennedy told the site. “They just introduced that element as they wanted to clearly represent South Africa and the diversity of people and landscape and food there, but they wanted to open it up as well. So, they decided if they had this European character coming to live there and her bringing her ideas and kind of way of dealing with things as well, that that would make it a kind of a slightly different show…It definitely does bring different elements and a different kind of perspective into it, which is good.”
“There's a lot to her that you see that's hidden,” she added. “She interacts in the town in this wonderful, friendly, warm way, but then she goes off very much on her own. She lives on her own in the house outside of town, just with her pet chicken and the other wildlife and food that she's growing, but people don't come there much. They're not invited there much until the mystery starts to unravel, and they try to solve it…There's much more going on around her, and she can't isolate herself quite so much. Then, you see that she has to really kind of dig into what's happened to her as well to go forward, that she really forms relationships with these people.”
Besides the mystery, the series often revolves around Maria’s recipes, and Kennedy told us she had to learn to cook almost everything for real, saying that she especially enjoyed the lamb curry from the first episode.
For more, read the full transcript below to find out what it was like working with live birds, the one food she didn’t make herself, how her music ended up being in the series, and much more. Be sure to tune into Recipes for Love and Murder
, available to stream starting today on Acorn TV.
SCIFI VISION: Can you just start by talking about what first drew you to the role?
MARIA DOYLE KENNEDY:
Well, I was at home. I was in Dublin in Ireland where I live most of the time, and I was reading a lot of stuff, and so much of it was about serial killers and the many gruesome ways that they dispose of women, and I was so tired of it. I was actually getting a bit angry about it as well. The next thing I opened was Recipes For Love and Murder
, and I was just delighted with myself. I just thought, “Well, here it is; this is this is what I want to do.” I read all ten episodes. I just didn't stop until I'd read them all, and I thought it had just all the things I wanted to do. I could see her in front of me, and I thought she was warm and loving, but also, she had this tragedy to her as well, a darkness, and she clearly dealt with the world by sort of repressing her feelings, and that was how she put one foot in front of the other.
Then, of course, there was also this amazing food everywhere, and a kind of tender way of looking at the world, but also, I thought that it was smart. Sometimes the kind of warm cozy things are not really - I get bored [with them], but I really didn't. I thought it constantly had these really engaging sort of little mysteries in each episode, but then it has this one big one that goes through all the lot of it. I thought all of it was so well written and constructed.
The woman who wrote it, who adapted it, is called Karen Jeynes, and she also directed a few of our middle episodes. I just, I mean, I went there; like I went across the world and went to South Africa and brought my family with me, kind of on a wing and a prayer, but I did for her, and she did not disappoint me in any way. She's just an absolutely fantastic human being.
It was great to go there. I've never been to South Africa to work or even on a holiday, and my ideas about it were fairly simplistic, really. I would have been part of an anti-Apartheid group in college, but I didn't really know a lot more than that, except that Apartheid was and now was not. So, it was a huge journey of learning for me.
It’s such a beautiful country. It's stunningly beautiful and very, very complex and interesting.
Then, of course, I had to try and learn how to cook all this. The only kind of, not bad thing, but my family did think that they were going to come out of the experience with a really new and improved “mom cook.” I mean, I work so hard. I barely have time to boil an egg, and my one day off, I'd be just like, “Can we just go out for dinner?” [laughs]
So, they feel a bit cheated by the whole thing that didn't quite pay off but, but I did learn a lot, actually, by cooking and making different things. Yeah, I was going to ask if tried out some of the recipes.
Oh, I did, and I mean, actually in the show, I had to actually cook everything, except for - I have to tell you. I can't lie about it. I did not make the chocolate cake. There was a chocolate cake down the road, and it was a vision of a creation. I iced it. I did do the making of the chocolate sauce and decorating and icing it; I did do that, but I didn't make the cake. That's way beyond me. Out of the different foods you did make, what was your favorite?
I actually really loved the one in the very first episode, which is the curry, lamb curry. I really love that. It takes ages, a really long time. It's a big slow, slow cook process, and it's absolutely divine. I'm not a vegetarian. I really liked that one. Obviously, you eat the food when you make it, but is it hard doing take after take and having to keep eating it? I know, people have different experiences with eating while filming.
Yeah, it was was totally okay, most of the time. I would just make sure that I just didn't eat a load before a big cooking scene, or that I hadn't gone and had, you know, five slices of bread that I could certainly fill up with. Mostly, it's like little sips of things, anyway. I'm kind of licking the spoon or smelling the food and trying to convey a sense of what it does feel like and the texture, as opposed to eating whole meals. The only thing that was really difficult for me is at the end of episode one, when Anna (Daniel Van Der Walt)…comes to our office, and she gets arrested, and I'm eating. I've brought koeksisters, these South African kind of sweet, little plaits (braids). They're kind of a doughnut in a way, but they're made in a little rectangle, plaited…I eat one at the end [of the episode]. I mean, I had to do that like one hundred times, and they're so sweet, and I don't have a sweet tooth. I would spend my life eating you know, cheese if I could. So, that was really, really hard. I mean, I will never eat another one of those. Never. Well at least you know how to make it if you ever decide to again.
That's true. Yeah, but me and koeksisters have broken up completely. I don’t know if you had heard of the books beforehand, but I assume that you've since read them?
Yeah, I hadn't beforehand, and then, when I was asked to do it, then I said, “Okay, well I know what I will be doing from the scripts. I know what she is in that,” but I wanted to go back to the source and read the book.
So, I read the book, and I met Sally Andrew, the writer, who’s really a funny woman, and I got something different from them. I mean, they're quite different, actually, and, obviously, the show is different. I mean, Tannie Maria is not Scottish in the book, for example. They just introduced that element as they wanted to clearly represent South Africa and the diversity of people and landscape and food there, but they wanted to open it up as well. So, they decided if they had this European character coming to live there and her bringing her ideas and kind of way of dealing with things as well, that that would make it a kind of a slightly different show. I do think - well, I do think now, it was a good idea, because I got to do it, but it definitely does bring different elements and a different kind of perspective into it, which is good.
She's not always used to everything in the way that she didn't grow up there. So, that's kind of an interesting way to approach it as well. I mean, she sort of deals with the world by repressing her feelings in a way. There's a lot to her that you see that's hidden. She interacts in the town in this wonderful, friendly, warm way, but then she goes off very much on her own. She lives on her own in the house outside of town, just with her pet chicken and the other wildlife and food that she's growing, but people don't come there much. They're not invited there much until the mystery starts to unravel, and they try to solve it. Then, Jessie starts to come to her home and Khaya (Tony Kgoroge) comes to her home, and there's much more going on around her, and she can't isolate herself quite so much. Then, you see that she has to really kind of dig into what's happened to her as well to go forward, that she really forms relationships with these people. She needs to be honest with herself and deal with some of the past so that she can stop hiding from it, I suppose.
That also makes me want to ask since you mentioned it, what was it like working with the chicken? I assume it was a live chicken.
Oh, yeah. Morag is real. Morag even went to - we couldn't go because of COVID, but Morag showed up at the premiere in South Africa. [laughs]
It was actually, really cool. I was very nervous about it, because I don't know much about chickens. I don't come from a farm, but I had to figure out how to how to pick her up and hold her just so that she would be comfortable and that I would be comfortable and not nervous. I did it, and then I felt really good about it. I was like “I have a new little way of being with the animals.”
But the other bird, the hadeda…they make a sound that's awful. They're like big really narky seagulls, and they make this awful [noise]. I filmed with the hadeda on the very first day, and the hadeda hated me, try to attack me many times, actually bit my leg and made it bleed. Then, several times throughout the shoot, the hadeda would come over and just make this enormous kind of sound, and we'd have to have to stop filming. The hadedas hated me, and I did not like them much either. Well, they say it's hardest to work with animals and kids.
Yeah. Although usually children hopefully are easier to work with that. I did want to ask you, back to talking a little bit about the books, how do you sort of balance between what you pull from the book versus the script versus what you're able to add of your own creatively?
I think you have to first of all, really, really know your script, really dig into it. I knew that we would be incredibly busy. We were working on a really tight schedule. So, I was off book for all ten episodes before we began, because I knew there would not be time to be sitting up at night every night. I was going to come home and just fall asleep standing up. So, I really knew the scripts backward, and I got my idea of who she was from that.
But then again, in a way, I mean, all acting is reacting. So, how I feel about her, or how I'm going to say something in a scene as her, is totally going to depend on what the other person in the scene is saying to me, how they approach [it], like [Tony with] Khaya and how Kylie approached Jessie and how Jennifer [Steyn] approached Hattie and all of that. So, it's only when you get it up on its legs, that it really comes together as a believable town, as a believable community of people.
But the bits in the books that were interesting to me was, because it's a book, obviously, it has more time, and there was a lot of detail; there was a lot more detail about what she doesn't do, as opposed to what she does. In this script it's all action and dialogue, (10 answering?) [are in?] the scenes speaking to people. In the book, it’s a lot more description of her sort of inner monologue, and you can do it in that, obviously. So, that was very interesting to think about is the times when she's more still, really, for the times when she's on her own. Who is a person? You know who a person is when they're talking and saying who they are, but who is a person if you're pretending to be somebody else? I mean, who are they when they're ringing a doorbell? Who are they when they're walking around a supermarket? Who are they when they're just cooking on their own and thinking to themselves? Because they're not me. I'm not being me doing those things; I'm being her, and that's different from me. So, that's kind of what the book gave me, a bit more of I think those bits of things of her for when she's still or when she's not acting with the others. Was there any part of her though, you sort of had difficulty connecting with? It doesn't sound like it from what you're saying.
There really wasn't, actually. I mean, I haven't lived it all, but I was able to go into it all. And also, it's first time ever in my acting life that I played a character that was also called Maria, so that was kind of enjoyable. I don't think so. I mean, she goes through things that I haven't gone through, but I think if you properly empathize with somebody, and the writing is clear, you can understand how somebody might feel. Right.
I love her. I absolutely love her. You know, I just, I want to mind her all the time. As if she was a real person, I just want to go and hug her all the time. We're almost out of time, but I wanted to ask you about your singing. I did listen to some of your music before we before we started. I downloaded a couple.
There're a couple of songs in the show. …Can you talk a second about using your music for the show?
Well, usually, when we go away on location, I think I said earlier, but my family tend to travel together; we don't do so well apart. My husband's a musician; we make music together. Luckily, COVID had sort of prepared the children very well for Zoom schooling; they knew all about that. The time difference is the same in South Africa; there would be only an hour time difference. So, it was very easy to do all of that, but normally when we go away, like when we were in Toronto for Orphan Black
for so long, we'd start gigging there, because that's what we do. I mean, I still think of myself as a singer who does a bit of acting. But we couldn't do it in South Africa, because of COVID. There were all the regulations still about the people that could gather and what was open and what was not open. But the director, before I came, because he knew that I sang, he'd done a lot of research on our music, and then he found a couple, and he just said, “I really would like to use a couple of your songs.” So, we licensed them. There's something in an early show, and then there's something in the finale, as well; “Sing,” a song of ours called, “Sing” is in the very last episode. It was really sweet of them. [With] luck, hopefully we'll get to do it again, and we'll go back, and we'll do loads of gigs as well.