In Sunday's episode of Outlander, Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) says goodbye once and for all (at least we think) to Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) — despite him finally professing his love and desire that she wait for him while he tries to save the world. No can do, Murtagh!
Here, Kennedy explains why Jocasta let her beloved go, and why she chooses to marry Duncan Innes — a man she does not love. Kennedy also reflects on her two seasons of playing such a dynamic woman. "This role fits like a glove," she tells EW. "It's been like an effortless transition finding this character. I mean it's just so wonderful. It's an absolute present of a part."
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why does Jocasta love Murtagh, and why does she turn him away?
MARIA DOYLE KENNEDY: I think it's one of those just absolute unavoidable collisions of personality. She's just utterly compelled to him. It's the one in a million. But she just can't do it again, you know? We were talking about this a little bit the other day, that grief is the price you pay for love. She knows that he loves her. But he's landing the night before her wedding to say, "No, sorry, I did mean to say that I actually do really love you, and will you wait for me?" I mean, what?
He hasn't said he loves you up until this point, right?
No. He hasn't. I mean, he certainly hasn't said, "Wait for me." I told him ages ago that Duncan had proposed. And he didn't say anything other than, "Oh, I won't stand in the way if you're happy." What!? So, she knows that he loves her, but that he will literally lose everything for what he believes in, including her. Including their love. She will always come second to his cause. And she just can't go through it again. That constant danger.
What was it like shooting that scene?
It was devastating! The scene was so upsetting. We were all heartbroken at the end of the day. It's so sad. You want them to be together. It's one of those things where they're both completely right, and they're both completely wrong.
Your chemistry with Duncan is just the best. Did you get along immediately?
Yeah. He's a great fellow, Duncan. We just got on, yes, immediately. And we understood each other. The very first thing we had to do was a really intense scene. He already knew his character so well, so it was nice for me to come into something that was already so shaped and strong.
When you joined the show in season 4, did you know that Jocasta would begin a romance with Murtagh?
No! I didn't know it, no idea.
It just showed up in the script one day?
Yeah. She's been through three husbands already, and she's showing no signs of giving any of that up, so that was really funny.
Why take Duncan Innes as a fourth husband? Companionship?
I think there is a little bit of that, yes. Jamie has moved on to Fraser's Ridge. She thought maybe he would come and stay with me. But he moved on to make his life. Jocasta is getting older, she doesn't want to be alone! I also think there's a huge, constant line that she has to walk, in terms of maintaining her own power over her own dominion. She's a woman. You see it a little bit in the last season that, any minute, the other local plantation owners could overturn what she's done. It's a measure of her acumen, and her powers of diplomacy, that she's managed to hold on to the estate after her husband's death. Because women were not in a position of power like that at all. Having to determine her authority and maintain it, to ride it all out, is exhausting. I think she feels that if she had a husband, that that would legitimize her. She could tell him what to do, he would do it, and it would be accepted more quickly.
Duncan's a good man, right?
A kind man. There just isn't a spark of passion there, like there is with Murtagh. But she wouldn't choose a fool, or somebody who would be cruel in any way to her. She feels that he will be kind and will support her. She's willing to settle for that at this stage.
Let's go back to when you first joined Outlander. What was it about this part that made you say yes?
I was so excited when I was asked to do it. I mean, obviously, just from the outset, having to address the physicality and play someone who is blind, and also someone who's quite a lot older than me. That was immediately interesting and challenging. And something that would keep me focused and on my toes. And then I did an accent as well because I'm from Dublin, I'm not Scottish. And then all of the costuming, and effect that goes with that. I'm totally in love with her now. She's deeply manipulative to the point of sometimes almost being Machiavellian, but I understand why. There are reasons. Life has formed her that way. She's had a really, really difficult journey. I understand how she's made, and I don't mind playing those hard, cruel or manipulative bits, because I think they're real. And then I love when she gets a little flash of tenderness as well. She feels real joy and love for Jamie and for Brianna. I see something lovely. In the last season, something lovely started to develop between them. It was almost as if she got a second chance at something true and loving, which was really nice.
How old is Jocasta supposed to be?
I was told when I was cast that she was 60. And in real life, I'm 55. But now looking at things, it's supposed to be more towards 70, really.
How did you prepare to play a blind person?
I did some very basic, practical things like blindfolding myself and navigating even my own surroundings, which were familiar to me. And then some other spaces that were not so familiar to me, to see how would I use my body, and what would I do. What [executive producer] Matt Roberts said to me was that sometimes it's like looking at a very brightly lit door. If somebody came through it you would be able to make out a shape against a very bright light. Jocasta has some sense of shapes and stuff, but no distinction. And once it's not broad daylight, then she's not seeing anything in the candlelight at all.
Jocasta believes she went blind over the loss of her daughter?
Yeah. And the guilt that I carry, that I feel I deserved to go blind. That the darkness was because of my dark actions. But in the real story, it was just a macular degeneration.
So this is it for you and Murtagh?
I know a little bit more about what's going to happen. So I do know, but I won't tell you because it would be a huge spoiler.
Outlander airs Sundays on Starz.