Interrogating Kathy Kenda: The Future Of 'Homicide Hunter,' Joe's Female Fans & More
“Women are his number one fans.... Women are the ones who love the show. Women keep the show going.”
Every year, all of your favorite Investigation Discovery hosts gather at IDCon to talk about their careers, their new shows, and anything fans want to ask them. But one person ID Addicts are always excited to see, and that was no different this year at IDCon 2019, isn’t exactly the star of a show — but she’s married to one!
Kathy Kenda, wife of Lt. Joe Kenda of Homicide Hunter, was in attendance all day, joining her husband onstage for one panel, but mostly having fun mingling and enjoying the event.
Despite how busy Kathy kept herself getting to know fans and posing for photos, she was kind enough to set aside some time to talk to CrimeFeed and answer our questions.
CrimeFeed: Of course the big news of the day is the announcement that there isn't going to be a Homicide Hunter for much longer; Joe broke the news from the stage that the upcoming season will be the last.
Kathy Kenda: I feel that you should go out at the top of your game, not wait. The murders that he has left are not murders that you want to see on TV — they're children and babies and so on. So, just like actors, singers, football players, go out at the top of your game, don’t wait too long.
I don't know if you're allowed to say anything or have any additional information, but is there something you can say about the future?
The future is that they are talking about different scenarios. They haven't decided the scenario, so I won’t know exactly what's going to go on, but it'll be fun.
It's exciting that there's going to be something, though, whatever it is.
It will be something totally different, and he's ready for something different, too.
Do you have a favorite episode of Homicide Hunter?
I do, it was about two black gals whose mother was murdered. They were young at the time, and the cops brought them downstairs and covered them up so they didn't see their mother who was lying at the bottom of the stairs. They helped them, and these girls — young women now — they were very complimentary of the policemen, and saying that the cops were their heroes. I just thought that was the coolest show. [Check out this episode, “Avert Your Eyes” from Season 6, now on ID GO!]
An episode that’s a favorite of mine is “Married to the Job,” do you remember that one?
I do remember that one [smiles].
How did that come about, doing one that focuses more on you and your marriage?
Well, Joe wrote a book, and part of the book was about our marriage and history. People at Discovery have known me, because I travel with him. So, I've known a bunch of these people forever, and they asked at one point, "Would you be willing to do something like that?" and I said, "Sure." Then, they asked my two children if they were willing to do it, which I wasn't sure if they would be. They said, "Sure,” they'll do it.
In a lot of the episodes, “you” are in them, but it’s the actress who portrays you. This one was much more about your story, and you were actually in it. How did that feel different from watching the actress who portrays you?
I knew that they would never do anything to degrade the show, so therefore I was real comfortable doing it, because if I did a, "Uh-uh-uh," or something like that, they'd cut that part out. They were very nice and I was comfortable about it.
The episode portrays the first time that you actually got to hear Joe being shot at, because you were listening on the phone. Obviously, you knew his job was dangerous, but was that the moment that kind of brought it home for you?
That was the one and only time I've ever heard him being shot at, because I heard it through the [dispatcher’s] mics.
That must have been terrifying. On some level, you know it must happen, but to be there for it—
Oh yeah, and the dispatcher at the time, she was friends with us. She kind of thought it was funny. I said, "This is not funny." She's like, "Oh, he's okay. Don't worry about it, Kathy."
She probably heard it all the time. It was probably more normal for her, right?
Yeah, and she has a great sense of humor. She did then, and she still does now. She's a really sweet lady.
Is it weird to see the actress who portrays you in the past acting out your life?
No, because she really does a good job portraying the way I was at the time.
So, you can kind of recognize yourself?
I recognize myself, just in what they have her say and everything. She is really good at it, and I really, really like her personally. I've met her a couple of times. In fact, I was there four hours after she had her baby! I got to see her and the baby, and it was just wonderful.
One of the things they have her do, which I enjoy, is when you're mad at your husband, and they make a point to call him “Kenda” instead of “Joe.” Does that happen often?
Of course it happens often! We've been married for a long time.
Those parts of the show are fun to watch, though, when you're mad at him. I don't know why that's amusing, but it is.
Well, that's every marriage. I mean, it's not all roses. There's a lot of thorns with those roses.
I think he has a way of portraying when he knows he's in trouble too, like it's ... I don't know. It's cute—
Yeah, yeah. He knows, before he even comes home, that he's in trouble. So, you know. Yeah, we hash it out. We tried not to go to bed being mad at each other, so we'd hash it out. There was a little bar that was close to our house that if we were going to fight, we'd go down there and fight so we wouldn't be fighting in front of the kids. So, by the time we had a couple of drinks….
Kind of turns into a date.
Yeah. It did.
That's awesome. That's a good plan, actually. Keeps it in public, too, so you're not throwing things at each other.
You and Joe have been married for 51 years. What did you do for your 50th anniversary?
We went back to Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where we were married. That's where some of my family is, and we had a party with the family. My kids haven't seen a lot of their cousins for awhile, and some of them they didn't even know. So we went back there, and we had an anniversary party.
At what point in your marriage or your careers was it apparent that Joe was going to become a TV star, and things were going to change in that way?
He was retired from the police department; I was retired from nursing. We were both working as school bus drivers. I worked on a special needs bus and he drove a special needs bus, but we didn't work together. Then a man wrote letters to him — Joe threw two letters away. He is listed as one of the executive producers, Patrick Bryant, it was his idea. So, this third letter, Joe was laughing. I said, "What is that?" He said, "Oh, a letter from some guy that says he's going to put me on television." He said, "Like that's going to happen." I said, "You should call him." And he said, "I'm not going to call him." I said, "You should call him." He said, "Oh, it's a come on."
Three days later, after I nagged him — he says I have a PhD in nagging — he called him. They shot the pitch reel. This guy had connections because he worked in the industry, and that's how it got sold. And here we are.
Was there any discussion at that point, like, maybe you don't want to do it, or it's going to be weird? It's such a different career track, right?
Well, the discussion was, I said, "You're going to have women that are your fans." He said, "Nah, I'm not going to have women. And I said, "Yes, you're going to have women." I said, "My mom read True Detective." I said, "My mom reads murder mysteries." I said, "I read murder mysteries. Women like that stuff. Women read Ellery Queen. Women are going to be your number one fans.”
Women are his number one fans. That's fine. Women are the ones who love the show. Women keep the show going, and they keep the money rolling in to my coffers [laughs].
Do you have any theories about why it's so much more women as a demographic than men?
Never even thought about it, all I know is my mom, my grandmother, everybody reads murder mysteries.
The thing I hear repeated a lot is that women consume it because it's about personal safety ... like we're trying to learn, "In case this happens to me, how would I escape from that trunk, or how would I get away from an abductor?"
There was a lady at one point that, I think she wrote us a letter saying that she watched the show. She was in an abusive relationship and because of what Joe said, she got out of the relationship. She said, "And I think you probably saved my life."
Oh, my God. Incredible.
So, that's really cool.
Someone in the Crime Obsession Facebook Group recently referred to your husband as her “TV boyfriend.” Lots of women are going on and on about how much they love him, and getting T-shirts of him, and how excited they are to meet him at IDCon. How weird is that for you to have all these women obsessed with your husband?
I knew then that this was going to happen. I knew that the women were going to fall all over him. That's fine with me, because he always comes home to mama at the end of the day!
What’s your favorite part about being at IDCon?
I like mingling with the fans and meeting everyone.
I think I saw you at the merch booth last year, so I guess you're just willing to pitch in and hang out?
Right now, it's closed. But, yeah, I'll be out there! I've done that ever since they first had the IDCon. I like meeting people, and I like hanging out with the fans. The fans are great, and if we didn't have fans, we wouldn't have a show!