It’s no exaggeration to say that Normal People actor Paul Mescal is one of the break-out stars of 2020. The Irish actor’s heartbreaking portrayal of Connell Waldron, a popular, sporty, but later rather troubled high school student who falls for social pariah Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones), has made him an internet sensation since the supremely intimate romantic drama debuted on Hulu and BBC Three in April.
Ahead of Mescal and Edgar-Jones’s charming appearance on BBC America’s The Graham Norton Show this Friday (May 22), here are some things you might not know about the charismatic 24-year-old.
1. Like his Normal People character, he studied at Trinity College, Dublin
Mescal graduated from Trinity College’s drama school, The Lir Academy, which is associated with London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), back in 2017. While studying for his Bachelor of Acting degree, he appeared in productions of everything from William Shakespeare‘s Much Ado About Nothing to Maxim Gorky‘s Children of the Sun.
2. As a teenager, he was a super-promising Gaelic football player
Mescal played at the under-21 level for his county team, Kildare G.A.A., but reluctantly gave up the sport just before his final year at Trinity College. He told Vogue that the catalyst was breaking his jaw during a match and realizing that acting and Gaelic football “don’t coexist, unfortunately.”
3. He has a talent for accents other than his native Irish… we just haven’t heard it yet
According to his Lir Academy student page, Mescal’s portfolio of accents includes “Cockney, New London English, Liverpool, Manchester, Yorkshire, General Northern English, General American, New York, and Southern United States.”
Given that he can do Southern American, is it too soon to suggest he might play Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire?
4. The gold chain Connell wears in Normal People has become so iconic that it even has its own Instagram account
Which has – wait for it – 136,000 followers.
5. He has a lovely singing voice, and does a mean impression of opera legend Luciano Pavarotti
As you’ll witness when he appears on The Graham Norton Show this Friday (May 22) at 11pm EST on BBC America.
In the meantime, check out his soulful piano cover of Sia‘s “Chandelier,” which he recently posted on Instagram.
6. He has Andrew Lloyd Webber to thank for giving him the acting bug
“When I was 16, we did a school musical. We did Phantom of the Opera,” Mescal recalled in a recent interview. “I fell in love with it. I’ve never gotten a buzz or a high like that ever in my life. I’d been chasing that to some degree. But I never saw it as a valid career choice. When it came to applying for colleges, I was putting down law and arts and things that would support playing Gaelic football.”
Thankfully, following the broken jaw accident, he switched his focus to acting during his final year at college.
7. Before Normal People, he’d built a reputation in Ireland as a fine stage actor
His stage credits include playing Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby at the Gate Theatre, Dublin; Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Kilkenny Arts Festival; and Mad Padraic in The Lieutenant of Inishmore – a black comedy from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri director Martin McDonagh – at Gaiety Theatre, Dublin.
Reviewing the latter, in which Mescal played a character considered “too mad” for the IRA, one theater critic wrote: “Paul Mescal is half matinee idol, half psychopath, which feels just right as Padraic.”
And as you’ll see from this tweet posted by the Gate Theatre, he cut quite a dashing Jay Gatsby.
#NormalPeople is a real treat for us all watching at home!
It is amazing to see so many wonderful Irish actors on screen and special congratulations to Paul Mescal! Gate audiences will remember Paul as Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby 2017! #GreatTheatreWillPrevail pic.twitter.com/vU3qlixPaw
— Gate Theatre (@GateTheatreDub) April 28, 2020
8. He also starred in a TV commercial for Irish sausage brand Denny
In the commercial, Mescal’s first ever screen role, he plays a teenager who decides to travel the world after really enjoying a Denny sausage. Though it seems that he’s going to fly to Bali, he actually ends up visiting the small Irish town of Ballyhaunis instead – it’s a local in-joke that an Irish dad would probably love.
9. He’s a big fan of folk-pop music
Mescal shared his Spotify Wrapped data in December, revealing he’d spent a lot of time listening to Bon Iver, Lorde, and indie singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers in 2019.
I mean it ain't the cheeriest of lists… pic.twitter.com/su7POiQwzz
— Paul Mescal (@mescal_paul) December 7, 2019
So, you can imagine how thrilled he was when Bridgers tweeted about watching Normal People.
I'm officially dead.
— Paul Mescal (@mescal_paul) May 12, 2020
10. He’s currently quarantining alone in his east London apartment
According to a recent GQ profile, his roommate India Mullen – who plays Marianne’s wealthy friend Peggy in Normal People – left their London pad in late April, leaving Mescal all on his lonesome.
He’s even – possibly – been spotted jogging in the local area wearing the chain…
I am deceased on the Hackney canal currently – Connell from Normal People just ran past me. Shirtless. Wearing that chain.
Please call me an ambulance.
— Sorana (@SoranaBanana) May 20, 2020
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