HFPA in Conversation: Paul Mescal’s Take on Normal People

by Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros August 19, 2020
Actor Paul Mescal

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Paul Mescal went to Trinity College in Dublin like his character Connell on Hulu's limited series Normal People, based on Sally Rooney's best-selling novel of the same name. “Connell would be more academically inclined than I would be. I think I did well in school academically, not due to talent, but due to the fact that I wanted to do well. I wasn't particularly book smart or things like that, but I worked hard and that probably has something to do with the discipline that sport kind of instills in you,” Mescal told HFPA journalist Helen Hoehne.

In college, he studied acting. “It was quite a practical, hands-on course, and didn't require any essay writing or things like that. I think both myself and Connell had very different college experiences, albeit in the same college.” 

Normal People was Mescal’s screen debut. It became a hit and he got an Emmy nomination from his performance. “I do think Connell is a big stretch just simply in terms of the discipline of being on set for five months and leading the show with Daisy Edgar-Jones. I think Connell is an incredibly complex individual and he kind of is put through the mill a little bit, especially towards the end of the series.”

Mescal finds his character tricky. “He doesn't say an awful lot, and even when he is saying things sometimes he's not able to articulate what he's actually feeling. So it was kind of about merging all of those things together.”

Listen to the podcast and hear what is his opinion about chemistry; what kind of actors and directors he admires; how he describes Connell’s relationship with his mother; how was his first press tour; which Normal People-related Instagram account he finds the funniest; whether he wears a silver chain; how was his childhood; why he didn’t choose musical theatre; when he knew he wanted to be an actor; how his parents reacted when he told them he wanted to be an actor and how they reacted to the success of the series; what he considers his big break; what he did with his first paycheck; who are his mentors; what theatre taught him; why he can’t make long-term plans; why sports has helped him as an actor; would he return to play Connell if there would be a second season?; what he thinks happens to Marianne and Connell after he left for New York; and what the series taught him about relationships in general.