Paul Mescal did not always see himself becoming an actor. But after an injury sidelined him from continuing his promising athletic career, he found success in the entertainment industry right out of the gate.
The 24-year-old showed off his acting chops with his role in Normal People, which first premiered on BBC Three in the U.K. in April before being released on Hulu later that month. For his first TV gig, he played Connell Waldron, a well-liked high school student who falls in love with his wealthy but far less popular classmate Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones).
The drama, which is based on author Sally Rooney’s 2018 book of the same name, follows Connell and Marianne’s complex, on-off relationship as they venture off to college and beyond. Mescal and Edgar-Jones, 22, received critical acclaim for their roles, and the show landed four nominations at the 2020 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for the Ireland native.
“We hold characters in fiction to a higher standard than peers we know,” Mescal told IndieWire in August while discussing the show. “Connell is a deeply frustrating character on page and on screen. For that reason, he’s a brilliant character to play. He’s complex. Neither the book nor the series explain why he struggles with emotional intimacy. He’s predisposed to a position of social power; he’s academically bright; he’s sporty. How does this jive with the feelings he felt toward Marianne? As a result of that he can’t comprehend or compute the feelings he’s having. It causes him to be indecisive, or cowardly from some perspectives.”
Normal People marked the first time that the breakout star appeared on the small screen, but it was not his first acting role. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in acting from The Lir Academy in Dublin in 2017, he began working in theater, starring in productions of The Great Gatsby, The Red Shoes, The Plough and the Stars, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Lieutenant of Irishmore, among others.
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