10 things you didn't know about Normal People's Paul Mescal
- Megan Forsyth
- 1 June 2020
All you need to know about the talented Irish actor and TV's newest heartthrob
Paul Mescal is one of the breakout stars of Normal People, the new critically-acclaimed BBC Three series based on Sally Rooney's 2018 novel that has smashed viewing records since its release in April. Set in Ireland, the show stars Mescal as Connell, a popular jock with a sensitive side who forms a strong connection with his awkward and intelligent classmate Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones). Staying true to the beloved millennial novel, the show tells the story of their heated and complicated on-again-off-again relationship over the next four years.
Fans simply can't stop talking about Mescal and a surprisingly sexy chain that his character wears throughout the series. The actor grew up in Maynooth in County Kildare, Ireland with his parents Paul and Dearbhla, sister Nell and brother Donnacha. Although he had a different upbringing than Connell (an only child raised by a single-mother), Paul has more in common with the swoon-worthy character he plays than you might think. Here are 10 things you didn't know about TV's newest heartthrob.
1. He was a promising athlete before he was an actor
Paul grew up playing Gaelic football (similar to rugby) and continued the sport throughout his teenage years. He was a talented player and Paul's former Kildare football manager Cian O'Neill even said: 'Who can say anything for certain but my personal belief is that Paul would have went on to have a very long and impressive career.' Paul still played throughout his first two years of college, but quit football after breaking his jaw and coming to the realisation that further sporting injuries could potentially end his acting career. Surprisingly, instead of being an athlete or actor, Paul had aspirations of becoming a lawyer, something that his character Connell also considered before settling on studying English instead.
2. Normal People is his first role in a TV series
Prior to starring in Normal People, Paul had plenty of experience acting in stage plays including Irish productions of The Great Gatsby and A Midsummer Night's Dream, but his role as Connell is his first time acting in a TV series. He has admitted that he felt a lot of pressure to portray Connell authentically. 'From day one I was aware of how popular the book was and how people related to Connell,' he said. 'With great power comes great responsibility and there's an immense power behind the novel and the fans of the book are fanatic – and rightfully so. I have thought, "Oh shit, what if I get this wrong? I'm gonna be hated and I'm never going to work again.''' If all the current buzz around Paul suggests anything, he needn't worry about that.
3. He attended Trinity College in Dublin, just like Connell
Although they didn't study the same subjects, Paul attended Trinity College in Dublin, just like his character Connell does in the book and show. Paul graduated from Trinity with a Bachelor of Arts in Acting from The Lir Academy in 2017 and learned how cliquey and competitive Ireland's most prestigious university can be. He admits that he found it challenging to personally connect with other students and find his place, just like Connell did. 'At Trinity, everyone is performing,' Paul said. 'It's a college for people who are excellent in their fields of study, so everyone was trying to one-up each other, to appear to be better read or on the cutting edge of fashion. I found it very difficult to siphon through what was the real version of someone versus what they were projecting.'
4. His first TV appearance was in an Irish sausage ad
Although Normal People is his first TV series role, his first TV appearance was in an ad for Irish sausage brand Denny. In the 30-second clip, Paul enjoys a Denny sausage while eating breakfast with his parents and becomes inspired to spontaneously take a trip by picking a random spot on a globe. For a brief moment it seems he's going to Bali, only to end up in Ballyhaunis, a small town in County Mayo, Ireland. He still seems excited about it though. Who knew that this guy would go on to become one of TV's biggest stars?
5. He has good taste in music
Paul shared his Spotify Wrapped results on Twitter in December, revealing that he spent 2019 listening to a lot of Bon Iver, Dermot Kennedy, Lorde, David Keenan and Phoebe Bridgers. This month he even had the chance to chat one-on-one with Phoebe Bridgers (who is also a big fan of his since watching Normal People) in an Instagram Live hosted by Wonderland magazine. Paul also recently worked with the Normal People music supervisors to specially curate a playlist for Connell, which is available to stream on Spotify and includes songs by Elliott Smith, Damien Rice, Anderson .Paak, Tycho, Amen Dunes and Leonard Cohen ('So Long, Marianne', obviously).
6. He is a big fan of the show True Detective
Paul has been vocal about his love for the first season of HBO's True Detective starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson and claims that he has watched it multiple times. The show's exceptional writing and acting has inspired him to be better in his own work. 'I'm obsessed with that kind of … I call it filmmaking, because it's great actors stepping up to the plate, matching the writing,' Paul said. 'And the whole aesthetic of the show. When you see that kind of symbiosis happening on your screen, it's the most satisfying and exhilarating and also terrifying because that's the level that you want to constantly be out or want to be engaged with and that can sometimes be scary.'
7. He can sing and play the piano
Not only is he an incredible actor – Paul has proven that he can also sing and play piano, making all his fans adore him even more. He purchased a keyboard to keep busy during lockdown and has been posting videos on his Instagram of himself playing and singing. So far he has treated his followers to covers of songs including Sia's 'Chandelier', Toploader's 'Dancing In The Moonlight' and 'Always Remember Us This Way' from A Star Is Born. He also does a shockingly good impression of opera legend Luciano Pavarotti. Paul's 17-year old sister Nell is a singer-songwriter and he frequently promotes her music, insisting that she is a much better singer than him.
8. He was nervous about portraying the effects of depression for personal reasons
In the tenth episode of Normal People, Connell sinks into a deep depression after a friend from school unexpectedly commits suicide. Paul admitted that he felt uneasy portraying the effects of depression for personal reasons. 'Three people killed themselves at my school. So it's not fictional to me, it's real, and I was really nervous portraying it,' Paul said. His mother even took him out of lessons for a week after the first death because he 'wasn't equipped to cope with that level of devastation'. Paul was able to use his personal experiences to influence his acting in the emotional episode and is now being praised for the most authentic depiction of depression in years.
A post shared by Connell Waldron’s Chain (@connellschain) on
9. His chain has its own Instagram page
A neck chain that Connell wears throughout the series has been talked about just as much (or possibly even more) as its intimate sex scenes. The chain has become so popular that it even has its own Instagram page complete with thirsty captions. To date, Connell's chain has gained over 174,000 chain-lusting followers.
'It's slightly terrifying. I'd be slightly embarrassed if the chain account took over my follower count,' Paul said. 'But it's probably going to happen at some time so I better just reconcile that fact. The chain will always be more popular than I am. I think it's just so funny because it's a chain. I'm not going to abuse anybody who thinks chains are sexy but I wore chains and necklaces before and I definitely didn't get the attention that this chain is getting. So, hopefully, we're doing a good thing for chains all around the world and we'll see them getting the correct respect they deserve. We've been sleeping on chains for far too long in my opinion.'
10. He supports mental health charities
Just when we thought he couldn't possibly get any more dreamy, Paul generously donated one of his own chains to raise funds in a charity raffle for Pieta, a suicide and self-harm crisis centre in Ireland. To date, he has helped raise over €50,000 for Pieta. The raffle closes on Mon 8 June, so there is still time for fans to buy tickets and support a cause that is important to Paul.
'I am delighted to be able to help out Pieta by raffling off my chain that has taken on a following of its own since Normal People hit television screens,' Paul said. 'Pieta is a cause very close to my heart, having experienced loss due to suicide in my local town while growing up. Episode 10 of Normal People also touches upon depression and suicidal ideation, so it seemed like a very special partnership to want to help those in similar situations. I want to play my part in helping sustain these free services across Ireland.' What a guy.
Normal People is available to stream on BBC iPlayer now.