As the first lockdown for the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 resounded across the world, shuttering stores and digitizing work, many found themselves with more free time to snuggle in bed for some mandatory streaming binges. A month into lockdown, The Office reruns and Game of Thrones playbacks were put on hold. Why, you may ask? Hulu, ever the competitor of Netflix, released an Irish television series, titled Normal People, based on the physical book of Sally Rooney, that dives into an on-again, off-again toxic relationship between the popular Connell Waldron and the outcast Marianne Sheridan, who take on a romantic, sexual affair behind everyone’s backs during their secondary school careers (and beyond). Within hours, the book-to-series adaptation received raving reviews worldwide, especially for its raw portrayal of mature content, as well as the stunning performances of the leads. Not to mention, the series threw Paul Mescal into the spotlight, one which shines brighter and brighter with the passing of time.
With Normal People on the rise, Paul Mescal skyrocketed to fame; his trajectory from drama student to A-list celebrity brought consciousness to his role as Connell, a boy unable to grasp the concept of intimacy outside of the bedroom. Paul’s wearing of Connell’s (in)famous silver chain led to overnight fanfictions and an official Instagram account for the prized heirloom. Paul Mescal, born in Maynooth to a police officer and a primary school educator, came from humble beginnings just to suddenly become a household name (even in the midst of a raging pandemic). And, it seems like he won’t be going anywhere but up.
As mentioned before, Paul Mescal was a relatively unknown actor; he trained at The Lir Academy at Trinity College Dublin, which he graduated from in 2017 with a BA in acting. It’s not that Mescal wasn’t an acting prodigy; he was – he just went down the route of drama productions, taking on roles in Angela’s Ashes and The Great Gatsby. His first graze into television was in the form of a Denny sausages commercial. But, officially, his first role in a television series was none other than Connell Waldron in Normal People. And, it makes sense – at a time in which banana bread, TikTok, sexless (for couples separated due to different households) lives, and “professional” loungewear ruled quarantine, it didn’t take much for the world to linger on series-binging and fall madly in love with his character (who, I won’t forget to mention, wore short shorts that worked in our favour). Over the course of twelve episodes, people around the world tuning in watched the making of a leading man, one who asked for consent from his partner before sex (a new one for television) and cried onscreen as his character fell into the dark spiral of depression. And, it’s still unbelievable to accept that this was Paul Mescal’s television debut!
After the inception of Normal People, Mescal went on a virtual press tour, playing a cheeky game of Never Have I Ever with his equally magnetizing female lead, Daisy Edgar-Jones, reacting to the show’s last episodes, and interviewing Nicholas Hoult for the “Actors on Actors” segment for Variety. Somehow, he even starred in the mini-series, The Deceived (2020), characterizing Sen McKeough. Within a few months, Paul Mescal was soon continuing to pad up his acting CV with roles in music videos, such as The Rolling Stone’s “Scarlet” and Phoebe Bridgers’s “Savior Complex.” His love for both artists was highly profiled through Mick Jagger’s interview of Mescal and Mescal’s soft spot for Phoebe Bridgers, one of his favorite artists, as seen on Instagram Live.
Paul Mescal’s stardom has not been short-lived; he has not just been a product of quarantine and nothing much else after the ups and downs of isolation. It’s been quite the opposite. Despite the slowness of quarantine, Paul Mescal’s acting trajectory has been ramped up. He recently danced his way through a commercial, titled “Lockdown,” for Samsung. Mescal noted how “[the timing is] weird. [He knows] that when [he’ll] look back, [he]’ll remember COVID and how awful this year has been generally. But then, personally? It’s been pretty, pretty good.”
And, if it couldn’t get any better for him (honestly), he signed with Los Angeles-based Creative Artists Agency (CAA), considered to be one of the best talent agencies in the world (not to mention, the top-of-the-line agency directly in Hollywood’s backyard) due to its star-studded roster. Soon after, he was cast in his first feature film, alongside Olivia Colman and Dakota Johnson, in the Maggie Gyllenhaal-directed film, The Lost Daughter.
Well, it seems Paul Mescal couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. It’s not pretty, pretty good. It’s inspiring. He’s on everyone’s radar, and it doesn’t feel like he’ll be giving up that spot anytime soon. So, you might as well just follow him (and the Instagram account for Connell’s chain) to see where he leads to next!