Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel Normal People is coming to life in Hulu’s new television series. The show stars the incredible Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones as Connell and Marianne, whose lives become forever intertwined when a relationship ignites between them in grade school. Their relationship ebbs and flows over the years as they get older, but the extraordinary bond between them never goes away. Normal People is a passionate tour de force featuring stellar performances from both Paul and Daisy. HollywoodLife talked with Paul about his exploration of the relationship and why Connell and Marianne are ultimately right for each other.
“When I first read the book and he goes off to New York, I wept,” Paul told HollywoodLife at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. “I was like… This cannot be happening. That made me believe that they have to be together. Even though the healthiest thing is that she says go because it shows that there’s a real love and care there because that is the right thing for him to do. Then when I was shooting it, depending on what we were shooting, I was like these people do not work even though they’re in love with each other. They don’t fit. When we were shooting, it was like being in a relationship with the two character’s relationship if that makes sense. You’re kind of able to observe where they are at. But when I finished, the question I asked was: will they find a better person? I don’t think they will. I think they are as close to soulmates as they can be because they challenge each other, they enrich each other, they save each other. I think if they weren’t to end up together, in my opinion, it would be a tragedy.”
Paul, in his first television role, loved diving into a role that required “dexterity of the mind and emotional intelligence.” Connell and Marianne’s relationship isn’t simple. There are many layers to the relationship and individual emotional complexities that factor into it. “I think with Marianne and Connell’s relationship they’re both clearly madly in love with each other, but it’s not displayed in a very simple way,” Paul continued. “His brain is telling him to say I love you, but he won’t. He has difficulty in terms of expressing that because maybe it makes him feel weak or maybe he’s afraid if he says that she’ll run away. There’s a myriad of different reasons why he can’t express his feelings. That’s not to say that it’s right but it’s something that I think a lot of young men and women go through.”
Paul admitted that he became “more sympathetic” towards Connell after reading the book. As he stepped into the character “on an emotional level on a daily basis,” he realized there was a “deep sadness” within Connell. He also reflected on his favorite parts of the book. “I find the last 20 pages of the book amazing. I think Sally captures Connell’s depression in a desperately deep and accurate way,” he said. “I think the section when they rekindle their romance at Trinity made me so happy. It made me so happy to see when they meet in college for the first time. She’s tentative walking into it because he’s hurt her so badly by not inviting her to the Debs, but because Marianne is incredible just kind of lets that go and allows their chemistry to exist in that scene when they’re talking.”
The series will consist of 12 episodes and will stay true to the source material. “It’s not a series based on the book. It’s a series of the book if that makes sense,” Paul noted. “There are certain scenes that support the narrative but nothing is put in to elicit a departure from the novel.” All episodes of Normal People will be available on Hulu starting April 29.