My hands are so fucking sore. From slapping this table in outrage and joy at how fucking perfect Paul Mescal is. Like, I hate the phenomenon of gassing up incredibly basic yt dudes for being vaguely decent people as much as the next pub, but Paul is Doing Things To Me.
If you haven’t heard of one Paul Mescal yet, I can only assume the NBN has been overwhelmed where you live. The internet is on fire with collective desire for the Irish 24-year-old, while simultaneously being extremely soggy from all the sobbing over his series debut in Normal People.
Normal People is an adaptation of Sally Rooney’s 2018 hit novel of the same name— here’s the trailer if you missed it. We follow Marianne (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (ya mans Paul Mescal) as they navigate their youths and relationship with one other. And that’s putting it in the most prosaic of ways: the novel and series are the equivalents of being wrung through an emotional washing machine.
Because we’re masochists here at Syrup—all definitions implied—I combed through and compiled every Paul Mescal interview fact I could find so you can send your crush completely off the fucking deep end. Just let go, it’s inevitable. Enjoy these interview snippets and remember them longingly while you rewatch Normal People this weekend.
Oh, to be a silver chain upon that neck.
He’s actually funny
So, let’s get the first thing out of the way: Mescal seems like an actually charming, funny guy. You know when you fall in love with a character but then the actor behind them turns out to be as interesting as boiled potatoes? With zero salt or butter? Not so here!
Apparently, Mescal and Edgar-Jones became so chummy—thanks in part to intimacy coach Ita O’Brien of Sex Education—that they’d end up falling into laughter every day. Edgar-Jones told The Standard, “It became known that around 5 pm every day we would get hysterical for no reason.” She talks about a specific scene where she and Mescal make eye contact while passing in a corridor. “I got Paul in trouble because I had to be like ‘I’m so sorry, Paul’s making me laugh’.”
Another lil Mescal interview fact we dug up? Because they had to look sweaty for the sex scenes, Mescal and Edgar-Jones were slathered in the cult cream Egyptian Magic and sprayed with water. “But because we were so lubricated, when I had to switch positions, our bodies…” she whispers, “farted.” Nobody in the crew reacted, added Mescal, “But we obviously said ‘did no one hear that?’ – and everyone started cracking up. I hope it doesn’t make the cut.”
As well as proving he’s a gr8 sport, my takeaway from this interview is that it was someone’s actual job to cover Mescal in lube. Can’t believe I didn’t go into makeup for TV. Idiot.
He’s the novel’s biggest fan
As well as making a gr8 impression on his co-star, another Mescal interview fact we dug up is how much he adored the series source material. So much so that he wanted to meet author Sally Rooney before they began shooting. “After I’d been cast, I reached out and was like, ‘I’d love to meet you and say hello and for her to put a face to a name,'” he told GQ.
The thing is, he was such a big fan of the novel and clearly deep into his textual analysis that he actually fumbled for what to talk about when he finally met her. “I remember going to the first meeting and being like, ‘Oh, I have no questions for her. I have nothing to say. She answers all the questions that I might have about the book.'” Of course, Rooney ended up giving him her blessing, “That gave me a huge amount of confidence going into filming.”
His concern with doing justice to the novel also extended end after filming wrapped. In an interview with Paper, Mescal explains, “I’ve gotten to watch it a few times now. The first time I watched it I was in absolute stress—because I am a massive fan of the book—but the more I’ve watched, I see how we’ve done our absolute best to represent the book as accurately as possible.”
Paul Mescal understands toxic masculinity
Part of the reason Normal People has gained the following it has is how identifiable the characters are. We can feel for them so deeply because we’ve felt their rejection, inadequacy and yearning ourselves. Doing justice to the characters that are ciphers for so many people and the social frameworks that make them that way is a huge responsibility. So many of the times Connell lets Marianne down speak to the hand of toxic masculinity, or at least the cliched ways we expect ~men~ to be.
Luckily, our mans Mescal is on it. In an interview, he explains some of the scenes he felt most drawn to: “I also found I was always really excited … excited isn’t the word to use, but I really anticipated getting to play Connell at his darker, more depressed states because I think it’s really well observed by Sally. We definitely see when men feel this stoic responsibility not to express emotion, how damaging that can be.” Yes, Paul.
He also acknowledged the constriction of responses that men feel are available to them. Society doesn’t want men to be weak, but we also don’t want them to be pseudo-chivalrous brutes. “I wrestled with that a lot,” Mescal says, speaking about the moments when Connell allows Marianne to get hurt, emotionally and physically. “I think a lot of that has to do with social constructs that we inherit as men to a certain degree—that violence requires action whereas verbal abuse is easier to remain passive on. And that’s not [to say] that I agree with that.”
“I don’t agree with the depiction of Marianne as a damsel in distress and Connell coming to rescue her,” Mescal adds. “In the book, I never saw it in that regard; it just sort of was the right thing for Connell to do and as the audience, you’re so relieved that he does do that because it’s something that he wrestles with.”
While a lot of the audience of Normal People is women for, uh, obvious reasons, Mescal hopes that the men watching take away a bit of a lesson.
When speaking with Paper, he says, “This [answer] might be nonsense but I think the show challenges men to be kind but also to be braver than Connell is, if that makes sense. In a way that’s not “knight in shining armor” but is like, be brave and respectful in a sense that if you’re called into action—and not in a kind of heroic sense—do it. And good things come of that. And I think the show is excellent in portraying that that is not an easy thing and it’s not something that comes easy to any human being.”
We stan a king who sees nuance.
Paul Mescal has great fucking taste
So, as you know, we’ve been in iso for exactly ten years now and the content we’re consuming is both (1) essential for maintaining sanity and (2) very indicative of our good taste. Or lack thereof.
What really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films—these things matter. Call me shallow but it’s the fuckin’ truth. Pleased to announce that Mescal has ripped my stupid heart to shreds with this perfect TV show rewatch choice: True Detective.
“I’m a huge fan of True Detective season one, I think I’ve seen it three times now. Re-watched it again during quarantine,” Mescal told GQ. “I’m obsessed with that kind of … I call it filmmaking, because it’s great actors stepping up to the plate, matching the writing. 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 […] engaged with and that can sometimes be scary.”
As well as all that premium HBO nonsense, he’s also watching Euphoria and is a massive fan of Little Women. “You’re looking at Saoirse, Florence, all young actors stepping up to the plate and smashing it consistently year after year after year, and it’s really, really exciting. I love seeing people my age or my peers doing amazing work because it invigorates you.” I need to see a Paul Mescal X Florence Pugh drama yesterday, please.
The final nail in the coffin: Mescal is reading Just Kids by punk poet laureate queen Patti Smith. “I’m kind of rationing myself through it because I don’t want it to be over.” Yeah, okay please shut the fuck up.
How Paul Mescal talks about sex is *chef kiss*
A key element of Normal People is sex. In the (literal) hands of less thoughtful actors, this could have gone very pear-shaped. However, show is getting a tonne of praise for its realistic and healthy depictions of sex and intimacy between the characters.
How Mescal describes it is bang on: “I don’t know if I’m just saying this, but I don’t know if I’ve seen sex like that represented—like the way that the conversation they have leads seamlessly into sex.” The form of communication goes from verbal to physical. And I think that’s a power that they both possess [but] that they don’t necessarily possess with other sexual partners that they have throughout the series.” I can’t. Not just sex is about communication, but that sex is communication. He is doing some galaxy brain stuff, are we all paying attention?
He also stresses how important the depiction of Marianne’s first time having sex is, especially the authentic emphasis on content and using protection. “It’s not pedantic. It doesn’t feel like, ‘Oh I should be asking those questions’—it’s not like, ‘Oh I’m covering my bases here.'”
He adds, that “In another show, or in reality, you could have the guy playing the good guy saying ‘are you okay?’ but knowing regardless [of his partner’s answer], this is going to continue.” A hated trope. “He’s really attentive to her and I love the bits in the scene where she’s saying “it hurts a little bit but I’m okay” and we—the audience—believe her.”
He also chatted about the sex scene with The Cut, saying that what makes the scenes so accurate to real life is allowing the character to continue to seamlessly be themselves. “They look like two people who love each other, how they have good, healthy sex. You need certain scenes to look sexy and other scenes to look awkward and negotiated. It’s not billowing curtains and candlelight. It’s in your parents’ house in your childhood bed. I think it’s really refreshing to see.”
I feel like Paul Mescal has read some feminist literature
As well as the gender dynamics that Normal People explores, the book has wider looks into the impact of class and social status within really stratified environments. Who amongst us hasn’t felt the weird pull behind your stomach when you feel like you’re not on the same standing as the people around you.
“I think the whole book is about who has power when and how they use it,” Mescal says in an interview. As well as being visually appealing, this mans is a thinker. “I think I’ve got a good understanding about the power that I have as a young, white man in this world where it’s a very privileged position. And it’s not something that I take lightly. If that makes sense. It would be naive to say that’s not a power that is handed [to] you in a society that not everybody is afforded.”
He adds though that, “doesn’t mean that there are not struggles to be had… That’s what I love about the way Sally wrote it is that it clearly highlights the fact that he has a strong position in society but he doesn’t thrive off it.”
He’s a fucking romantic
This has been 1500 words of romanticising a human being we really have no tangible way of knowing. But thankfully, Mescal is just as much a tragic romantic as the rest of us. While the novel and show leave us on an ambiguous note, Mescal is rooting for Connell and Marriane.
“I absolutely think that they find their way back to each other.,” he told The Cut. “I’m aware that the ending is ambiguous, but I do think they find their way back to each other. Does it happen simply? Probably not. I’d be just desperately upset to know that those two people have that connection and that they aren’t together—that would literally drive me mad.”
Fuck you, Paul, you’re driving us mad.