‘Normal People’ star Paul Mescal discusses portraying Connell’s depression: “It’s not fictional to me, it’s real”

The star says three suicides at his school made him connect strongly with a storyline in the new BBC show

Normal People star Paul Mescal says that a trio of suicides at his school made him “really nervous” to portray character Connell’s depression in the new BBC show.

In the show, Connell’s friend takes his own life and his body is found in the river, sending Mescal’s character into a spiral of depression.

In a new interview with The Independent, Mescal spoke of the real-life links to the storyline, and how three suicides at his school made him connect to Sally Rooney’s story.


“My innocence was ripped away very quickly,” Mescal said. “You think you’re a big boy at 14 but you’re not. You’re still a child.

“Three people killed themselves at my school,” he elaborated. “So it’s not fictional to me, it’s real, and I was really nervous portraying it.

“I wasn’t particularly close to the person, but that kind of sadness permeates through an entire year group. The distinct feeling I remember having at the time is that I didn’t know how to perform sadness in the way I saw other people around me being sad.

“I was nervous people didn’t think I was sad enough. I found the whole thing incredibly confusing and, in hindsight, formative.”

Normal People is BBC Three’s new adaptation of Sally Rooney’s best-selling novel. Mescal and co-star Daisy Edgar-Jones (Marianne) recently spoke to NME about teen love, awkward sex scenes, and trying not to fuck it all up.


Giving Normal People a five-star review, NME wrote: “Normal People is a single relationship written large in tiny details – and both actors do a great job of keeping the focus narrowed down to the smallest flickers of love, pain and regret.

“What’s more, it’s the chemistry between Mescal and Edgar-Jones that mostly manages to keep the show from sinking too deep into melancholia. For all its raw emotion and underlying sadness, this is a heartfelt love story that radiates warmth from the very start.”