Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming, and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.
For a tender 28: Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Marianne, an eccentric Irish schoolgirl who fires up an unlikely tryst with a more popular male schoolmate in the drama series based on the literary romance novel, Normal People. (All 12 episodes streaming on Hulu as of April 29, 2020.)
Abnormal times call for Normal People.
The steamy streamer (from BBC Three and Hulu) is a coming-of-age love story set in Ireland that harks back to a time when strangers could kiss without masks and caress without hand sanitizer.
Based on Sally Rooney’s best-selling novel, Normal People deals with the on-again-off-again relationship of Marianne (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal), two Irish youths drawn together during their last year of high school. Marianne is somewhat of an outcast, too smart for her own good. She can barely hide her disdain for peers who mock her and actually tells a teacher who calls her out for looking out the window: “I wasn’t aware my eyeline fell under the jurisdiction of school rules.” This is Marianne. Bored, brave, unimpressed by it all.
Until Connell catches her eye. Connell is intrigued by Marianne from the start, which isn’t entirely random since his mother cleans the home of Marianne’s more well-to-do family.
What starts as a sweet, innocent connection between Marianne and Connell (what one might call “normal”) eventually evolves into a more intense love story that explores how people change over time. Throughout it all is Edgar-Jones’ portrayal of Marianne as a raw, vulnerable and damaged woman profoundly affected by life, family discord and volatile relationships.
Especially the one with Connell, whose intense connection keeps them bound in sweet and often frustrating ways. But they battle forces in the universe that challenge that bond repeatedly.
As we watch their love take them to all sorts of picturesque landscapes we will likely not be able to travel to anytime soon, the strength of the acting between Edgar-Jones and Mescal keeps our focus – as you can’t help but get swept up and cheerlead for their ultimate coming together.
But, as the “normal” course of life goes, it’s never that easy.
The London-born Edgar-Jones caught the eye of audiences early in life when she performed in a school play at age 5.
Having realized her passion early in life, the now-21-year-old actress eventually went on to enroll in the National Youth Theatre, where other prominent Brits like Helen Mirren got their start. It’s a move that Edgar-Jones attributes much of her professional success to in this story for Bustle, where she stresses the importance of having acting school experience to hone your craft:
“Any drama student who is seriously ‘into drama’ should audition for the National Youth Theatre because it’s the best company. I joined when I was 14 (which is the youngest age you can join) and it was difficult to get in because they only want the best in the whole country, but I auditioned and made it. Once you are a part of the company you get so much acting experience – it’s one of the main reasons I can begin to act professionally now.”
This was the kickstart the young actress needed to launch her career.
It led to her first professional job at age 17, where she landed a four-season arc playing Olivia in the British ITV series, Cold Feet (2016-2020). Since then, she has appeared in several other series including Outnumbered (2016), HBO’s Gentlemen Jack (2019) and the latest re-imagining of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (2019) for Fox UK, starring Gabriel Byrne (who looks a bit like the brooding, older version of Normal People co-star Paul Mescal). Edgar-Jones also did the film Pond Life (2018), which starred real-life boyfriend, Game of Thrones actor, Tom Varey.
Before the world was put on pause, Edgar-Jones also made her stage debut in a London production of Albion. Now, the best place to see her is as Marianne in Normal People.
It’s a role that’s sure to lead to a life that is anything but, well… normal.
Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.