Perhaps you’re one of the many who’ve enjoyed the breakout Hulu limited series Normal People. You might be a fan of Paul Mescal, the actor who portrays its lead character Connell. You may even follow @connellschain on Instagram, which at the time of publishing has more than 180,000 followers. You read that right — the character’s signature accessory has even inspired its own Instagram account, one with a significant following. The popularity of Normal People and its stars has reached impressive heights, which has come with critical acclaim, as well. Mescal received his first-ever Emmy nomination for his work as Connell, and we’re going to take a look at what led up to it in this installment of Path to the Emmy Awards.
When the term “overnight success” is used on an actor experiencing their breakthrough role, said actor has oftentimes been working in the industry for a number of years. It normally takes time plus a lot of small roles to build up to the job that puts you on the map. Not so with Mescal. The 24-year-old Irish actor shot to stardom with Normal People, which also happens to be his first TV role. It’s not his first time appearing on camera, though. Mescal shared during an interview with Elle UK that his inaugural paid acting job was a commercial last year. “People still recognize me from a sausage advert,” he added. “It keeps me grounded.”
But how did the young thespian jump from starring in a sausage commercial to Hulu’s on-screen adaptation of Sally Rooney’s New York Times bestselling novel. Let’s start at the beginning. Mescal’s father was also an actor, but he shared during an interview with the SAG-AFTRA Foundation that he didn’t catch the bug until snagging the lead, titular role in a school production of The Phantom of the Opera. But he still considered other career paths. “I almost joined the army at 16,” Mescal told Elle UK. “But my love for Gaelic football and acting kept me in Ireland.” And just like Connell, Mescal also attended Trinity College. While earning his Bachelor of Acting there, he gathered stage credits such as Much Ado About Nothing and Children of the Sun.
After graduating from university, Mescal performed in theater productions around Ireland, as well as London, adding titles like Angela’s Ashes and The Great Gatsby to his stage acting resume. Then came the audition notice for Normal People. When asked during the SAG-AFTRA Foundation interview if he’d done much auditioning for film and television leading up to that point, Mescal answered that he hadn’t done a “huge amount.” And while his on-camera experience is also limited, the actor pointed out that the basic tenets of acting transcend the medium. “My theory is that the fundamentals are still the same,” Mescal noted. “It’s about understanding your character’s background, where they are at that specific moment, and what they’re trying to communicate to themselves or to the people in the scene.”
The breakout star is remaining tight-lipped about what’s up next for him, although he recently checked off another milestone in his on-camera career. That is, Mescal was tapped to star in The Rolling Stones’ new music video “Scarlet.” You’ll have to wait until the Emmy Awards on September 20, though, to see if he can add a win for Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie to his collection of memorable moments that have come from this year. “You are one of those rare people who I think is having a pretty good 2020,” Variety’s Jenelle Riley quipped during her interview with Mescal. And regardless of if he takes home a statuette from this year’s Emmy Awards, Mescal has had quite the whirlwind journey getting to them.