Paul Mescal is a 27 year old Irish actor who is rapidly on his way to earning a seat at the table with Hollywood’s biggest names in acting. And after receiving his first Oscar nomination for his first leading role in a film, it seems like more and more people are starting to know it.
Mescal is becoming known for excellently portraying male characters with heartbreaking stories and mental illnesses. It seems he has some certain quality that allows him to act out such moving performances on the screen and stage, and he is finally gaining formal recognition for it. I am going to discuss Mescal’s two most significant roles in his career thus far, and how they have led him to his increasing success now.
Connell Waldron in Normal People
Normal People is a novel written by Sally Rooney, which was adapted into a Hulu exclusive mini television series which was released in 2020. I remember watching this series as the episodes were released weekly, and feeling like I had discovered a hidden treasure that is Paul Mescal.
Connell Waldron is one of two protagonists, and the story follows him from secondary school in Ireland’s countryside to Trinity College in Dublin. He navigates the transition from being a popular athlete in their small town to feeling displaced and imposterous as a college student. Throughout the series, he is involved in an intimate, but not always romantic, relationship with schoolmate Marianne, who seems completely different to him but also the only person who truly understands him. Mescal’s performance is absolutely stunning, as we see him grow from the role of the charismatic schoolboy to a depressed, isolated college student through the various relationships he has, his changing self-perception, and decisions he makes.
While the show has seen success from the beginning, there has been a recent outpour of attention and praise as it has been added onto more major streaming sites and reached more audiences. Connell was Mescal’s first role in a television series, and he absolutely exceeded all expectations. This role earned him his first nomination and win for the Bafta Award for Best Leading Actor in 2021. Daisy Edgar Jones, who played Marianne, was seen crying while watching him accept his award, clearly proud of her costar and friend.
Mescal’s debut television role would set him up for many more castings, which leads us to his first leading role in a film only two years later.
Calum in Aftersun
Aftersun is an A24 film released in 2021, and follows Calum, a young single dad, and his daughter on a holiday in Turkey. Mescal flawlessly steps into the role of fatherhood to Frankie Corio who plays Sophie, Calum’s 11 year old daughter. Following the same pattern of male characters with a masked struggle with mental health as we saw in Connell, we see Calum’s effort in hiding his depression from Sophie, and overcoming it to be a supportive and loving father. In classic A24 fashion, the film focuses on the mundane beauty of lives and relationships, which feels naturally innate in Mescal’s portrayal of Calum. The upbeat dynamic throughout the film is balanced with heavy themes, driven forward by the devastating internal struggle that Mescal effortlessly and realistically represents.
This role in Aftersun earned Mescal his first Oscar nomination for Actor in a Leading Role, deservedly so. His astonishing performance additionally received acclaim for other prestigious awards, but the Oscar nomination has understandably led Mescal to receive an abundance of support from fans, friends, and family.
Where To Next?
In February, Mescal finished acting in a play called “A Streetcar Called Desire” that was showing in London. In the next couple years, Mescal has several roles in theatre, film, and television lined up. His career is evidently in a steady-fast ascent, as he is to star across Saoirse Ronan, Andrew Scott, and Claire Foy.
Be sure to catch Mescal in his upcoming projects, and at the Oscars on March 12, 2023.
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Shenton, Z. (2020, May 6). Normal people’s Paul Mescal just revealed what happened to Connell’s silver chain. Cosmopolitan. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/entertainment/a32386968/normal-people-paul-mescal-connell-chain-necklace/
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Wolf, M. (2023, January 13). Review: Paul Mescal electrifies in a revelatory ‘streetcar’. The New York Times. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/13/theater/paul-mescal-streetcar-named-desire.html