Normal People star Paul Mescal doesn't feel like a normal person anymore. The Irish actor is still adjusting to his new life in the public eye after landing his first television role as the Internet's favorite boyfriend, Connell, a lit-loving jock. The 24-year-old even earned an Emmy nomination for his part in the Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney's novel.
Mescal opened up about his newfound fame and why he thinks being a celebrity can be "toxic," in an interview on Monday, Oct. 19.
"I just find the whole thing a little bit toxic," he told GQ of the paparazzi. Mescal was particularly upset by rumors that he's dating musician Phoebe Bridgers, after the pair got breakfast together. And for the record, he declined to give details on the meet-up to GQ.
The soccer-player-turned-actor admitted that male objectification of both Connell and himself is bothersome. "Honest answer? Yes," he said. "It's not something that I try to lean into. But I put it down to the audience's associations with Connell rather than with me."
Fans have fallen hard for Connell for being the sensitive on-again, off-again boyfriend to heroine Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and have become obsessed with a chain necklace the character wears on screen.
Mescal dished on the details of the wardrobe choice, although he doesn't really get the hype. "It wasn't something that we put any focus on during filming. I think there has been a kind of leaning on the sexualizing of it, which has been a little bit difficult to adjust to," he said. "It's not something I lie in bed thinking about at night."
Despite the downsides of tabloids, Mescal is of course grateful to his new fans around the world.
He continued, "The fandom on the show has been amazing, and seeing people have articulate discussions about character is so satisfying." Mescal added that "99 percent" of fan encounters are "really positive."
Normal People has allowed him to forge connections with fellow stars, too. The experience was how he met his now-roommate in London, India Mullen, who plays Peggy on the show.
And since his breakout role, Mescal has found himself front-row for the Fendi fashion show during Milan Women's Fashion Week in September. Plus, he was nominated for a 2020 Emmy for Best Actor in a Limited Series alongside such icons as Hugh Jackman, Jeremy Pope and Mark Ruffalo.
That's all to say that regardless of the pandemic, Mescal knows that he's having a "pretty good" year.
"To be thrust into the spotlight in a time when everyone's living in these really stressful environments of f--king COVID and trying to survive," he said. "It's just been the most adrenaline-fueled, stressful, exciting time of my life."
Edgar-Jones also told GQ that the two stars "are both still so in the midst of processing" their fame, because "now we are able to leave the house and see the change in real life, not just online."
Mescal reunited with Edgar-Jones in June for two more episodes thanks to RTÉ Does Comic Relief, and fans can't wait to see them onscreen once again. Meanwhile, she recently starred in the TV movie Albion, while he will next appear in The Lost Daughter.