Normal People's Paul Mescal on How He Really Felt About Those Sex Scenes

Normal People's Paul Mescal opens up about how he really felt about the sex scenes in the highly anticipated Hulu show.

By Pamela Avila May 05, 2020 10:05 PMTags
Paul MescalErik Voake/Getty Images for Hulu

Normal People's Paul Mescal says he "didn't sleep" the night before he was supposed to film his first sex scenes on set. 

Originally released in late April on BBC Three and Hulu, Sally Rooney's 2018 novel became a best-seller in the U.S. during its first four months of release and now has all of Twitter buzzing because of its refreshing depiction of consent and intimacy during sex between its two central characters. 

In a recent interview with Mr. Porter, the 24-year-old Irish actor (who plays Connell) talks about his newfound success, the online craze surrounding his portrayal of Connell and of course, those sex scenes alongside Daisy Edgar-Jones (who plays Marianne).

Oh, and that silver chain on Connell's neck (which now has its own Instagram account).

Of those full frontal nude scenes and the sex scenes between Connell and Marianne in general, Mescal tells the publication, "I'm not concerned about it because I made a choice about that this project is something that I'm proud of."

However, he adds: "The closer I'm getting to people seeing me fully nude on screen—it does make me slightly nervous." 

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But there's still more to this story of two Irish teenagers falling in and out of love at a young age and reconnecting through their adult lives. "I'm proud about the work, so I think that kind of eases the tension," he shared. "There's going to be people who don't like it, but you just have to remind yourself—would you change anything? I don't think I would."

Making his onscreen debut with Normal People, Mescal also revealed that "on the first Friday of the first week, we had a full day of sex scenes."

He went on, "It's fair to say we were both incredibly nervous. That Thursday, I didn't sleep." 

Erik Voake/Getty Images for Hulu

Like many viewers out there, Mescal also agrees that the chemistry between he and Edgar-Jones was undeniable. 

"You see loads of TV shows and films that have been really quite good, but you don't buy the chemistry at the centre of the relationship," he explains. "Even if we had rehearsed for give or six months, it's not something that we could have cultivated. It's an innate thing, you can't read a book and suddenly have chemistry between two people." 

In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Timesboth actors also spoke about the important role that intimacy coordinator's played in the book adaptations' steamy sex scenes

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According to intimacy coordinator Ita O'Brien—who has also worked with the cast of Netflix's Sex Education—it was important to form intimacy guidelines that created a "professional structure so the actors can separate themselves from the characters." O'Brien's principles included open communication and transparency, agreement and consent of touch and choreography. 

Mescal also described how that helped him make the sex scenes seem more realistic. "One of the things about making it realistic is that it's about supporting your weight in ways that make it look like your bodies are in connection," he told the publication. "My shoulders were incredibly strong at the end of the process, because you're holding yourself up a lot of the time to give the right illusion."

Normal People is streaming now on Hulu.