With four Emmy nominations announced on Tuesday, BBC/ Hulu limited series Normal People got its just desserts—almost. Although one of its two leads, Paul Mescal, received an acting nom, Daisy Edgar-Jones did not. As magnetic love match Connell and Marianne in this adaptation of Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel, the duo have gained almost cult status, so a nominations list that eschews Edgar-Jones felt a little bittersweet for Mescal and the show’s EP/ director Lenny Abrahamson.
Speaking to Deadline following the announcement, Mescal said Edgar-Jones was one of the first people he called, reporting she was “just so excited” for all the show’s nominees. “I’m the biggest fan of her as an actor,” he said. “I just would not for a second have have been able to do anything that I did without her. It wouldn’t have happened.”
Emmy Awards Nominations: The Complete List
Abrahamson, who at first didn’t realize he himself had received a nomination for directing, added, “I was so delighted about Paul, but obviously I was so hoping Daisy would get a nomination as well… the thing as well is that her category this year was particularly hard. There were so many amazing people there. It was just so hard, but I think the whole show is about those two, so everybody’s recognition reflects on the two of them as the central engine of the whole story.”
Nominees in Edgar-Jones’ Lead Actress in a Limited Series category were Little Fires Everywhere‘s Kerry Washington, Mrs. America‘s Cate Blanchett, Self Made‘s Octavia Spencer, Unorthodox‘s Shira Haas and Watchmen‘s Regina King.
For Mescal, who had never acted on television before, this nomination is a great achievement. “It’s his debut,” Abrahamson said, “and it’s an incredible end to an incredible story. For him to be cast, having not been on any drama, and then against so many people with such reputations and such recognition, and yet to make it through to be one of those five [nominees] is just staggering and it speaks to his talent.”
Of his next project, Mescal was tight-lipped, saying only: “If it all goes ahead, fingers crossed, I’d be so excited to start, but no one knows if it’s going to happen, but I’m quietly confident that it will go ahead.” What he has his sights set on going forward will depend entirely on the writing he said. “I would like to start working in film and get my first film credit under my belt. But if an amazing play came along or another series where I felt I had to play that character, those would go straight to the top of the list.”
Abrahamson himself has many irons in the fire right now, the first of which is another BBC/ Hulu adaptation of a Sally Rooney novel—this time, her book Conversations With Friends, which, like Normal People, is also set in Dublin. “We’ve been able to keep to the schedule really,” he said, referring to all the COVID-19 stoppages. “we’ve been progressing with scripts and putting the team together. The original plan has been to shoot towards the end of the year, but there are a lot of unknowns still around that. We still can’t quite get our head around all the implications of the pandemic for production. But there are some very basic ones like insurance, which is a very difficult problem… I don’t think it’s going to be a very long hiatus, if indeed there is a hiatus. I think we all believe that we can do it, we just need to think extremely carefully about how best to do it.”
While no actors have been announced for Conversations With Friends yet, Abrahamson said there had been “an absolutely overwhelming response” to the casting call. “I suppose that’s to be expected, given the success of Normal People, and what it did for Daisy and Paul and the other cast.”
Oscar-nominated for directing 2015 film Room, Abrahamson added he would he very keen to work with Edgar-Jones and Mescal again. “I would love nothing more than working with both of them, separately and together,” he said. But, as he points out, since their Normal People roles of Connell and Marianne have become so iconic, they would need to do something very much set apart from that show. “I think you’d have to find something that was quite radically different, and that would be be exciting, because both are actors with great range and are very capable. It won’t be the last time I work with them, they’re special.”
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