Normal People actress Daisy Edgar-Jones opens up on Marianne and Connell’s graphic sex scenes

If anyone is having a moment right now, it’s Daisy Edgar-Jones. As the fearless female lead in the BBC’s pitch perfect adaptation of Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel, Normal People, the 21 year-old Londoner is suddenly the name on everyone’s lips.

Daisy plays quirky outsider Marianne, who falls for popular jock Connell (the equally brilliant Paul Mescal) in the tangled Irish love story. Over the course of 12 episodes, the series charts their passionate, tortured on-off romance from its early days in school until they graduate college.

Airing on Monday nights on BBC1 but available to binge in full on iPlayer, the buzzy show has viewers gripped thanks to its agonisingly relatable depiction of young love, not to mention its graphic yet tender sex scenes.

While this isn’t Daisy’s first TV role – she’s appeared in Gentleman Jack, War of the Worlds and Cold Feet – it is her star-making turn and is sure to propel her to the big leagues.

As the show’s success continues to snowball (many critics claim it’s “even better than the book”), Daisy opens up about being part of a phenomenon, her chemistry with her co-star and all that nudity…

Congrats on the success of Normal People. When did you realise it was going to be a hit?

When we were working on the show, it definitely felt unique. I think Sally’s book has caught the hearts of people because it is so special. Obviously, there are moments that are quite dark and sad and poignant to watch, but ultimately it’s a very lovely story of two people falling in and out of love. I think that’s exactly what we really need right now. I can’t really handle anything too dark at the moment because it’s such an anxious time. I need a light comedy or a love story.

How do you explain the amazing chemistry you have with your co-star Paul Mescal?

We’re so lucky. I was very nervous because I was down to the final five when I went in for my chemistry read with Paul, but he had already been cast. I remember thinking, “Oh no… This is the moment where I either mess this up or I get the part.” But as soon as we started the scenes, it felt very natural and I think we both relaxed into it. It was pretty much there from the start.

How tricky was it to tackle the intimate scenes?

Paul and I had a lovely intimacy coach on set who had worked on shows like Sex Education and Gentleman Jack, so she’d worked with young people before. She was brilliant. She took the pressure off us completely. She was in charge of the choreography, so to speak. That meant that Paul and I could just think about the narrative beats. I think what’s so important about those scenes is they’re always furthering on a dialogue or a conversation. They are never there just for the sake of it. They have a purpose and it was important to do them justice.

How much do you relate to the character of Marianne?

She’s incredibly complex and flawed. I definitely relate to that as a human being. I think there’s that battle when you’re growing up, and all the way through your 20s, where you’re discovering yourself. You’re not sure of who you are and there’s an element of you that always wants to fit in. I was a lot more aware of fitting in than Maranne at school though. She has no qualms about saying what she thinks and she is much more honest and direct than me. I think I probably related more to Connell a lot of the time because he suffers a lot of social anxiety.

Do you suffer from anxiety then?

I definitely relate to that feeling like you can’t quite fit in when you’re in a big room full of people. Sometimes that comes very naturally to people, but it doesn’t really come naturally to me. I try my best to look like I’m fitting in, but I’m usually quite self-conscious.

At university, Marianne discovers herself. When did you find your own voice?

The same happened to me. I went to a very, very small school. There were only 22 girls in my whole year, so it was tiny. When I went to college, I had a vast amount of friends to choose from. I found people that I really felt that I gravitated towards and that was when I started to grow up.

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Is it strange promoting this show while in lockdown?

Life is very surreal right now. It’s even more surreal to be talking about Normal People from home. When we were working on the show, we could never have imagined that this would be the situation when the show was finally launched. It’s strange because it feels like it’s just me and my flat-mates watching the show at home, so I have to remind myself that a lot of other people are watching it, too!

Normal People airs Mondays at 9pm on BBC1, or is available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer.

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