Normal People's Paul Mescal says THOSE sex scenes are most unsexy thing he's ever done – and fake sweat made fart noises
IF PAUL MESCAL had any doubt that he has become telly’s most lusted-after hunk, a quick jog by a canal showed it was true.
The handsome Irishman and star of megahit TV drama Normal People jokes that he now daren’t show any skin while out and about, as he doesn’t want to cause an accident.
He said: “The worst decision I made after the show was when I was running along the canal.
“It was too hot and I took my top off. Somebody nearly came over the top of their bike because they were screaming.
“I would have felt very guilty if they had been injured.”
Known for its long and intense sex scenes, Normal People titillated the nation when it was aired at the height of lockdown in April, with millions of viewers hooked on the tumultuous romance between Paul’s character Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan, played by Daisy Edgar-Jones.
The 12-part series, based on Sally Rooney’s 2018 novel, quickly became BBC Three’s most watched show ever, and even the neck chain that Connell wore gained fame, with its own Facebook page. It later raised more than £60,000 in a charity auction.
But breakout star Paul, 24, has revealed that the behind-the-scenes reality was anything but sexy — packed with awkward moments, uncomfortable “modesty pouches” and even mortifying fart noises.
He recalled: “On the Friday of the first week, me and Daisy had to do a day of sex scenes and we were covered in this gel called Egyptian Magic. It’s basically fake sweat.
“We had to switch positions and our bodies were in close contact. When we separated it made a really loud fart noise.
“Me and Daisy started hysterically laughing, but the crew and director (Lenny Abrahamson) all thought that one of us had farted and really were trying to preserve our dignity.
“They were like, ‘OK, we’re going to just go again’. So yeah, that was pretty embarrassing. It totally takes any tension out of situations.
“Once you fake fart in front of the other person, it’s all good.”
And it’s certainly looking good for Paul, who this weekend is nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actor category at the Primetime Emmy Awards in the US, with the show up for a further three gongs.
His on-screen chemistry with 22-year-old Daisy seemed unmistakable, yet not surprisingly, on set a lot of backstage trickery came in to play.
Paul had to wear a “modesty pouch” to cover his private parts, to give the illusion he was naked during romps.
He said: “The modesty pouch is categorically unsexy. It’s just not a sexy garment. It’s a tiny little pouch, an awfully strange thing.
“Filming those scenes is probably the least sexy thing you’ll ever do in your life, so it is amazing that they turned out so brilliantly, because at the time, they are quite unsexy.
“It’s a totally alien position to put two human beings in, because normally any kind of sexual encounter is a very private thing, and it doesn’t have cameras and crew in the room.
“Ultimately, me and Daisy still had to be comfortable with each other and everybody followed strict protocols to make us feel comfortable.”
Ironically Paul admits he struggled to adapt to normal reality when the series ended.
He said: “I found it really difficult to adjust to normal life after we finished — not in any drastic or dark way. My character was somebody I had been with for five months, not including the prep time, then I’d obviously become incredibly close to Daisy and the rest of the cast and crew.
“Then suddenly you finish filming and it’s like, ‘See you later, guys’.
“That was tricky for a while and in terms of watching episodes back, I think I’m better at it than I thought I would be.
“The response has been nuts. It’s been very hard to describe in terms of how positive it has felt.
“Maybe I’m missing all of the nasty reviews, but I feel like I’ve been kind of spoiled with this job in terms of an introduction to acting in front of a camera and acting on screen. I think I couldn’t have dreamed up a better job for me.”
And he joked: “It’s sort of terrifying me now. It’s ruined my life.” Paul, the son of schoolteacher dad Paul and police officer mum Dearbhla, was raised in Maynooth, County Kildare.
He dreamed of becoming a Gaelic football player, until he broke his jaw when he was tackled during a match.
He has previously admitted he only started smoking and drinking once he ditched his dreams of becoming a sportsman.
He said: “Cigarettes are my unhealthy habit. I shouldn’t be smoking, but I enjoy doing it.
“When the sport stopped I realised I could drink and smoke to my heart’s content. I want to try and stop.”
But the end of his hopes of a football career also led him to take an acting degree at Trinity College, Dublin, graduating in 2017. Just 18 months later he was cast in Normal People, which changed his life.
After the reaction to the drama, Paul was cast in his first major film, The Lost Daughter, opposite Olivia Colman and Dakota Johnson.
The upcoming movie, the direct-orial debut of Maggie Gyllenhaal, tells the story of a woman whose solo holiday turns dark when she confronts issues from her past.
Paul, who moved to London in March and lives with his friend and co-star India Mullen — Marianne’s pal Peggy in the series — has also struck up showbiz friendships with stars such as former One Direction singer Niall Horan and Hollywood actress Margot Robbie.
He has also starred in the video for the Rolling Stones’ single Scarlet and has been deluged with acting offers, but he already has a wishlist of characters and people he hopes to play in the future.
On his dream role, he said: “It would be Gene Kelly, just because I think he’s slick, but I was trying to come up with somebody else.
“I would like to play somebody musical, like Elvis or Johnny Cash.”
Meanwhile, he is eager to reprise his role as Connell for a second series of Normal People. He continued: “I’d love to play the character again, but I’m also in no rush to do that.
“I think there’s a lot of growth that Marianne and Connell need to do outside in the next few years.
“But season two might never happen, or it might. I actually don’t know — and I’m aware that’s a very frustrating answer.”
As for this weekend’s Emmys, while Paul is over the moon to have been nominated, he said he was “totally bummed” that his co-star Daisy was not given a nod, though last week it was revealed that she will take the lead role in a “social thriller” called Fresh.
He added: “It goes without saying that the show depends on both of us, so any recognition for either of the individuals is for both of us.
“She was overjoyed, just that the show had been nominated, and she was thrilled for me, obviously.
“I was thanking her for being an amazing person but also the best scene partner anyone could ever ask for.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the work she did on the show.
“I know there are extraordinary actresses nominated in that category, but I think Daisy’s work is just phenomenal in this.
“I think there were two or three days in the entire shoot that we weren’t at least doing some form of work together. It was so weird at the end of the shoot. It was this non-verbal understanding. Before we even talked about the scenes, we knew how they were.
“That’s something that I look back on now and think, ‘That was totally extraordinary’.
“I would be so lucky to experience something like that again in my career.”
Paul is pulling out all the stops for the Primetime Emmys’ virtual ceremony, which starts at 1am on Monday, UK time.
Speaking in the US, he said: “It’s going to be very early in the morning and the dress code is, ‘Come as you are, but make an effort’.
“Seems pretty vague but I am going to make an effort — I’m really looking forward to it. It’s my first Emmys and something I’m pretty proud of.”
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