2020: The year of Paul Mescal

2020: The year of Paul Mescal

When 'Normal People' aired, it's as if a whole other dimension of Ireland was unleashed upon the world. Highlighting important moments in many young Irish adolescents lives, it showcased to the world that our little country of ours has more to it than that stereotypical ideology - and as well as that, it introduced us to the main man of the hour year - Paul Mescal. 

For a brief bit of a backstory on Mescal, he was known around the Irish theatre scene previous to landing the role as Connell Waldron in 'Normal People', graduating from Trinity College and landing roles in various productions, including as Mad Padraig in Martin McDonagh's play 'The Lieutenant of Inishmore' at the Gaiety Theatre earlier this year. But once 'Normal People' aired in April, the name Paul Mescal was skyrocketed into the stratosphere - your mam even probably know who he is (or at least knows that there was a fair amount of "porno movie" talk about it).

If we only take into account the sheer amount of memes created, Mescal's character on the series had it all. There was a fan account created for his silver chain; GAA shorts are now on the map with fashion houses like Gucci charging hundreds for a pair; people even chanced their arm at sending Connell an email - and received replies. When we spoke to Mescal and his co-star Daisy Edgar Jones earlier this year before the series aired, we asked if they were both ready for "world domination" - little did we know just how much those words would ring true for both actors. Remaining humble, Mescal told us at the time: "I've never experienced something like this, I guess when I hear people talking about it, it's both terrifying and exciting to contemplate that fact. I'm definitely going to enjoy the lead up to its release this April, as it's crazy times for this show to be coming out. It's going to be a brand new experience, definitely."

Connell and his chain

Since then, Mescal's world dominance has led to him being the breakout star of 2020. Show us an example of an actor who has made such an enchanting mark after appearing in just 12 episodes of a limited series - we'll wait. He's gone on to be interviewed for publications and TV shows from around the world, including 'The Graham Norton Show', 'The Late Late Show with James Corden', GQ Magazine, Variety, Harper's Bazaar and many more besides. Continuing to ride that wave that didn't seem to be ceasing anytime soon, Mescal even appeared in the music video for The Rolling Stones' 'Scarlet' - which his mammy sure was proud of.

Heralding back to his singing roots, Mescal continued to dominate 2020 by covering The Villagers track 'Nothing Arrived' with his younger sister, and even helped out his fellow Irishman Dermot Kennedy by joining him for a live broadcast from London's Natural History Museum, belting out 'Giants' for everyone to appreciate. One fan wrote on Twitter while watching the performance: "The moment 12k men and women became pregnant through the television screen." He also made an appearance in 'The Deceived' opposite Emmet J Scanlan, written by 'Derry Girls' creator Lisa McGee. Oh, and lest we forget following his Emmy nomination, that some UK newspapers tried to claim him as one of their own.

We can just picture him now, a leading man in a Hollywood musical at some point in the future - just watch this space. Mescal's rise to the top comes at a time when the very fabric of "what a leading man in a TV series or movie looks like" is being questioned. Gone are the days when a leading actor has to tick boxes in order to be masculine, be able to make us laugh, and "get the girl" at the end - and in its place is a more sensitive, almost fragile figure which is undoubtedly more relatable to its audience, and breaks down a concept that has long-been outdated.

And all throughout this whirlwind year, in what must have been equal parts stressful, anxiety-laden, and exciting, Mescal has remained ever-charming. The 24-year-old said that after 'Normal People' aired, he "felt objectified" after receiving some "intense DMs" on social media. However, this new age of the actor hasn't put him off from pursuing what he loves, and if anything we hope it'll spur him on to aim ever-higher in the future.

So, what's on the horizon for Paul Mescal I hear you ask? Well, apart from bagging that Emmy nomination for his first breakout TV role (win, lose, or draw, 2020 is still the year of Mescal), he has signed up for a central role in Maggie Gyllenhaal's directorial debut. 'The Lost Daughter' will see him join forces with another stellar Irish actor in Jessie Buckley, as well as the beloved Olivia Colman. We're sure there will be plenty more announcements on his next whereabouts before the year is out.

2020 might not have been the best of years for the rest of us*, but there's no denying that the man from Maynooth has the world in the palm of his hand. *Other 2020 topics we considered writing about included face masks, banana bread and Carole Baskin.

So, let's all cheer on Paul Mescal (and Andrew Scott and Fiona Shaw) at this year's Emmys, which will begin at 3am on Monday morning Irish time.