BBC reveals stars of its adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People

Lenny Abrahamson to direct Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones in 12-part series

Normal People: Daisy Edgar-Jones (left, in Cold Feet with Hermione Norris), is playing Marianne in the BBC version of Sally Rooney’s novel. Photograph: Ben Blackall/ITV

Normal People: Daisy Edgar-Jones (left, in Cold Feet with Hermione Norris), is playing Marianne in the BBC version of Sally Rooney’s novel. Photograph: Ben Blackall/ITV

 

The stars of the BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney’s award-winning novel Normal People have been announced as filming gets under way in Ireland.

The coming-of-age book has been adapted as a 12-part series for the BBC and the streaming service Hulu and will be directed by the Oscar-nominated Irish film-maker Lenny Abrahamson and the English director Hettie Macdonald. Scenes will be filmed in Dublin, Sligo and Italy.

Marianne and Connell, the story’s two young people navigating adulthood in post-financial-crash Ireland, will be played by the English Cold Feet actor Daisy Edgar-Jones and by Paul Mescal, the Irish actor in the Gate Theatre’s recent promenade production of The Great Gatsby and the stage adaptation of Louise O’Neill’s Asking for It; it will be his first television role.

Rooney, who has adapted her novel with the Irish playwright Mark O’Rowe and the English dramtist Alice Birch, will be an executive producer. “As a long-time admirer of Lenny Abrahamson’s work, it’s a special privilege for me to be working alongside him on the adaptation of Normal People,” she says. “I couldn’t be happier with the cast and team we’ve put together, and I’m very excited to watch them bringing new life to the story on screen.”

Normal People: Sally Rooney, the novel’s author, has adapted it for the BBC with Mark O’Rowe and Alice Birch. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Normal People: Sally Rooney, the novel’s author, has adapted it for the BBC with Mark O’Rowe and Alice Birch. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The series will be produced by Element Pictures, the team behind the films The Favourite, Room and The Lobster. Rose Garnett, the Irish head of BBC Films, is among the executives who commissioned the series.

Described as “the first great millennial author” by the New York Times, Rooney won best novel at the Costa Book Awards and Waterstones’s book of the year for Normal People. It was also longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize and named 2019’s book of the year at the British Book Awards.

It tracks the complex relationship between Marianne and Connell from the end of secondary school in Co Sligo to early adulthood. While Connell is popular at school and Marianne is seen as an outsider, they establish a connection while Connell’s mother is employed to clean Marianne’s house. When the pair go to Trinity College Dublin their social roles are reversed, with Marianne blossoming and Connell struggling to fit in.

Normal People: Paul Mescal, who appeared in the Gate Theatre’s Great Gatsby, is playing Connell in the BBC version of Sally Rooney’s novel. Photograph: Ste Murray
Normal People: Paul Mescal, who appeared in the Gate Theatre’s Great Gatsby, is playing Connell in the BBC version of Sally Rooney’s novel. Photograph: Ste Murray

Abrahamson, who was nominated for an Oscar for directing Room, the 2015 film based on Emma Donoghue’s novel, says: “In Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal, I feel I have found two young actors who can vividly capture Marianne and Connell and bring alive the profound and beautiful relationship at the centre of the story. It’s also lovely for me to be shooting in Ireland again and telling an Irish story after shooting abroad.”

Sarah Greene, star of Paddy Breathnach’s film Rosie, and Aislín McGuckin, whose credits include Outlander, Holby City and Heartbeat, also join the cast.

The show will air on the BBC next year. – Guardian