Normal People (TV series)
|Based on||Normal People|
by Sally Rooney
|Country of origin||Ireland|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||12 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||23–34 minutes|
|Picture format||HDTV 1080i|
|First shown in||United Kingdom|
|Original release||26 April 2020|
Normal People is an Irish drama television series produced by Element Pictures for BBC Three and Hulu in association with Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland. It is based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Sally Rooney. The series follows the relationship between Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal), as they navigate adulthood from their final days in secondary school to their undergraduate years in Trinity College. The series was primarily written by Rooney and Alice Birch and directed by Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald.
The series was released on BBC Three in the United Kingdom on April 26, 2020, followed by weekly airings on BBC One. It premiered on RTÉ One in Ireland on April 28, 2020. In the United States, the series was released in its entirety on Hulu on April 29, 2020. The series has received critical acclaim, with praise for the performances, directing, writing, aesthetics, and its portrayal of mature content. At the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, the series was nominated for four awards, including Outstanding Lead Actor for Mescal and Outstanding Directing for Abrahamson.
The series follows Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron through their time at secondary school in County Sligo on Ireland's Atlantic coast, and later as undergraduate students at Trinity College Dublin.
The focus is mainly Connell's and Marianne's complex relationship. Among her peers at secondary school, Marianne is regarded as an oddball, but she denies caring about her social standing.
Despite her academic achievements, her home life is complicated by her dismissive mother, Denise, and her resentful brother, Alan. Her father is deceased and is later revealed to have been a domestic abuser, though her family avoids mentioning him.
Connell is an athletic, high-achieving student living with his single mother Lorraine, who is employed by Denise as a house cleaner. He is popular in school, though he remains silent while Marianne is constantly bullied. This creates complexity and point of contention as their relationship develops.
- Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne Sheridan, a student from an affluent family who is studious, outspoken, and therefore disliked. She begins a relationship with Connell which he suggests they keep secret. She later attends Trinity College Dublin and studies history and politics.
- Paul Mescal as Connell Waldron, a well-liked, academically gifted student and athlete. His mother works as a cleaner for Marianne's family. He struggles with what he wants out of life and decides to follow Marianne's suggestion and apply to be an undergraduate at Trinity College to study English.
- Sarah Greene as Lorraine Waldron, Connell's single mother who is employed by the Sheridan family as their cleaner. She and Connell share a close relationship and she expresses disappointment when Connell chooses his public image over treating Marianne well when they are in school. Prior to Marianne and Connell's secret relationship, she is very close with Marianne.
- Aislín McGuckin as Denise Sheridan, Marianne's single, wealthy mother who is a solicitor. Marianne's father is described as being abusive towards her. She doesn't have a close relationship with Marianne and often fails to control Alan's abuse towards Marianne throughout the series.
- Éanna Hardwicke as Rob Hegarty, a close friend of Connell's who attends the same school. He later dies by suicide, which devastates Connell.
- Frank Blake as Alan Sheridan, Marianne's brother with whom she's not close. He does not treat Marianne well, frequently makes derisive comments about her, and is sometimes physically abusive.
- Eliot Salt as Joanna, a close friend Marianne meets at Trinity College.
- India Mullen as Peggy, a friend Marianne makes at Trinity College who also comes from a wealthy background.
- Desmond Eastwood as Niall, Connell's flatmate during his time at Trinity College. He and Marianne become friends and he often encourages Connell and Marianne's relationship.
- Sebastian de Souza as Gareth, the classmate of Connell's at Trinity College who is an advocate of free speech and Marianne's early collegiate love interest.
- Fionn O'Shea as Jamie, part of Marianne's social circle at Trinity College who is very competitive. He has a crush on Marianne throughout their university days.
- Leah McNamara as Rachel Moran, a fellow schoolmate of Marianne and Connell's and part of Connell's social circle. She and Connell once had a casual fling, making her occasionally jealous of Marianne. Connell asks her to the Debs formal instead of Marianne, resulting in them becoming estranged for the first time.
- Seán Doyle as Eric, one of Connell's school friends.
- Niamh Lynch as Karen, one of the nicer girls to Marianne at school in Sligo.
- Kwaku Fortune as Philip, a friend of Marianne's at Trinity College.
- Clinton Liberty as Kiernan.
- Aoife Hinds as Helen Brophy, Connell's girlfriend at Trinity College.
- Lancelot Ncube as Lukas, Marianne's boyfriend in Sweden.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||UK release date||US release date||Ireland air date|
|1||Episode 1||Lenny Abrahamson||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||28 April 2020|
|At a secondary school in County Sligo, rural Ireland, a friendship sparks between the popular athlete Connell and outcast Marianne, which soon ignites into an intense romance. Connell lives at home with his kind mother, and Marianne lives in a mansion with her distant, busy mother and hateful brother. Connell's mother happens to be the housekeeper at Marianne's home. Marianne confronts Connell about her feelings for him and they kiss, but he's uncertain due to social pressures and keeps their acquaintance hidden.|
|2||Episode 2||Lenny Abrahamson||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||28 April 2020|
|Connell and Marianne's romance blossoms, but he is eager to keep their relationship a secret to protect his high social standing in school. Connell and Marianne have sex and they continue to grow closer. However, Connell continues to ignore her in school. Marianne acts as though it is fine, but it puts their delicate connection under strain. Connell and his mother are very close in contrast to the high tension between Marianne and her family, which continues to grow.|
|3||Episode 3||Lenny Abrahamson||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||5 May 2020|
|As their school days come to a close, Marianne cuts Connell off after a hurtful betrayal. Marianne turns up to a party, surprising everyone by looking glamorous. After a hurtful encounter at the party Connell drives her home, and they make up. Connell doesn't ask Marianne to the debs, which is the final straw. His mum expresses Marianne's hurt, but Connell brushes it off. Marianne stays home on the night of the debs still feeling betrayed; meanwhile Connell dances the night away with Rachel. Later on, full of beer and regret, Connell stumbles home crying, contemplating his loss.|
|4||Episode 4||Lenny Abrahamson||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||5 May 2020|
|As he struggles to fit in at Trinity College, Connell is reunited with Marianne through Gareth, a classmate whom she is seeing. The tables are turned as Marianne has become the popular one and Connell the friendless loner. After meeting at a party, they decide they still want each other in their lives despite Marianne having moved on.|
|5||Episode 5||Lenny Abrahamson||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||12 May 2020|
|Late night calls and constant close contact means Marianne's bond with Connell grows stronger. He becomes a part of Marianne's clique, although doesn't really fit in. Connell apologizes for how he previously treated her, leading to Marianne doubting her seemingly strong relationship with Gareth. After thinking it over, she abruptly dumps him and then sleeps with Connell soon after returning from a party. However, someone else also has their eye on Marianne.|
|6||Episode 6||Lenny Abrahamson||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||12 May 2020|
|For a while, things are ideal and Connell and Marianne's renewed relationship blossoms due to lack of pressure for once. Marianne goes home for a family dinner, which ends in tears due to more abuse from her brother. After he loses his job, Connell can no longer pay his rent. Unable to stay and too ashamed to ask Marianne to stay at her place, he has to move back to Sligo. Their fling comes to an abrupt end but it is not clear why.|
|7||Episode 7||Hettie Macdonald||Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||19 May 2020|
|Connell spends his days in Sligo getting drunk with old friends. Meanwhile, Jamie is finally free to make his move on Marianne and they start seeing each other. After meeting at the shop, Marianne and Connell rekindle their friendship. Marianne confesses that Jamie likes sadomasochism and claims she also likes it. Connell goes back to college for his results then goes drinking after being accepted into the prestigious Schols programme along with Marianne. She is celebrating with her friends and Jamie when Connell shows up bloody and drunk. Marianne tells Connell to leave after he tells her of his new girlfriend. Connell and Marianne discuss their breakup, and they realise it was due to a misunderstanding. Connell goes home to his girlfriend, Helen.|
|8||Episode 8||Hettie Macdonald||Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||19 May 2020|
|Connell and Niall have spent the summer backpacking in Europe. They visit Marianne's summer family home in the Italian countryside, where Jamie and Peggy have also been spending time. During their evening dinner, Jamie's controlling attitude is apparent to all and the two reach a breaking point. Marianne turns to Connell for protection and she stays in his room, where he comforts her.|
|9||Episode 9||Hettie Macdonald||Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||26 May 2020|
|Marianne is away on the Erasmus student exchange programme in Sweden where she finds herself in another unhealthy relationship with Lukas. In Ireland, Connell worries after Marianne's well-being, drawing the ire of Helen. During a session where Lukas takes bondage photos of her, Marianne gets upset and she breaks up with him.|
|10||Episode 10||Hettie Macdonald||Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||26 May 2020|
|Connell's mental health suffers after an old school friend dies by suicide, and he goes home to Sligo for the funeral. He becomes more distant from Helen even as she tries to support him, and eventually, she leaves him. He sees a counsellor who helps him connect to his emotions, and he deepens his connection with Marianne, despite the distance.|
|11||Episode 11||Hettie Macdonald||Mark O'Rowe||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||2 June 2020|
|Back in Sligo, Marianne and Connell struggle to find identity in their relationship. Things come to a head between Marianne and Alan, and he breaks her nose. She calls Connell for help; he confronts Alan, then takes her away, promising her that she will never experience such abuse again.|
|12||Episode 12||Hettie Macdonald||Alice Birch||26 April 2020||29 April 2020||2 June 2020|
|With Connell and Marianne's relationship finally on track, he invites her to spend Christmas with his family. Meanwhile, Marianne's relationship with her mother has reached a low point. Connell receives an offer to study for a MFA program in New York, prompting the pair to reflect upon their future together.|
Development and casting
In May 2019, it was announced that BBC Three and Hulu ordered 12 episodes based on the novel that would premiere 2020 starring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal as Marianne and Connell, respectively. Sarah Greene and Aislín McGuckin were also announced as part of the cast. Sally Rooney herself would help with the adaptation alongside writers Alice Birch and Mark O'Rowe. Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald would direct and the Irish company Element Pictures would produce the series.
Tubbercurry primarily made up the fictional town of Carricklea, with Streedagh Point along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way used for beach scenes, Knockmore House in Enniskerry, County Wicklow for the Sheridans' residence, a terraced home in Shankill, Dublin for the Waldrons' residence, and Hartstown Community School in Clonsilla, Fingal for the secondary school scenes featuring real-life students in the background. Students from Trinity College Dublin were also featured in the series while filming at the university. Scenes at Marianne's Dublin flat were shot on Wellington Road in the affluent area of Ballsbridge.
Although set in Trieste in the novel, filming took place in Central Italy, primarily in and around Sant'Oreste, Stimigliano, and the villa Il Casale on Tenuta di Verzano, in Lazio. They waited until February 2020 to film the Sweden scenes in Luleå so snow would be on the ground and the Baltic Sea frozen over for Marianne to walk on.
The first look pictures came out on November 1, 2019. BBC Three and Hulu released their own teasers on January 17, 2020 followed by trailers on March 31, 2020.
The 12 episodes became available as a BBC Three boxset on BBC iPlayer on April 26, followed by a BBC One airing on April 27. The series became available on Stan in Australia on April 27 and began airing on RTÉ One in Ireland on April 28. The series premiered in the US on Hulu on April 29. The series has been sold to over 20 broadcasters worldwide.
In June 2020, Abrahamson directed Edgar-Jones and Mescal in a one-off spoof short episode as part of RTÉ Does Comic Relief, in which Marianne and Connell give confessions to a priest played by Andrew Scott.
The series has received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the series has a 91% "Certified Fresh" rating, with an average score of 8.15/10 based on 85 reviews. The site's critic consensus states, "Anchored by Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal's vulnerable performances, Normal People is at once intimate and illuminating, beautifully translating the nuances of its source material." On Metacritic the series has a score of 82 out of 100 based on reviews from 25 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Caroline Framke of Variety magazine wrote: "With its trifecta of elegant writing, directing, and acting, Hulu’s Normal People is just as bleak and uncompromising as Rooney’s novel — a feat, and one that takes several episodes to fully absorb. In fact, it took me until about halfway through to understand just how much it was affecting me. ... As Marianne and Connell’s relationship grows deeper, Normal People becomes as immersive as the book that inspired it, making you both crave and dread knowing — or perhaps more accurately, experiencing — what happens next."
The production has received particular praise for its realistic portrayal of intimate content and the work of Ita O'Brien as the show's intimacy coordinator. The nudity sparked debate on Irish radio, with callers to Joe Duffy's Liveline saying it was inappropriate.
The series has been widely praised by major critics and publications. Linda Holmes of NPR described Normal People as "a lovely series, not just to binge, but perhaps to dole out to yourself a couple of episodes at a time" while CNN described it as "perfectly [understanding of] the desires we place on communication technologies and the ways they nearly always come up short" and "irresistible in abnormal times".
Prathyush Parasuraman of Film Companion, wrote, "Rarely have I seen the sort of cultural dialogue that I saw post the release of Normal People in April 2020, when it was released in the UK. Based on Sally Rooney’s namesake book, the story follows Marianne and Connell through the later years of their high-school, their years at college, and the post-collegiate restlessness, failing to be what one wished for oneself only years ago. It’s set in and around Ireland, with brief detours to sunny Italy and snowy Sweden."
The Irish Independent noted that the series glosses over references to The Communist Manifesto document and Doris Lessing's feminist novel The Golden Notebook, which Rooney, who has described herself as a Marxist, included in the book.
Normal People reportedly gave BBC Three its best ever week on iPlayer (April 26 to May 3), receiving over 16.2 million programme requests across the 12 episodes, about 5 million of which were from 16 to 34 year olds, and bringing BBC Three requests up to 21.8 million, doubling the previous record of 10.8 million from the release of the first series of Killing Eve. 70% of BBC Three requests that week were for Normal People and a quarter had finished all 12 episodes. It became the most-streamed series of the year on the BBC, with 62.7 million views from April to November 2020.
The first two episodes were reported to have been watched on RTÉ One by an average of 371,000 viewers with an additional 19,000 on RTÉ One +1 and 301,000 streams on RTÉ Player, becoming the most watched opening of a drama series on RTÉ Player. 30% of 15–34 year olds watching TV were watching Normal People. The finale had over 319,000 viewers, 33% of the total RTÉ audience and 20% increase over the previous week.
In June 2020, it was reported that Normal People had garnered over 3 million views on RTÉ Player, breaking the previous record for the streaming service of 1.2 million, which was held by the fourth series of Love/Hate.
Awards and nominations
|Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie||Paul Mescal||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special||Lenny Abrahamson (for "Episode 5")||Nominated|
|Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special||Sally Rooney and Alice Birch (for "Episode 3")||Nominated|
|Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards||Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie or Special||Louise Kiely||Nominated|
|TCA Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials||Normal People||Nominated|||
|AACTA Awards||Best Actor in a Series||Paul Mescal||Nominated|||
|Best Actress in a Series||Daisy Edgar-Jones||Nominated|
|British Academy Television Awards||Best Mini-Series||Lenny Abrahamson, Sally Rooney, Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe, Emma Norton and Catherine Magee||Nominated|||
|Best Actor||Paul Mescal||Won|
|Best Actress||Daisy Edgar-Jones||Nominated|
|British Academy Television Craft Awards||Best Director: Fiction||Lenny Abrahamson||Nominated|
|Best Editing: Fiction||Nathan Nugent||Nominated|
|Best Photography & Lighting: Fiction||Suxie Lavelle||Nominated|
|Best Sound: Fiction||Niall O'Sullivan, Steve Fanagan and Niall Brady||Nominated|
|Casting Society of America||Limited Series||Louise Kiely||Won|||
|Critics' Choice Television Awards||Best Limited Series||Normal People||Nominated|||
|Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries||Paul Mescal||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Movie/Miniseries||Daisy Edgar-Jones||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Limited Series or Television Film||Normal People||Nominated|||
|Best Actress – Limited Series or Television Film||Daisy Edgar-Jones||Nominated|
|MTV Movie & TV Awards||Best Breakthrough Performance||Paul Mescal||Nominated|||
|Producers Guild of America Awards||David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Limited Series Television||Lenny Abrahamson, Sally Rooney, Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe, Emma Norton, Anna Ferguson and Catherine Magee||Nominated|||
|Satellite Awards||Best Miniseries||Normal People||Nominated|||
|IFTA Film & Drama Awards||Best Drama||Normal People||Pending|||
|Director – Drama||Lenny Abrahamson||Pending|
|Script – Drama||Sally Rooney||Pending|
|Lead Actor in a Drama||Paul Mescal||Pending|
|Supporting Actor in a Drama||Desmond Eastwood||Pending|
|Supporting Actress in a Drama||Sarah Greene||Pending|
|Costume||Lorna Marie Mugan||Pending|
|Production Design||Lucy van Lonkhuyzen||Pending|
|Sound||Steve Fanagan, Niall Brady, and Niall O'Sullivan||Pending|
|Makeup and Hair||Sandra Kelly and Sharon Doyle||Pending|
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The author of Normal People is a self-professed Marxist... her politics seeps through her writing. It's no accident the central protagonists of the book that has captured the nation's imagination are the rich girl living in the mansion and the poor boy whose mother works as her family's cleaner. The TV version glosses over the discussions around 'The Communist Manifesto' and the feminist bible 'The Golden Notebook'.
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