It’s hard to believe that just six months ago Daisy Edgar-Jones was a name unfamiliar to most people. While she’d enjoyed roles in TV dramas, such as Cold Feet, War Of The Worlds and Gentleman Jack, the 22-year-old had yet to experience fame. But then Normal People happened, and everything changed.
The BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney’s beloved novel, about the tortured romance of high school sweethearts Marianne and Connell, became an overnight sensation this spring, and catapulted Daisy and her co-star Paul Mescal into the stratosphere.
From its bold, unflinching sex scenes to its nuanced portrayal of the joy and devastation of young love, it captured the attention of viewers across the globe.
For Daisy, who is dating actor Tom Varey after they met on the set of 2018 Brit flick Pond Life, the experience has been especially surreal because her star status has materialised while the world has been in lockdown.
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“It has been hard to wrap my head around,” she confesses, adding, “Paul and I can’t really believe it.”
With her fans eagerly awaiting her next move, Daisy reflects on this crazy ride, her parents seeing her naked and whether we’ll see more of Marianne and Connell…
Normal People has catapulted your name into the spotlight. How are you coping with the fame?
It’s been quite an odd experience really, because my whole experience of it has been mostly digital. I haven’t physically met anybody I’ve spoken to when it comes to interviews. My whole experience of the show’s success has been from the figures I’ve seen and the reaction on social media. It’s very odd when you’re at home and you experience that, but then you turn off your devices and you’re still just in your bedroom and nothing has really changed. It has been hard to wrap my head around it.
How has the pandemic added to the issues that come with fame?
It’s been odd really because it’s a strange time for everyone, so I can’t really work out if the strangeness I’m experiencing is different from anyone else’s or if it’s because of something to do with the show. I’m very relieved that the show is so loved – I really loved the book and I’m glad we did it justice.
How have your friends and family reacted to your fame and success with the show?
They can’t believe it. We can’t believe it. It’s so funny. I was talking to Paul about this. We really can’t believe it because it’s just Paul and I. Do you know what I mean? It’s very strange. My friends think it’s cool. They can’t believe the reaction to Connell’s chain and everything. A lot of my friends are the right age as well; all of their friends are saying, “Oh my God… Did you see Normal People?” And they’re like, “Yeah, my friend’s in it.” It’s been a bit surreal for everyone.
The show’s intimate scenes were praised by many for their honesty, but they also caused a bit of a stir. What was it like to watch them back for the first time?
I thought it would be very tricky to watch those scenes, but it actually wasn’t – and I think that’s because of the way [the directors] Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald handled them. They’re done so beautifully and they concentrate on the emotion more than anything. It doesn’t feel like it’s being presented as a physical thing. When I watched those scenes, it took me a while to realise, “Oh, gosh. That’s me.” [Laughs] I was incredibly relieved because it would’ve been very tricky if I found them too hard to watch, because there’s quite a lot of them!
What did your parents think of this aspect of the show?
I made sure to send it to my mum before they watched it live, so that she knew exactly when to inform my grandparents to go and make a cup of tea. She also said that you get so lost in the story you forget that it’s me. That’s exactly what you feel reading the book.
Did your boyfriend have the same reaction?
It was the exact same with Tom. He’s an actor –he’s done those scenes before. He had read the book and was incredibly moved by it. I’m sure he’d rather not watch those scenes but, on the whole, he found the series very beautiful and he thought they were handled really well.
What are you looking forward to doing now that the UK is slowly starting to open up again?
I’m most looking forward to a proper hug with my family and friends. It’s funny… I’ll never feel lonely in a crowded place now. I think I’m really looking forward to being surrounded by lots of people because I didn’t realise how much I love that. I’ve really missed it. I’m also excited to get back to work because I love it, and to celebrate with everyone and have a boogie!
When you’re not working, how do you like to unwind?
I love to read. I think it’s a really brilliant thing to do because it takes you out of your own world. You’re able to completely invest in somebody else’s life, which I think is pretty interesting. I love the theatre, the cinema and going out to consume stories and art. I’m looking forward to being able to do a bit more of that in the future. Right now, I’m just looking forward to seeing my friends really.
Have you learned any new skills during lockdown?
I’ve taken up embroidery, which I’ve been quite enjoying during lockdown. I’m not sure if it will continue afterwards, but it’s been quite fun. I’ve also got into Mario Kart – it’s quite good because it’s pretty mindless. You can just zone out and play.
Do you know what’s next for you when it comes to work?
I’ve got the next instalment of War Of The Worlds, which will be fun. I’m having lots of really exciting meetings about scripts and about stories to pursue, but I haven’t really worked out what I’d like to do after that. My hopes are to find another story and another part that’s as deep and complex as Marianne.
The question on everyone’s lips is… Will there be a second series of Normal People?
From what I’ve gauged, everyone thinks that if there was to be a second series, we would need to give some space to allow these characters to breathe a little before revisiting them. Maybe we’d like to see where they are in the future? We saw that first flush of first love for them, so it’d be nice to see them at a different age.
So there’s definitely a possibility for more then?
I would love to explore those characters more. I loved them so much. But I also quite like the fact that I don’t ever have to say goodbye to them at the minute because they are still existing. There’s no neat ending or tie up. They’re still living and breathing, and there’s a future with them. I’d love to play them again, but I’m also happy with leaving it if everyone thinks that’s what we should do.