First-time Oscar nominee Paul Mescal is having his moment in the limelight as of late at this year's award season. But people keep mistaking him for being British or hailing from the UK. It's time we set things straight.
Known for his breakthrough role as Connell Waldron in Hulu’s Normal People, the 27-year-old actor was born in Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland, and grew up in a rural part of the country.
Mescal's parents are both Irish; his father a school principal, and his mother a counseller. Mescal attended the local school in Maynooth and later went to Trinity College Dublin, where he studied English literature and drama.
From an early age, Mescal had a passion for acting and performing. He was involved in his school's drama club and participated in local theatre productions. After graduating from Trinity College, he began to pursue acting professionally.
In 2019, Mescal was cast in the lead role of Connell Waldron in Normal People, an adaptation of the novel by Sally Rooney. The series, which explores the complicated relationship between two young people in Ireland, was a critical and commercial success, earning Mescal widespread acclaim for his nuanced and powerful performance.
Throughout the series, Mescal's Irish identity was highlighted, as the show prominently features Irish culture and language. Mescal himself is proud of his Irish heritage and often speaks about his love for his home country. He has said that growing up in Ireland has had a significant impact on his identity as an actor and person.
The Irish actor has been doing his rounds at the awards race, having received multiple nominations for his performance in Aftersun. However, at the BAFTA Awards ceremony last week, Mescal made an unprecedented public move. Despite his frequent presence on red carpets, Mescal had never before spoken Irish in public until that moment.
Paul Mescal got robbedpic.twitter.com/YPxsP3AOIf— Nowhere Boy 🧑🏽🎤 (@marcooooooo14) February 19, 2023
While strolling the red carpet in London, Mescal stopped to chat with TG4, a public broadcaster that exclusively uses Irish as its language. The interviewer initiated the conversation in Irish, also called Gaelic; and Mescal nervously followed suit.
Nuair a bhíonn Gaeilge Dhún na nGall ag an scrúdaitheoir! 😅 #BAFTAs #EEBAFTAs pic.twitter.com/yrkRvS2NJS— TG4TV (@TG4TV) February 19, 2023
This was a significant moment for a man who had been mistakenly identified by the BBC as British just a few weeks prior. The resulting two-minute interaction, which was posted on Twitter, has been viewed one million times and sparked a discussion throughout Ireland about the precarious status of one of Europe's most endangered languages.
Against the backdrop of the "Green Wave", also known as Ireland's going "Oscar Wild", Mescal's viral clip emerged as the pride of Irish identity. According to the Los Angeles Times, 25% of this year's acting Oscar nominees are Irish, and The Quiet Girl, an Irish-language film, has been nominated for an Oscar for the first time in the Best International Feature Film category.
Lá dár saol! Tá #AnCailínCiúin ag dul go dtí na hOscars!! We can barely believe it…#TheQuietGirl is going to the Oscars! 🇮🇪 To be nominated by @TheAcademy in the international feature film category is a truly historic moment for Irish film and the Irish language #TírnanÓg 💚 pic.twitter.com/Bbbg4uulJ8— An Cailín Ciúin / The Quiet Girl (@quietgirlfilm) January 24, 2023
At the BAFTAs, Mescal was not the only Irish actor who spoke Irish. Brendan Gleeson, a renowned fluent Irish speaker, also conducted an interview in the language.
Meanwhile, Colin Farrell, his Irish co-star in Banshees of Inisherin, gradually retreated and was relieved to find someone who could ask him questions in English quickly; ashamed for not being fluent in the language.
Brendan Gleeson 🇮🇪👏 #BAFTAs #EEBAFTAs pic.twitter.com/be8gBJUA4r— TG4TV (@TG4TV) February 20, 2023
The Irish’s fierce defence of their culture and identity has been due to a complex combination of historical, social, and cultural factors. The legacy of colonisation and oppression, a strong sense of community, the influence of the Catholic Church, and a deep connection to the natural environment all contribute to the Irish desire to preserve and celebrate their unique cultural heritage.
Despite his relatively short (albeit thriving) career, Mescal has already established himself as a talented and versatile actor, and his Irish identity has been an integral part of his success.
With Ridley Scott's Gladiator 2 and Richard Linklater's Merrily We Roll Along on the horizon for Mescal, thing's are looking great for Ireland's star boy.
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