Normal People: All you need to know about TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s literary phenomenon coming soon to the BBC

Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal star in the new 12-part series that explores how two people can profoundly impact each other’s lives. Discover more about the show.

By Sophia Moir Published: 20 April 2020 - 12.19am

It was labelled a ‘literary phenomenon’ following its launch in 2018, and became a top-five New York Times bestseller.

Now Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People is being adapted into a TV series which is coming soon to the BBC.

Starring Daisy Edgar Jones and Paul Mescal in the lead roles of Marianne and Connell, Normal People is an exquisite and compulsive modern love story about how two people can profoundly impact each other’s lives.

Here’s what we know so far about the TV adaptation of Normal People on the BBC.

When is Normal People on TV? 

Normal People will land as a complete boxset on BBC Three on Sunday, April 26.

It will also air on BBC One from Monday, April 27 at 9pm with weekly double episodes.

Normal People will consist of 12 episodes, with each episode half an hour long.

Is there a trailer?

There is indeed - you can watch the first official trailer for Normal People below:

What’s Normal People about?

Normal People has been adapted for television by its author Sally Rooney and screenwriters Alice Birch and Mark O’Rowe.

The story tracks the tender but complicated relationship of Marianne and Connell from the end of their school days in small-town west of Ireland to their undergraduate years at Trinity College, Dublin. 

At school, Connell is well-liked and popular, while Marianne is lonely, proud and intimidating. 

Normal People school BBC/Element/Enda Bowe

A year later, they’re both studying in Dublin and Marianne has found her feet in a new social world but Connell hangs at the side lines, shy and uncertain.

An honest, smart and intoxicating drama, Normal People sees the pair weave in and out of each other’s lives and explores just how complicated intimacy and young love can be.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the series, Daisy Edgar-Jones, who plays Marianne, spoke about the 'enigma' that is Marianne and Connell. She said of their relationship: “What I think is really amazing about them is they really shift and change. 

“They’re two people who are very intelligent and have a massively full and deep inner life, and they have a really unique way of communicating with each other in a way that’s really special. As the book goes on, they grow up and change, but their interest in one another is undeniable.”

Who’s in the cast of Normal People?

Normal People will star Daisy Edgar-Jones (War of the Worlds, Cold Feet) as Marianne, alongside Paul Mescal in his first television role as Connell.

Of the casting of Edgar Jones and Mescal in the two lead roles, the show’s executive producer and director Lenny Abrahamson said: “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."

Speaking about why those two actors in particular stood out during the casting process, Abrahamson said that he was looking for two very special actors who were able to take the very nuanced and three-dimensional characters from Rooney's book and bring them to life. 

Of casting TV newcomer Mescal as the male lead, Abrahamson explained: "You’re looking for these subtle traits that chime with the character. Paul Mescal was one of the first self-tape [auditions] that we watched for Connell, and he really had mastered that character, he had a feeling for the character, for the character’s mixture of masculinity with uncertainty and tentativeness.

"It felt like he came from the right place, rooted in the definably Irish world Connell was from."

Normal People cast BBC/Element/Enda Bowe

Of casting Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne, Abrahamson said the actress brought a naturalism to the role that they were looking for.

"With Daisy, I think we’ve all seen the conventional version of the tricky, abrasive, clever girl in the class, but with the context of this, we wanted a pretty naturalistic and truthful version of the story," he said.

"We needed someone who brought depth to the character, and she really did. She’s just got this beautiful ability to be difficult as the character needs to be but also tremendously wide open at the same time."

The final step in the casting process was about how Edgar-Jones and Mescal worked together - with Abrahamson so convinced by the pair's on-screen chemistry that he can no longer imagine anyone else playing these characters. 

"We did a lot of different chemistry reads with combinations of people, and it was Daisy and Paul, both separately and together, that felt like the perfect evocation of Connell and Marianne," he said.

"It is interesting, people do have very strong pictures from the novel, but after a while, when you watch these two [actors] on screen, it feels harder and harder to think of Marianne and Connell outside of Daisy and Paul, which is a great result."

Also joining the cast are Sarah Greene (Dublin Murders, Rosie) and Aislín McGuckin (Outlander, The Nephew) alongside some of the most exciting young acting talent in the UK and Ireland. 

Where is Normal People filmed?

Filming for the series began in Ireland in May 2019. Locations included the capital, Dublin, and the town of Tubbercurry in County Sligo on the country’s west coast. 

Director Abrahamson that the locations were as close to those depicted in the novel as possible. 

"We filmed a lot around Dublin, for logistical reasons, as a lot of it was set in Dublin. Then it made sense to have some of the interiors from Sligo for example happen in Dublin as well. Then we shot a big chunk in Sligo, in a lovely town called Tubbercurry, which we used to be Carricklea - Sally’s fictional Sligo town in the novel."

The cast and crew also visited Italy for scenes that depict a group trip to Trieste from the book, although Trieste itself wasn’t used as a filming location.

Speaking about European filming locations, producer Emma Norton said: "We also went to Italy. We were just outside of Rome, for episode eight when they’re in Italy. It’s an incredibly beautiful place. Lenny also got to go to Sweden for some re-shoots for the Swedish episodes in the novel."

Filming took place on the university campus of Trinity College, Dublin, in August 2019, with real-life students featuring in the series.

Much of the university was shut down over the summer to facilitate the filming, according to the University Times.

Normal People Trinity College BBC/Element/Enda Bowe

Normal People will land as a complete boxset on BBC Three on Sunday, April 26.

It will also air on BBC One from Monday, April 27 at 9pm with weekly double episodes.

Catch up on Normal People with the BBC iPlayer app on BT TV.