Just over two years ago, Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s best selling novel Normal People beamed into our living rooms and became an instant hit.
It was watched by millions, and described as one of 2020’s “most defining TV experiences”. Everyone from the Kardashians to James Corden and Andrew Lloyd Webber rushed to praise it.
We couldn’t get enough of Connell and Marianne’s love story, and wanted to know about every person, thing and place that appeared in the frame, however brief.
The settings, the clothing, the actors, and the rocket ice lollies — all became events and talking points in themselves.
Here, we look at the long-term impact the ‘Normal People bounce’ has had.
The Lir graduate started out in theatre, winning rave reviews for his portrayal of Jay Gatsby in the Gate Theatre’s production of Scott Fitzgerald’s classic.
He’d also appeared in that Denny Sausages ‘I’m going to Ballyhaunis’ ad. But Normal People catapulted him to Hollywood level of stardom and saw him pick up numerous awards including a Bafta. Mescal, who is reportedly engaged to singer Phoebe Bridgers, has an extremely busy slate of film projects coming down the tracks.
He is starring in LGBT World War II drama The History Of Sound, takes the lead in revenge thriller Bring Them Down, and will appear in Amazon’s The End Of Getting Lost.
He has also become something of a fashion icon and has worked with high-end labels such as Valentino and Cartier. A far cry from the Argos chain!
Speaking of which, when Connell’s chain appeared on screen it was dubbed the ‘break out star’ of the series. The @ConnellsChain Instagram account currently has 150K followers, and Argos reported a 56% rise in the search for men’s necklaces after the programme aired.
Normal People costume designer Lorna Marie Mugan said Mescal’s wearing of the silver chain was “comparable to what James Dean did for the simple white T-shirt in the 1950s”.
Some believe Connell’s chain kickstarted a profound shift in attitudes to men’s jewellery.
“The change was definitely bubbling along,” stylist Darren Kennedy said.
“But Connell’s chain gave it momentum, and now men are being much bolder and braver in their choices of jewellery. It definitely changed things.”
Before Normal People Daisy Edgar-Jones had appeared in British indie film Pond Life and the miniseries War Of The Worlds. Since Normal People aired she has become one of the UK’s most in demand actresses.
She will next appear in Under The Banner Of Heaven, and Reese Witherspoon-produced Where The Crawdads Sing — the highly anticipated adaptation of Delia Owens’ novel that has sold more than 10 million copies. She has also starred in campaigns for H&M, Jimmy Choo, and worked with Chanel.
Location, location, location:
Plenty was written about the filming locations in Normal People. Marianne’s family home was the house Irish politician Shane Ross grew up in.
“It was wonderful seeing it on screen because it is a very special house and has great character, although some of the carry-on would have my parents turning in their graves,” Ross said.
Some locations benefited from the inclusion in the series. The Italian farmhouse that Marianne and Connell stayed in Sant’Oreste, Lazio, is available to rent on AirBnB and saw an influx of visitors after the programme aired.
But sadly, not all the locations experienced the Normal People bounce.
Tubbercurry in Sligo was the setting of Connell and Marianne’s fictional hometown of Carricklea. Residents were delighted when the series aired but Covid restrictions scuppered any changes to capitalise on the popularity of the series.
Two local pubs, Nathy Brennan’s bar and Killoran’s, featured prominently in the series. Both were shut down during Covid and have not reopened since.
“We never got the spin off it we thought we would,” local hotelier Paul Murphy said.
“It was very unfortunate circumstances, but hopefully this new series may throw a bit of light on Tubbercurry.”
Or perhaps superstar Mescal could follow in the footsteps of other actors/publicans like Ian McKellan, Idris Elba and Robert De Niro and snap up Killoran’s (which is currently for sale) and help revitalise Connell’s hometown.
Marianne and Connell baby names
Expectant parents watching the series found it a source of inspiration. The name Marianne has almost consistently fallen since the 1980s, while Connell has fallen in popularity since the 1960s, but that all changed in 2020.
There were six baby Mariannes and six baby Connells, according to Ireland’s Central Statistics Office. A further six Mariannes were recorded in 2021, while there were a total of 13 Connells — the highest number in the CSO records.