Normal People’s Daisy Edgar-Jones on Copying Sally Rooney’s Accent And Those Sex Scenes With Paul Mescal’s Connell

'Marianne is such a tricky character because she is so many different things,' says the London actress.

Daisy Edgar Jones as Marianne

by Jessica Barrett |

Normal People is now available on iPlayer and the sumptuous adaptation of Sally Rooney's novel is everything we could've hoped for – and more. Back in January, Grazia named Daisy Edgar-Jones, 21, who plays Marianne, as one of our Future Shapers – the people to look out for in 2020. We spoke to her about reading the book, perfecting the accent (she's from north London) and those sex scenes with Paul Mescal's Connell.

How did you feel when you landed the part of Marianne?

I actually couldn’t believe it when I was cast. You never think you’re going to get that phone call. I had a really good feeling when I left the audition and that’s the worst thing because you’ll be heartbroken when you don’t get the part. So when my agent rang me I sat in a stunned silence for an hour or so, then my flatmate came home – and she works at Waterstones and it was the book of the year – and she couldn’t believe it, so we jumped up and down around the room.

Had you read the book?

I hadn’t but I did after my first audition, before my recall. My flatmate had been given it by our best friend for her birthday and they were like, ‘You have to read it, you have to read it.’ I knew a little bit about it.

The book is so loved, was it nerve-wracking working on the adaptation?

It’s one of those things, I love the book so much as well, when I got the part I wanted to do justice to the characters who are written by Sally with such depth and nuance. Marianne is such a tricky character because she is so many different things, and sometimes we see her from her own perspective and other times you see her from Connell’s and it is quite different, just like it is in real life.

Lenny [Abrahamson] and Hettie [Macdonald, the directors] had the confidence to not stick exactly to the dialogue from the book but get to the heart and soul of the book, so translating that to a visual medium was tricky because it is so much from their perspective. We did speak a lot about the characters, I feel I could write an essay on Marianne. I’ve never read a book so many times. I read it once a week for five months. I’m a bit of a nerd for it now.

What was it like working with Sally?

I met her at the read-through and was a big fan and was trying to play it cool. She said, ‘This is absolutely mad!’ I can’t imagine writing something on your own at home and then suddenly a whole room full of people are sitting around discussing it. She’s really brilliant about allowing Lenny freedom with the script, she trusted in us all.

You're from London - how was it doing the Irish accent?

It was tricky in some ways because I wanted to make sure I did a good job. But I didn’t find it too difficult because I had a good acting coach. I listened to Sally speaking a lot, she has a very eloquent way of speaking, and Marianne is a bit posher than her Sligo friends. It was another way she stood out at school. Living in Ireland was helpful, I just listened to it. I couldn’t stop speaking in the accent outside of shooting. I couldn’t get it out of my system but now I’ve shaken most of it off.

How did you relate to the character of Marianne?

Particularly in school, I was different in a lot of ways and I admire that in Marianne: she doesn’t care about the ladder, or fitting in particularly. In the book she tried to change how she was to see if it would make a difference and it didn’t – I related to that, because I felt like I’d grown up and changed but because I was with the same people they would always see me as they had, that wouldn’t change. At 18 you change so much so I related to that, seeing if you could fit in for a day and there’s nothing you can do. She probably cares a lot less about people liking her at school than I did, I really wanted people to like me.

How was it doing the sex scenes?

Normal People wasn’t my first sex scene, I’d done a very PC one before and it was a very small scene, so I had an idea but not at the level to which we did things on Normal People. Luckily I got on really well with Paul [Mescal, who plays Connell Waldron] so it was fine; if anything it was funny because you have to laugh or you’d cry and they are so ridiculous.

How do you feel about the show being out in the world?

I’m really excited for people to see the final product. I want people to love it as much as I do. There are some really special, unique moments. Paticurlaly Marianne and Connell’s 'first time' scene, because I’ve never seen a scene like it, which starts with two people sat in a room being all awkward, to the whole development into the sex itself. It’s healthy to see things in that very real way, it’s not shying away from the subject. I might wait three months after everyone else to watch it all, it’s hard to be objective about your own work. I hate the sound of my own voice, that’s why it was nice to put on an accent because it doesn’t sound like me.

What do you enjoy watching?

I love low-budget indie films, that’s what I liked about Normal People, it felt almost like an independent film. I love Fleabag and anything Phoebe Waller -ridge does. And I love Gogglebox. I don’t know what I’d do if they were watching Normal People, especially if it’s any of the rude bits.

READ MORE: The Best Reactions To The TV Adaptation Of Normal People

READ MORE: Daisy Edgar-Jones And Paul Mescal: 'Our First Chemistry Read As Marianne And Connell Was A Dream'

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