Normal People’s Daisy Edgar-Jones: ‘Is this how our 20s are supposed to be?’

After rising to stardom during the pandemic, can the actor belatedly adjust to fame?

Tom Lemont

I’ve been told,” says Daisy Edgar-Jones, “that the trick for posing at film premieres is to put one foot forward, lift your chin, and basically try to emanate with your face that you’re a top-class lawyer who’s won a big case.”

We’re standing together in a London park, not far from where the 23-year-old actor grew up, on a cold but sunlit morning in February. Soon, Edgar-Jones will fly to Los Angeles for the premiere of a gory and provocative new thriller she has made called Fresh. Although her career exploded in spring 2020, when she starred with Paul Mescal in the TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People, the years since then have been Covid-straitened and quite weird (“smudged” is how Edgar-Jones puts it), and she has not yet had any red carpet practice. This will be her first premiere.

Have a practise now, I suggest?

“Here?” She glances over her shoulder. We’re by a boating pond, on the gloopy waters of which there are chained-up pedalos in the shapes of unicorns and swans; a disconsolate sight, we agree. A few dog-walkers are making circuits of the park, but nobody’s watching. “All right,” she says, and she puts one white-trainered foot in front of the other. She lifts her chin. She adopts a fierce, lawyerly scowl …

We were supposed to be meeting for a coffee in the park’s cafe, only it’s out of season and the doors are firmly shut. Edgar-Jones, who knows the local terrain well, ponders our options. Brisk walk, to keep off the cold? Brave it out on a bench? Climb aboard an anchored pedalo? On closer inspection, she notes, all of the pedalos are covered with bird droppings. Walk it is!

She wraps herself tighter inside a camel-coloured coat and leads the way. We zigzag around the muddy paths of the park, completing a few circuits, eventually passing within sight of her family home. She waves an arm: “Over there.”

When Normal People appeared on BBC iPlayer, becoming a sensation in the middle of that strange and scary first lockdown, Edgar-Jones was living in a London flatshare. As soon as the world opened up, she went off to work, capitalising on elevated acting stock to make Fresh (filmed in Canada) then an adaptation of the bestselling novel Where the Crawdads Sing (shot in Louisiana), then a mini-series called Under the Banner of Heaven (Canada again). She spent a year abroad, much of it masked, on Covid-wary sets, living in solitary rentals. She has just got back to London and has been staying with her parents, rehumanising with Sunday roasts and free lifts.

Has she come back with a bump, I ask? Or a sigh of relief?

A bit of both, Edgar-Jones says. “As much as I loved and am grateful for a year of consistent work, there were times when I was lonely. Really missed my friends. I just haven’t seen them. I was away for something like 10 and a half months out of the 12. And that little bit of time I was home, I was jet-lagged. Bad company.”

Happily for me, she is good company today, a rapid talker and rapid walker, one of those people who prefers to look at you as they speak and so pounds along without seeing where they’re going. Of the astonishing success of Normal People, she says: “I think I’m still processing it, to be honest. I haven’t worked out what it all means – if it means anything at all.” But enough time has passed that she will get stabs of nostalgia, she says, whenever she thinks about it. She still swaps texts with the friends she made on set, including Mescal. “But I haven’t seen anyone I made it with for two years now.”

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‘Normal People’ Star Daisy Edgar-Jones Is Having Her Big Break From Home

As the lead in the Hulu/BBC drama and one of the year’s most anticipated TV shows, the rising British talent is having a major career moment, one that she’s been experiencing from the confines of her London flat.

by Alex Ritman | Hollywood Reporter

Having your big Hollywood break in the middle of a global pandemic is a curious experience.

Whereas many rising stars about to be jettisoned into the public eye thanks to a TV show or movie might expect to be shepherded by teams of publicists between late night talk show sofas, photographer’s studios, magazines and newspaper offices, hotels for press junkets and perhaps even a few long-haul flights, for Daisy Edgar-Jones the COVID-19 lockdown has seen the usual media circuit stripped back to whatever can be achieved from her bedroom.

Not that it’s made the promotional work any less hectic for the star of the 12-part Hulu/BBC drama Normal People.

Thanks to the phenomenal buzz surrounding the show, based on the word-of-mouth sensation that was Sally Rooney’s 2018 novel about the four-year on-and-off romance of a young Irish couple, the 21-year-old has been conducting near back-to-back interviews over the phone and via Zoom from her shared flat in the north London borough of Haringey. And while there may be less pampering and travel, promoting the show from home is certainly making things a little less complicated when it comes to getting herself ready for each video call.

“I only have to dress up from my upper half, because that’s the only thing onscreen,” she says with a laugh. “It’s jogging bottoms on the lower half … it’s great.”

Normal People - Publicity still 2- EMbed -2020
Edgar-Jones plays the awkward and bookish Marianne in ‘Normal People,’ based on Sally Rooney’s bestselling second novel.

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Review: “Normal People” Sally Rooney’s love story is a small-screen triumph

This BBC/Hulu adaptation of the hit novel about the on-again, off-again relationship between two Irish teenagers captures the beauty and brutality of first love perfectly

Inevitably, people will come to the television adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People in one of two ways: as avid fans of the book, which to a certain demographic and sensibility has become tantamount almost to a sacred text, or as detractors to whom the Irish wunderkind’s work reads as barely more than top flight YA and who have been mystified by the plaudits, awards and – in Normal People’s case – Man Booker longlisting it has garnered.

In the end it won’t matter. The rendering of the on-again-off-again relationship between sixth-form and then university students Marianne and Connell for the small screen, by Rooney herself with Alice Birch, is near-perfect from whichever direction you come at it. Continue reading