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"I’m really proud of that moment." Daisy Edgar-Jones on Normal People's most important nude scene.

“I honestly just can’t believe it.”

It’s the phrase actress Daisy Edgar-Jones uses over and over again to describe the immense public adoration for the Stan series Normal People, in which she plays Marianne, the owner of TV’s best fringe, opposite Paul Mescal’s Connell.

Since Normal People’s debut in April, the series, which is based on Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel of the same name and follows a complicated love story, has been both a critical and viewer success. The first truly big buzzworthy show of 2020.

Speaking to Mamamia from her London home, while sneaking downstairs and locking herself in a tiny front room so she doesn’t wake her housemates, the 21-year-old actress said she always knew the project was special but was in no way prepared for the wave of intense fandom that would follow its release.

“My Mum and Dad are very on it,” she said, referring to the intense social media discussions still swirling around the show. “They have been going through all the Twitter threads and sending me just the nice stuff. I don’t really look at it myself, because I find the idea of Twitter, the fact that people can just say whatever they want about me, very weird. So I stick to Instagram.

“It’s been very overwhelming, to see how many people have been moved by the show.

“And I really, really didn’t expect the intense reaction to Connell’s silver chain at all,” she laughed, referring to the many articles and fan accounts dedicated to the now-iconic piece of jewellery.

“Because when we were making it, it felt quite intimate, so it’s strange to see all these articles now about Connell’s chain or Marianne’s dress in Italy.”

For a spirited discussion on all things Normal People, listen to this special episode of The Spill.

What’s been talked about less in the analysis of Normal People, when it comes to the character of Marianne, is how the abuse the character suffers in a variety of ways at the hands of her father, mother, and brother shapes her character through the series.

There have been discussions around the idea that Marianne’s forays into Bondage, Domination, Submission, and Masochism (BDSM) in the series were linked to her abuse, but that’s a theory Daisy strongly rejects.

“For the sex scenes in Sweden we wanted to make sure it was clear there wasn’t a link between her abusive home life and the type of sex she seeks out,” Daisy said. “With Connell, she loves the fact that she feels so in his power, for her that is empowering.

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“So we didn’t want to paint that part of her relationship as having a link to her home life, because really I don’t think it does. All of the stuff she suffered at home more affects her own insecurity and sense of self.”

When it comes to the moment in Normal People Daisy holds closest to her heart, she offers up an unexpected choice.

It’s not one of the show’s lush, romantic scenes, but the tail-end of episode eleven where Marianne’s brother Alan (Frank Blake) breaks her nose and she calls Connell in a panic to help her.

“It was a very tricky scene and it actually took quite a few days to film,” she said. “I had to get in and out of the bloody nose make-up quite a bit. But it was a moment I really remembered from the book and I wanted to get it right.

“There’s a moment in that scene where she’s at the door and she thinks she deserves it. I did feel desperately sorry for Mariane at that point.

“It was a lot of stunt work, with the glass bottle and the door, but I am so happy with how it turned out. I love episode eleven, I would say it’s actually my favorite of the series.

“Especially that scene when they drive off in the car together, it’s beautiful. You finally see Connell have some agency and Marianne finally hears it when he says to her, ‘I love you’.”

“I had to get in and and out of the bloody nose make-up quite a bit, but I am so happy with how it turned out.” Source: Stan.
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While Normal People required Daisy and Paul to film a number of intimate sex scenes, their true bond was cemented over the fact that they were both a little exasperated with Connell and Marianne's actions.

"From the start, Paul and I had very similar creative chemistry," she said. "We were both newcomers because Paul had not done TV before and I had never played a lead.

"We bonded over mutual fear and as the show went on we developed a wonderful friendship. We would sit together and chat about Marianne and Connell as if they were real people.

"We’d come to sets where the characters were miscommunicating and we’d say to each other ‘ah! I wish they’d just talk it out’. I’m very lucky I have such a good friendship with Paul, otherwise it would have all been a nightmare."

"Paul and I did talk a lot about the sex scenes and even though we are mature adults...when you’re talking about sex it’s hard not to laugh.

"The sex scenes in Normal People really are dialogue scenes, just without the words. So Paul and I would be in discussion with (director) Lenny Abrahamson and (intimacy coordinator) Ita O'Brien and map out the particular movements for each scene. We always knew what was going where.

"Having an intimacy coordinator on set allows those scenes to be so much more fluid, free and beautiful.

"From the start Paul and I had very similar creative chemistry.” Source: Stan.
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Nudity was used as a storytelling device throughout Normal People in order to convey the intimacy of the characters, but according to Daisy, there was one scene, in particular, she thought of as especially important.

It takes place in episode six after Marianne leaves a family dinner in tears due to more abuse from her brother. Upstairs in her bedroom, she takes a naked photo of herself for Connell and the character's pubic hair is highly visible.

"Oh I’m so glad you noticed!" she said, clapping her hands together when asked about the importance of having Marianne's pubic hair visible.

"I had never done nudity before but it's never about the characters being overly sexualised.

"I found the discussion around pubic hair an interesting one. I went to an all-girls high school and we never thought about body hair or where it grew. I did have a few friends as a teenager who went to a mixed school and they would say ‘what, you don’t shave your legs?’ and I was like ‘no…’.

"It’s a real societal way of thinking that projects extra pressure on women, the pressure to remove all their body hair and always look ‘perfect’. What’s so refreshing about Marianne is that she just doesn’t care about the social hierarchy, she only cares about her mind.

"Everyone is different and it’s about personal preference, but to me Marianne was just not someone who would be interested in grooming in that way, she is very natural.

"There was a lot of discussion around that scene and Ita O'Brien was involved in it as well. We would all sit down and discuss the kind of different pubic hair 'looks' you could go for.

"It's a powerful scene because Marianne has that awful moment at dinner and then she takes a picture of herself even though she feels like she shouldn't really be seen, which is upsetting.

"I’m really proud of that scene, even though it’s heartbreaking."

Every episode of Normal People is now streaming, only on Stan.


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