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Sally Rooney’s Normal People
Photography Enda Bowe, courtesty BBC

Normal People director sheds light on a potential second season

While Paul Mescal has an upsetting prediction for Connell’s future

Normal People, Sally Rooney’s novel turned break-away success TV adaptation, has captured the public’s heart and imagination in a way few things do. Smashing viewing records of its British and Irish broadcast partners, RTÉ recently revealed Normal People’s numbers are three times higher than the best ever previous drama on the channel, while the show beat previous BBC iPlayer record of 10 million viewers for Killing Eve by a cool six million.

We continued to be endlessly fascinated with the story of Marianne and Connell, devouring all the content we can get our hands on from one-off bonus episodes featuring everyone’s favourite hot priest to Connell actor Paul Mescal’s ASMR reading from the novel.

Now, director and executive producer Lenny Abrahamson has opened up about the possibility of the cast returning for season two of the show. “We’ve talked about the possibility of how interesting it would be to check back in with them,” Abrahamson says in an interview with Deadline, “but apart from just general musings and over a drink, no, there have been no concrete discussions about what it would be like. As Sally says, the book stops where it stops because it feels right.”

As with the novel, the series ends with the future uncertain for Connell and Marianne’s relationship as he sets off for New York to study creative writing. Abrahamson says if there is a season two, it won’t be picking up immediately after the first, and we won’t be following Connell to New York.

“I’d love to revisit them in five years and find out what happened, where they are. Is somebody a father or a mother? What relationships are they in that then get disrupted by their meeting again?” he continues, saying that the actors, as well as the characters, would need to truly age those years. “You’d do it for real, you’d do it á la Before Sunset.”

Daisy Edgar-Jones, who plays Marianne, says it’s hard to imagine a world where Connell and Marianne are in each other’s lives but not romantically involved. “They do have this uniquely special connection. And so, I hope that they do end up getting married and have loads of kids.”

Mescal, however, believes the relationship will continue to be as complicated and messy as it was when the two characters were younger. “Connell, I believe, would potentially get married to somebody else,” he says. “It’ll destroy lots of people’s lives along the way, because ultimately they’re going to be drawn. But they will consciously resist the idea that they’re supposed to be together. It’ll be a long process of discovery until they finally find each other permanently, I think.” 

Then he adds, “I really need them to be together. If Sally ever decides to do the second book or second series, I need them to be together.”

The interview also revealed that the much-celebrated sex scenes on the show, so painstakingly intimate and realistic thanks to intimacy co-ordinator Ita O-Brien, took inspiration from photographer Nan Goldin, whose work was shown to Mescal and Edgar-Jones as a reference point for how relaxed and natural Marianne and Connell are in these scenes.

“She did The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, during the 80s,” Edgar-Jones says, “when she did these amazing photographs, like one of this couple in bed with the woman having dirty feet. Just these amazing observations of human beings.”

While the future of Normal People remains uncertain, the TV adaption of Conversations with Friends is very much on track. Rooney’s debut novel will be brought to the small-screen by the same team as Normal People including Abrahamson and writer Alice Birch. US streaming service Hulu confirmed last week that it will once again be on board with BBC3 to broadcast the series.