Ed Guiney, executive producer on “Normal People,” also worked on “Room” and “The Favourite,” both of which were nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. For the past year, Element Pictures, the production firm Guiney co-founded with Andrew Lowe, has been trying to acquire the rights to Rooney’s novel since it was in galley form, as Guiney revealed. Then, Element aligned themselves with the BBC through Rose Garnett, the head of BBC Films, in an effort to win the highly coveted rights.
Next, Element recruited Abrahamson, with whom they have collaborated on all of his films in the role of producer. When asked about his feelings for Lenny, Guiney responded, “Normal People” and he were destined to be together.
According to Lowe, finding a U.S. partner for the show was Endeavor Content’s top priority after they were brought on to represent the rights outside of the U.K. When Lowe and Guiney were in Los Angeles for “The Favourite” Oscars, they met with half a dozen U.S. buyers and “were really impressed by Hulu’s enthusiasm and commitment,” Lowe said. The concept was showcased by Endeavor Content at Mipcom, where it was presented to potential investors from around the world.
The story follows Marianne and Connell from the conclusion of their high school years in a small village in Ireland’s west through their college years at Trinity College in Dublin, chronicling the development of their sweet but troubled love along the way. He’s popular and liked at school, whereas she stands out for being aloof and frightening. The bond between the two youngsters develops into something mysterious and permanent.
A year later, Marianne has settled into her new life as a student in Dublin, but Connell remains on the periphery, awkward and insecure. They constantly enter and exit one another’s lives. The book delves into the complexities of first love at a young age.”In a time when so much television mines darkness in a cynical manner, this felt to me like a celebration and a profound and beautiful one.
Every episode we’ve done has the vibe of a movie, which is how I envisioned doing it. And most importantly, I aimed to bring people to proximity to the characters that would allow them to fall in love with the characters on screen the way I fell in love with the characters in the novel.
Correctly casting Marianne and Connell was a major factor. Abrahamson detailed how they cast Paul Mescal in his first television role as Connell and Daisy Edgar Jones as Marianne (known for her roles in “War of the Worlds” and “Cold Feet”).
They had scoured the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and the United States for hundreds of actresses when they stumbled onto Edgar Jones in London. The chemistry between Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, who starred in “Room,” and Paul and Daisy was the inspiration for this pairing. Abrahamson remarked, “I think they’re as unusual a pair as any people I’ve cast in any movie and as great a match as any people I’ve cast in any movie.”
After reading Sally Rooney’s novel, Mescal remarked, “God, I really identify this human being. Good writing may be judged by how easily readers can identify with the protagonists, and the fact that everyone can see a little bit of themselves in Connell and Marianne is proof positive.
According to Mescal, he could identify with Connell’s situation. To paraphrase, “He is not from Dublin, so he is an outsider; he is the type of person who moves to the Big Smoke and has a hard time making it on his Even though he has a lot of good things going on in his life, I can identify with how he feels as a little bit of an outsider. Sally simply writes very softly. Many young people today, and not just in Ireland, are tormented by internal and external pressures to conform to narrow conceptions of who they should be. Even if everything seems to be going swimmingly, there may be a void somewhere. I think he has that problem.
Norton stated, “We were really keen to find a female director for the second block, and we also wanted a director who could stand beside Lenny in terms of quality and ability.” Abrahamson was originally set to direct the first six episodes. They were able to hire Hettie McDonald, who had previously directed the Starz/BBC adaptation of E.M. Forster’s “Howards End” (authored by Kenneth Lonergan). We went to war to acquire Hettie. Part of that was letting her have her say in the running of the second block as well.
Norton remarked, “There is a huge difference between the two stages of their lives.” What she brought to “Howards End” was a “genuine naturalism,” a “attention to psychology,” and a “great aptitude at seeing people talking and feeling emotions in a way that truly respected how meaningful that is to individuals.”To that, Norton chimed in, “There is a phrase in the novel that compares Marianne and Connell as two saplings growing in the same flower pot. Through the course of the series, you witness the development and intertwining of these two characters.
Guiney, Lowe, Norton, and Anna Ferguson served as executive producers for Element Pictures on the show. Both Rooney and Abrahamson were involved in the production process as executive producers. For the BBC, the executive producers were Tommy Bulfin and Rose Garnett. Production of the show was handled by Catherine Magee. The BBC and Hulu will both be airing it in 2019.