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Paul Mescal, the Oscar nominee Gen Z will be rooting for

<i>David M. Benett/Getty Images</i><br/>Paul Mescal
Max Cisotti/Dave Benett/Getty Im
David M. Benett/Getty Images
Paul Mescal

By Alli Rosenbloom, CNN

The last three years have been big ones for Paul Mescal.

The Ireland-born actor received his very first Academy Award nomination on Tuesday for his role in “Aftersun,” Charlotte Wells’ debut feature about a single father who tries to bond with his adolescent daughter (Frankie Corio) during a trip to Turkey. “Aftersun” marked Mescal’s first major film role.

But it was his 2020 role in the much-lauded, emotionally complex teenage romance television series “Normal People,” in which he starred alongside Daisy Edgar-Jones, that put Mescal on the map.

“Normal People,” adapted from author Sally Rooney’s New York Times Bestselling novel of the same title, became one of the early major TV hits to come out of the coronavirus lockdown and solidified the young stars’ place in pop culture.

“He’s just the best human being,” Edgar-Jones said of her co-star in 2021. “So kind, lovely and funny.”

The series aired on the BBC and Hulu, breaking streaming records at the former, according to Deadline.

The role, in which he played broody Connell Waldron, earned Mescal a primetime Emmy nomination in 2020 — a career first. He also earned a Critics Choice Award nomination and won a BAFTA TV Award.

Mescal’s success is no accident. He began his acting training at The Lir Academy in Dublin. After starring in a number of theater plays in the UK, Mescal hit the lottery with his first mainstream role in “Normal People,” putting him on the fast track to international stardom.

“It was like the perfect storm for a young actor to get a shot at reaching a global audience,” Mescal told The Guardian in 2022.

It is rare enough for a young actor to earn awards buzz for their first major television role, but even more rare to do so for their first major film role as well, especially because neither “Normal People” or “Aftersun” were particularly costly projects compared to some of their TV and film counterparts.

Everyone from Gen Z to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voting body — and those in between — have taken notice. Rare is the male star who can grace major magazine covers for the depth of his work and be the subject of thirsty TikToks pining over his physical form.

In between “Normal People” and “Aftersun,” Mescal appeared in the 2021 film “The Lost Daughter” alongside Oscar winner Olivia Coleman.

Mescal is reportedly currently in talks to lead the sequel to “Gladiator,” a sword-and-sandals role that’s sure to make social media happy.

His other next big project is the film “Foe,” which he stars in alongside fellow Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan. The film is a sci-fi thriller set in the future about a couple who embark on an unexpected intergalactic journey.

One could say the role is a fitting pitstop on Mescal’s own unexpected journey among the stars.

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