'It's a different way of watching those two characters exist': Daisy Edgar-Jones on the TV adaptation of Sally Rooney's Normal People
"I think it's a testament to Sally's writing that when you read the story, you feel that you are completely in this world with the two characters," says Daisy Edgar-Jones.
The actress plays Marianne in the eagerly-anticipated BBC/Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney's novel Normal People, which is due to begin on RTÉ on April 28.
Released in 2018, Normal People is the Mayo author's second book, and was a smash success. It gained celebrity fans in the likes of Lena Dunham and Taylor Swift, and was longlisted for the prestigious Man Booker prize. The story follows Marianne and Connell through their teens in Mayo into their college years in Dublin.
Ahead of the show's release, Daisy Edgar-Jones spoke to Her about her introduction to Normal People and what it feels like to be bringing much-loved characters to life.
"I mean, [Marianne and Connell] feel so personal to you. I do still think the book as an entity is amazing, and we'll never be the book. The book is so in their heads and the series is kind of an observation of them – they're two separate things," she said, adding that she hopes they have done the story "justice".
"I think that I would still say if anyone watches the series, that they have to read the book, because the book is just incredible and it always will be. I do feel a sort of pressure, because I think Marianne is such a loved character and such as an enigma as well. She's sort of hard to get your head around.
"I definitely think we've captured the tone of [the book] very well, but it's just a different way of watching those two characters exist."
Daisy explained that she was introduced to the book when a friend bought it for her flatmate – who "loves the book so much that she's actually writing her dissertation on it."
"And so she was like, 'Oh, you really have to read it!' But I didn't. I didn't get around to it, and then my friend auditioned for it actually; she did a self tape with my boyfriend in my kitchen. I remember I was sat on my bed, overhearing [them] and being like, 'I hope I get an audition,'" she recalled.
"And then about a month or two later, I got my audition for it, and I was like 'oh my god, that's the thing!'. I just fell in love with the story, even from the script that I had – and the description for Marianne. After I sent off my self-tape, I read the book within a day. I couldn't believe how happy I was that I hadn't read it beforehand – I think that if I had I would have really messed myself up."
Daisy added that one of the key things she had related to when it came to Marianne was her "kind of identity crisis" from school to college, and trying to fit in.
"I think what's interesting about Marianne is that, when it comes to the social ladder, she's aware of it. Sometimes she feels she's on it, just quite far below. And sometimes she feels that she is watching it from the outside without any need to be part of it," Daisy continued.
"There's a quote where she talks about trying to come into school and be a different person to see if it would change the way people treat her in it. It doesn't, and I definitely related to that in school. Feeling like I changed fundamentally but I wasn't able to do to be the person I felt I had become because my friends just thought I was the person they met when I was 11. And then going to college and being able to kind of come into yourself, I definitely really related to. But I would say I'm probably more like Connell and a lot of the sort of social anxiety aspect of things."
When it comes down to her favourite scene to film, there were two moments that particularly stood out – and for very different reasons.
"One of my favourite scenes was actually the first time and they sleep together, because I just think is so wonderfully accurate in the awkwardness of the small talk that they both have. It's so wonderfully awkward, I just love it," she said.
"And also the way Connell is with Marianne, I think it's so brilliant. I mean, he's sort of caring, and wants to make sure she's she's okay, and that she's she's happy. I just loved that scene. I think it's the most realistic depiction of sort of a first time scene I've ever seen, so it was really refreshing to be able to film it.
"There's [also] this wonderful scene in episode five, where they're just talking and Connell apologies to Marianne for the way that he was back in school. I just love that scene."
The 21-year-old admitted that it was "quite surreal" to have the series coming out in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis, adding: "When we filmed it last year, it feels like another world."
"I mean, it's so funny when I'm watching TV at the minute I'm like, 'they're not social distancing!' And there's certainly no social distancing going on in this series," she added with a laugh.
"And so yeah, it is very strange to think about it kind of being watched [at the moment]. But it's such a lovely story, and I'm really proud of the series. So I hope people like it, and it brings in a little bit of escapism."
- Normal People debuts on RTÉ One on Tuesday, April 28.