Actor Paul Mescal recently recalled a time when he was "really angry" after a woman told him she saw him naked and saved a nude screenshot of him.
Mescal rose to stardom in 2020 after costarring in the Hulu drama adaptation of Normal People, based on the eponymous novel by author Sally Rooney.
His captivating portrayal of Connell Waldron in the series earned the 26-year-old the esteemed British Academy Television Award for Best Actor, as well as nominations for an Emmy and a Critics' Choice Television Award.
In addition to the powerful performances in the series, Normal People became known for its intense sex scenes featuring Mescal, who agreed to film showing full-frontal nudity.
He commented on the "bizarre experience" of filming in the nude with his co-star Daisy Edgar-Jones while appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2021.
"When you put 10 people into the room, a boom operator, and you're being doused in fake sweat, it's just a really difficult thing."
Mescal even warned his family of the steamy love scenes and referenced his auntie when explaining the nature of the show to them.
“We were talking about what the show was going to be," he said, adding:
"We warned her that if she ever felt like it was getting into that territory, to maybe go and make a cup of tea, maybe remove yourself from the room.”
"I think she underestimated that those scenes were quite long, so there were a couple of cups of tea made."
While his recollection of filming the lengthy sex scenes was generally upbeat, he did mention one encounter with a fan that left him infuriated for the first time.
In a recent interview with GQ—which named him "the most harassed man in London" after his success in Normal People—he talked about his early rise to fame and the consequences of being the "hot naked guy" on the show.
Now that two years have passed since the series was released, the magazine asked how frequently he is asked to take photos.
"Relatively infrequently," he replied, adding that when it does happen, "Most people are really nice. Some people are not.”
He shared examples of how negative these interactions can be.
"[When] it’s a demand. The classic is like, a drunk f**king dude coming up to me and being like, ‘My girlfriend really f**king loved the show,’ and I’m like…You don’t need to be ashamed that you watched a television show, dude.”
Then there was a time at the height of the popularity of Normal People when he was at a bachelorette party with friends in County Waterford in southeast Ireland.
An intoxicated woman had approached him and said:
“I didn’t think the show was any good but I saw your willy and I have a photo!”
Mescal told GQ:
“I remember that was the first time that I was really angry. I was like, ‘That’s f**king rude!’"
"It’s embarrassing for you, it’s embarrassing for me, it’s embarrassing for my friends and now I have to say no to you. But luckily they are the anomaly.”
His comments prompted a discussion on a pop culture-specific subReddit, where one user said:
"It’s pretty insane how grown adults will pull sh*t like this all of the time and they don’t see the harm in it."
"I swear, people see entertainers as anything but human and will expect them to perform for them 24/7. I always get so embarrassed when I read stories/see videos of people bombarding these celebs for autographs or pictures and you can tell these celebs just want to be left alone but will do it anyway because they don’t want to be seen as a d*ck."
"He’s right this is embarrassing for her and I hope she felt it."
"I agree that it’s bonkers how normalized people approaching a random stranger like that is. I also think it must be really dehumanizing for artists to be recognized in public, and then instead of someone saying 'I love your work' or something regarding the artist’s work, they are instead commodified themselves as a prop for clout."
"I can’t imagine how miserable it must be to have to constantly be on guard for strangers to run up to you and if you aren’t super nice and accommodating then you’re risking your reputation."
One user called the woman's behavior, "disgusting."
"This kind of behavior happens and is normalized in so many male celeb fandoms and the majority are women. They don't care how the actor may feel about this kind of behavior and don't see them as a person anyway. How thirsty can you be ffs."
Another person commended Mescal for calling the woman out for the offensive intrusion.
"Good for Paul."
"The way women are over sexualizing celeb men (and women too) is out of control."
"Regularly on twitter: 'I want to sit on his face' or 'I want to see her strap game' - I want to scream 'these are your secret mind thoughts' keep them to yourself! And I am no prude."
"It is not feminist or bold or sex positive to continually make sexual comments about what you want them to do or call them without any consent, it's gross."
"Truly gross. What is a person supposed to reply to something like that? I think ‘fans’ like this forget the celebrity in question is a real person with feelings and not just an image on their screen."
One positive interaction he had with a fan of Normal People was American singer Phoebe Bridgers, to whom he is reportedly engaged.
Mescal was a fan of the singer who was featured on his 2019 Spotify Wrapped list.
Five months after he posted the screenshot, the singer tagged him in a tweet showing mutual admiration.
In May 2020, Bridgers tweeted:
"Finished normal people and now I'm sad and horny oh wait."
Mescal responded with:
"I'm officially dead."
The convo continued with the singer responding:
“Nooo don’t die your [sic] so talented aha."
To which Mescal repeated:
“Too late… Dead.”
The pair started dating shortly after their flirtatious exchange, but they made a decision to keep their relationship status on the down low.
Mescal told the magazine:
“If the relationship failed early days, it could have been tainted because people would’ve known and it would’ve been talked about."
"And then now we’re like…our lives would be worse if we were still operating in that way of like, keeping it all hush-hush. Just f**king sh*t.”
They gradually went public last year on their own terms through occasional photos of them together on social media.
He said of the nerve-wracking experience of subtly disclosing their romantic courtship:
“That was the anxiety of like, ‘Oh, f**k, does that mean that we are public property?’"
"And I think it’s like, no, that’s what couples choose to do. It’s just how I choose to operate.”
But he holds firm about choosing what he does or doesn't prefer sharing with the world.
"I feel like I’ve struck a happy medium with like, having a public relationship be private, on my terms."
"And that’s satisfying because it just means you’re not traveling around under the cover of night, trying to hide your movements from the world."
"Nor will I ever truly go into depth with anybody about what that relationship means to me or what the inner life of that relationship is.”
Mescal currently stars in his new film, Aftersun.
You can watch the trailer below.
Aftersun | Official Trailer HD | A24youtu.be