No sooner has Dearbhla Mescal spoken to Ray D'Arcy about her son Paul’s Oscar nomination, than he goes and gets another nomination and she has to do it all over again. This time Dearbhla’s young lad has been nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for his performance as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire in London.
Joining Ray in studio, Dearbhla – who only found out about Paul’s latest award nomination the day before – is effusive in her praise for her son and the whole Streetcar cast:
"Wonderful. Wonderful. It was such an amazing show. Streetcar is just one of those shows and it’s a big one, you know, the Olivier is just, you know, to be in that mix, pretty, pretty spectacular."
And Paul, Dearbhla says, has – much like a superstitious sportsperson might have – a routine he sticks to while doing Streetcar:
"He goes to the same place to get his breakfast and coffee and then he goes to the gym and then he arrives at the theatre and meets the same people and it’s all about routine. There’s a kind of like nearly a superstition. You know, they do a little bit of boxing and all of that stuff on stage and things like that."
So, Paul Mescal has now been nominated for an Oscar, a BAFTA and an Olivier award. Yet it’s only 3 years, Ray told Dearbhla, since Paul sat in the same studio to talk about this TV drama based on a Sally Rooney novel that he was starring in. And how much has changed since then, Dearbhla says – and not just for Paul. But, Ray wants to know, had it dawned on Paul, as he began the job of promoting Normal People how his life was going to change? Yes, was Dearbhla’s answer and she describes a call between herself in her garden and Paul in London:
"I was sitting at home and he was running somewhere along the marshes, 'cos you could hear the birds and I said, ‘Where are you?’ And he said he’s running. And he said, ‘It’s happening tomorrow.’ And I said, ‘Yep.’"
‘It’ was the release of Normal People, which first aired on BBC 3. And, although it felt special to all involved, no one could be sure what the reception would be once it was out in the world, as Paul acknowledged to his mum:
"He said, ‘My life’s going to change. It’ll either change for the good or the bad because how people will perceive it is up to them... It’s going to be a crazy ride.’ And I said, I think it’ll be a crazy ride.’"
How right they were. And that crazy ride has so far led Paul to multiple award nominations and Dearbhla to the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood for the 95th Academy Awards on Sunday 12 March. The crazy ride has had troughs as well as peaks, though, and Dearbhla outlined to Ray how she went from the Men’s Final at Wimbledon last July to a hospital in Dublin:
"I had a scan after work on the Tuesday. On the Thursday they had found lesions or tumours. So, the pain had been in my right shoulder, and the following Sunday, so literally walked into centre court and walked into the Oncology Unit in the Beacon the following Sunday."
Dearbhla was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer. Remarkably, she describes herself as lucky and takes a positive approach to the disease and the treatment:
"So I had my stem cells harvested, which basically means you kind of go on a dialysis... so they kind of hit you with nuclear chemo and then they reintroduce your stem cells back and it’s a bit like rebooting your phone."
The main part of the treatment involves up to a month of isolation, so Dearbhla has asked her medical team to put that on hold until after March 12th. And she’s hoping that the treatment will have the desired effect once she goes through it all and comes out the other side. She did stress though that the treatment is not a cure, but rather a form of disease management:
"I’ll be kind of super-duper, hopefully. It’s not a curable cancer, it is a seriously researched cancer and it’s kind of like a disease, rather than, do you know what I mean? I can live with it and I’ll take whatever medicines I take and I’ll do my holistic parts of my life."
Dearbhla is tremendously well-adjusted, especially considering, as Ray puts it, "what a mad few years" she’s had. We’ll be seeing her with her son Paul on the red carpet leading into the Dolby Theatre on the 12 March and there’ll be many of us crossing our fingers for Paul, not least because we’ve enjoyed listening to his wonderful mum.
You can listen to Ray’s full chat with Dearbhla – including some lovely tributes from Paul’s old school in Maynooth – by going here.