Wonderwall.com is celebrating the success of "Normal People" — the acclaimed Ireland-set Hulu/BBC show that's emerged as the must-see series of the 2020 coronavirus quarantine — with a look at our favorite stars who hail from the Emerald Isle, starting with Paul Mescal. The athlete-turned-actor, whose performance as English scholar Connell on "Normal People" has drawn raves and left many a viewer in their feelings, hails from Maynooth, County Kildare. Now keep reading for more of our favorite Irish and Northern Irish stars…
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Dublin-born Andrew Scott has been acting since the '90s but enjoyed a huge career boost when he played the hot priest on season 2 of "Fleabag" in 2019. That Golden Globe-nominated performance came after he delighted audiences as Moriarty on the BBC series "Sherlock," which earned him a BAFTA Award for best supporting actor. Next up, he'll play Tom Ripley on the Showtime series "Ripley."
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Surprisingly, Saoirse Ronan was born on American soil — in the Bronx, to be exact. But when she was 3, her Irish parents returned to their native country and raised their only child in County Carlow. Saoirse ("It's pronounced either 'Sir-sha' — like 'inertia' — [or] a lot of Irish people would say 'Seer-sha,'" she told Yahoo! Movies) got her big international break in 2007's "Atonement," a performance that earned her Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA Award noms, and she's continued to make cool, interesting film choices ever since. She picked up another Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for her work in 2017's "Lady Bird" and more recently picked up best actress nominations for her work in 2019's "Little Women." Next up, catch her in 2020's "The French Dispatch."
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"50 Shades of Grey" franchise star Jamie Dornan, who won over critics with his performance as a serial killer on TV's "The Fall" in 2013, was born and raised in the suburbs of Belfast, Northern Ireland. He's married to English musician-actress Amelia Warner, with whom he has three daughters.
She plays a time-traveling English nurse-turned-surgeon on Starz's action-packed historical drama "Outlander," which has its roots in Scotland. But in real life, leading lady Caitriona Balfe is Irish. Born in Dublin and raised in the village of Tydavnet near the Northern Ireland border, she left behind her old life as Ireland's most successful international model for a new one as an actress, and it's paying off: In addition to "Outlander," Cait starred in the Jodie Foster-directed 2016 drama "Money Monster" with George Clooney and Julia Roberts and 2019's "Ford v. Ferrari" alongside Christian Bale and Matt Damon. She married Scottish music manager-turned-bar owner Anthony McGill in 2019.
We're obsessed with Cillian Murphy — just watch the epic BBC/Netflix period gangster drama "Peaky Blinders" to see why. But before Cillian (say it like this: KILL-lee-an) — who hails from the suburbs of Cork, Ireland — made a name for himself as an actor with quirky indie parts as well as high-profile roles in films like "Batman Begins," he was a musician. Lucky for us, he turned down a record deal he and his band were offered back in the '90s and focused on acting instead.
If you love period pieces as much as we do, you already know Allen Leech. From his earlier work on "Rome" and "The Tudors" to his more recent roles in "Downton Abbey" and "The Imitation Game," he's clearly a great fit for historical drama. As for the most Irish thing about him? "I love the Irish culture in relation to music and song," Allen — who hails from the Dublin suburb of Killiney — told USA Today. "For that reason, I play the guitar. And I love traditional Irish music."
Sally Rooney, the award-winning author of the novel "Normal People" — who also co-wrote its critically acclaimed 2020 Hulu series adaptation — was born in Castlebar, Ireland, and was an English scholar at Trinity College in Dublin (just like Connell!). Her first novel, "Conversations With Friends," is now being adapted for television by the same creative team that brought "Normal People" to life.
Michael Fassbender might have been born in his father's homeland, Germany, but he was raised in his mother's — Ireland — from the age of 2. He grew up in Killarney in County Kerry where he served as an altar boy and his parents ran a restaurant. One of his earliest professional acting roles was the ultimate score for an Irishman: Michael starred in a Guinness commercial in 2004. He married actress Alicia Vikander in 2017.
"Poldark" star Aidan Turner might have played hunky Cornwall, England, antihero Ross Poldark on the popular BBC/PBS period drama, but he's actually Irish. The Clondalkin, Ireland-born actor also drew raves for playing Kíli in the successful "The Hobbit" film franchise.
Like a fine wine, Pierce Brosnan just gets better looking with age. The former James Bond, who hails from Navan, Ireland, more recently starred on the TV show "The Son." Next up, he'll star in the heist film "The Misfits."
Dublin-born actress Eve Hewson is the daughter of U2 frontman Bono, but she's also famous in her own right. Her most noteworthy role was that of a nurse opposite Clive Owen on Cinemax's medical period drama "The Knick." Dear old Da gave her some sage advice: "[He said] if it isn't hard," Eve told Refinery29, "it isn't worth doing."
We know what you're thinking — "Olivia Wilde is Irish?!" But yes, it's true: The mother of two with longtime partner Jason Sudeikis is actually an Irish citizen. Olivia was born in New York City and raised in Washington, D.C., but spent her summers in Ardmore, Ireland. The "Meadowland" actress also studied acting on the Emerald Isle after high school and eventually acquired an Irish passport.
Although Domhnall Gleeson's acting resume was initially dominated by cool indie-flavored fare and theater work, he's perhaps most recognizable now from his more mainstream roles as Ron Weasley's eldest brother, Bill, in the "Harry Potter" movies, Rachel McAdams' love interest in the rom-com "About Time" or the lead in the kids' flick "Peter Rabbit." The Dublin-born son of actor Brendan Gleeson also, of course, stars as the ruthless General Hux in the "Star Wars" franchise.
Aidan Gillen — who we all loved to hate as Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish on "Game of Thrones" — is an Irishman. The father of two was born in the suburbs of Dublin and moved to London after high school to pursue acting. In addition to "Thrones," Aidan made a name for himself starring as Tommy Carcetti on the HBO series "The Wire," as Stuart Alan Jones on "Queer as Folk" and as Janson in the "Maze Runner" film series.
Luck of the Irish indeed! Niall Horan shot to superstardom with boy band One Direction after auditioning on "The X-Factor." The singer — who was born and raised in Mullingar, Ireland — released five successful albums, performed on four world tours and won a number of awards with One Direction before the group went on hiatus in 2016. Today, Niall is a successful solo artist who's set to head out on his "Nice to Meet Ya" tour later in 2020.
Evanna Lynch, who hails from Termonfeckin, Ireland, beat out nearly 15,000 hopefuls to land the role of quirky Luna Lovegood in the "Harry Potter" film franchise. These days, she calls herself "a passionate animal-rights advocate," she told People. She works with End the Cage Age, a campaign that promotes kinder living conditions for farm animals. "I wanted to find a charity that was more moderate. I love the work of PETA, but I think it isolates a lot of people. But everyone can agree that even if they're fine eating animals, they don't want them to suffer unnecessarily."
Graham Norton, who's hosted his eponymous comedy chat show (one of Britain's best) for the BBC since 2007, was born in a suburb of Dublin and raised in County Cork.
Stuart Townsend is perhaps best known for his portrayal of vampire Lestat de Lioncourt in the 2002 film "Queen of the Damned" and Dorian Gray in the 2003 movie "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." The Irish star, who split from Charlize Theron in 2010 after nearly a decade as a couple, was born and raised in Dublin but calls Costa Rica home now. Stuart reportedly quit his acting career and now owns a car garage in the Central American country, where he's raising two kids with a new love.
"Once Upon a Time" fans loved Colin O'Donoghue as Captain Killian "Hook" Jones on the ABC fantasy series. Before that, the Drogheda, Ireland, native — who's married to an Irish school teacher (they have a son and a daughter) — most famously appeared on "The Tudors" and in the Anthony Hopkins-led horror flick "The Rite." More recently, fans have seen him on "Dolly Parton's Heartstrings" on Netflix.
Like countryman Colin O'Donoghue, Sarah Bolger also appeared on "Once Upon a Time" (she played Princess Aurora). But the Rathfarnham, Ireland-raised butcher's daughter — who starred as a college student opposite Olivia Wilde in the 2015 horror flick "The Lazarus Effect" — might be more familiar for her work as a child actress: Sarah and her real-life sister Emma wowed audiences as the immigrant siblings in Jim Sheridan's emotionally charged 2002 film festival darling "In America."
Chris O'Dowd cannot be put in a box. He always kills it on screen, whether he's doing comedies like "Bridesmaids," period dramas like the BBC downer "The Crimson Petal and the White" or hip, hot fare (remember when he popped up as Jessa's finance-guy husband on HBO's "Girls"?). But the Boyle, Ireland-raised actor's latest productions might be his best yet: He and wife Dawn O'Porter welcomed their first son, Art, in 2015, and second son, Valentine, in 2017.
Colin Farrell has been killing it on screen since he got sober more than a decade ago — and he's never looked better. In recent years, he's drawn raves for his performances in the HBO hit "True Detective," the indie "The Lobster" — which earned him a Golden Globe nod — and the blockbuster "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." The Dublin-born star will next play the Penguin in the much anticipated 2021 flick "The Batman."
Jack Gleeson — who's best known for playing sadistic King Joffrey on "Game of Thrones" — was born in Cork, Ireland, and raised in Dublin.
Dublin-raised Jason O'Mara is one of those actors you see on screen and go, "Oh yeah, him!" After getting his start in British theater, he got his big international break on HBO's acclaimed "Band of Brothers" miniseries and has appeared in dozens of TV shows and films ever since. But he's probably more recognizable these days for his work on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "The Good Wife," "Vegas" and as the voice of Batman and Bruce Wayne in the DC Universe's animated movies. In 2017, he split from actress wife Paige Turco, with whom he has a son.
Katie McGrath never intended to be an actress. After graduating from Dublin's Trinity College with a degree in history, Katie — who grew up in Ashford, Ireland — started working as a fashion journalist before joining the wardrobe department on "The Tudors." There, the stunning green-eyed brunette was encouraged to get in front of the camera. Roles in TV's "Merlin," "Dracula" and the Hallmark holiday movie "A Princess for Christmas" quickly followed. She has since appeared in the big-budget films "Jurassic World" and "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword."
There are a million reasons we love Liam Neeson and, yes, his lasting good looks are one of them. The bona fide movie star and Northern Ireland native has kept us entertained for more than four decades now.
Conor McGregor might not be a movie star, but he sure has achieved fame and fortune with his boxing and MMA careers. The athlete was born and raised in the suburbs of Dublin and began boxing when he was only 12. The father of two is now the biggest pay-per-view draw in MMA history, having headlined four of the six highest selling UFC pay-per-view events ever.
Daniel Day-Lewis was born and raised in England but in 1993, he became a citizen of Ireland, where he's lived full time since the late '90s. That — and the fact that he won his first of three best actor Oscars for playing an Irishman in "My Left Foot" (and nailed a Northern Irish accent when he starred in "In the Name of the Father") — make him pretty darn Irish in our book.
Like so many of his compatriots, crazy-eyed, Dublin-born Jonathan Rhys Meyers got a big leg up from "The Tudors" — he was its star, after all — but his struggles with alcohol addiction during filming and beyond almost derailed his career. "I was wild, I was as wild as you can get," he admitted to the Mirror in 2013. Thankfully, he cleaned up his act and came roaring back to star on NBC's "Dracula" and History's "Vikings." Does he mind playing so many villains? In a word, no. "I look like a bad guy!" he told the Mirror. He and wife Mara Lane welcomed their first child together, son Wolf, in late 2016.
U2 singer Bono was born in Dublin and raised in the city's suburbs. The singer and activist released a new album, "Songs of Experience," with U2 back in December 2017. Since then he's been focused on his philanthropic work.
Fiona Shaw is an Irish actress who has built quite the resume. The County Cork-born actress is perhaps best known for starring as Petunia Dursley in the "Harry Potter" films and as Marnie Stonebrook on HBO's "True Blood," though she's also achieved major success in the theater world. In 2018, she starred in "Lizzie" alongside Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart and she can currently be seen on "Killing Eve."
Shakespeare-loving actor Kenneth Branagh — who was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland — has made a name for himself behind the camera too. Kenneth, who was knighted in 2012, directed Disney's 2015 live-action version of "Cinderella." The Academy Award winner also starred in 2017's "Dunkirk" as well as "Murder on the Orient Express," which he also directed. He starred and directed 2018's "All Is True" in which he played — who else? — Shakespeare. Next up, you can see him in Christopher Nolan's "Tenet."
Gabriel Byrne is an Irish actor who has a long history in Hollywood. The Dublin-born star began his career in the late 1970s in the theater. He went on to notably star in "The Usual Suspects," "In the Name of the Father" and the HBO drama "In Treatment." Gabriel shares two children with ex-wife Ellen Barkin and a daughter with his current wife, Hannah King.
Who knew Dumbledore was Irish?! Michael Gambon, who's best known for playing Albus Dumbledore in the final six "Harry Potter" films, was born in the Dublin suburbs in 1940. The actor moved to London when he was 5 and became a British citizen (which explains his lack of an Irish accent). Michael most recently appeared in 2019's "Cordelia."