An ‘ugly’ Oscar reaction, shared sibling spotlight and mother’s cancer battle: Meet Paul Mescal’s family

This awards season, Paul Mescal has captured hearts everywhere. From his portrayal as a loving father in the coming-of-age film Aftersun to speaking fluent Irish on the BAFTAs red carpet, the 27-year-old actor is set to turn heads once again at the 2023 Academy Awards – where he is nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

And throughout it all, Paul Mescal’s supportive family has been by his side — even as his mother battles cancer.

The Irish actor was born and raised in County Kildare where his mother, Dearbhla, worked as a police officer and his father, Paul, was a school teacher. Mescal, the eldest of three, went on to study acting at The Lir Academy at Trinity College Dublin before booking his breakout role in the 2020 Hulu series, Normal People.

It appears that Mescal isn’t the only talented one in his family. His brother, Donnacha, works in New York, while his 19-year-old sister, Nell, is a musician. The indie folk singer, who’s already released three singles, dropped out of high school in October 2021 to pursue a music career in London. In an interview with Rolling Stone UK, Nell explained that she had the full support of her family behind her.

Speaking to the outlet earlier this year, Nell shared intimate details about her close relationship with her brother Paul.

“We’re both too similar, we’ll have exactly the same ideas and when I think it’s not great, I always think he’ll have the same reaction as me, which is daunting!” she said.

Her parents Dearbhla and Paul were even seen supporting Nell in the audience as she performed on the Irish chat show, The Late Late Show, on 21 January.

“I’m very proud of her and she works incredibly hard,” her mother told viewers.

As for his grandparents, Paul Mescal once revealed on The Graham Norton Show that he had to warn his grandmother about the awkward sex scenes in Normal People before she watched the show.

“My granny warned my great aunt that there were a lot of sexy bits and that when she felt those were about to happen she should go off and do something else,” he told host Graham Norton in 2020. “In episode two when we started kissing she took the dog out. But she underestimated the time it would take, and as she came back in we were right in the throes of it all…I suggested that a good long chore or a couple of cups of tea would do the trick next time!”

In January 2023, Mescal’s sister Nell revealed their mother Dearbhla was undergoing chemotherapy after recently being diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. On the same day it was announced that Mescal had received an Oscar nomination, Nell tweeted that their mother had a haircut “in prep for her chemotherapy”.

“My mum got a haircut today in prep for her chemotherapy and then Paul got nominated for an Oscar. Life is so crazy,” the singer-songwriter said.

Despite preparing for her cancer treatment, Dearbhla was still the supportive mom when she reacted to her son’s nomination. She told Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ that she found out the news through their family WhatsApp group because it was “too stressful” to watch the nominations live.

“We’re very blessed, Donnacha was in New York, sitting in his office, Nelly was in London, she went straight to his flat,” Dearbhla said. “It’s an honour to watch him in this arena, I’m emotional a lot today.”

“The fact that I got to see their three faces today, the love they have for each other as siblings is second to none, I’m very happy,” she added.

Meanwhile, Nell tweeted a screenshot of the entire Mescal family looking elated on a group video call, though she admitted that she wouldn’t post the entire video because her tears were “ugly”.

“I would post the video of my reaction but those tears were UGLY,” she said, adding in a separate tweet: “I am so proud it is making me sick.”

Both his mother and father also supported their eldest son at this year’s BAFTAs ceremony. Although Mescal – who was nominated for Best Actor – lost out to Elvis star Austin Butler, his mother told The Mirror that it was “amazing” to attend the awards ceremony at Royal Festival Hall.

“These past few days feel like I was in a movie... my heart is just so very grateful,” she said. “What an amazing, amazing gift this was to be part of this incredible, crazy ride.”

Meanwhile, his father told that to support his son at the BAFTAs was a “surreal” experience, and joked that he’ll be in the “cheap seats” when they attend the 2023 Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles.

“To enjoy the experience as we did the Baftas which was a surreal experience,” he said. “We look forward to doing that again once we get over to LA. I’m going to be put into the cheap seats.”

Although Paul Mescal has kept some details of his life private, including his much-speculated relationship with singer Phoebe Bridgers, the Lost Daughter star discussed his mother’s cancer during an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Todayin February.

Paul Mescal with his mother and father (Gareth Cattermole/Getty)
Paul Mescal with his mother and father (Gareth Cattermole/Getty)

Mescal said of his Oscar nomination: “It’s all a bit overwhelming, especially for my family. I don’t think anybody, or even I, was expecting this.”

“I always knew I was willing to work hard, but when the nominations came out, and the Baftas the week before, something felt slightly absurd about it all,” he said. “And there’s stuff going on at home that is difficult, and this has given my family a very welcome respite.”

The actor also revealed that the entire Mescal clan will be flying to Los Angeles for this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, which takes place on Sunday 12 March. “We are going to have a great time as a family, they’re all coming out to [the Oscars ceremony] in LA,” he said.

When asked about his mother having her haircut for chemo on the same day as the nominations, he said: “The universe works in very interesting ways.”