Limerick man behind BBC's ‘Normal People’ admits the show has indescribable magic

Limerick man behind BBC's  ‘Normal People’ admits the show has indescribable magic

Marianne and Connell, the two lead characters in Normal People which has everyone talking since it aired on RTE and BBC this week

IT is based on the age old story of boy meets girl and they fall in love but there is an indescribable magic about the new television series, Normal People, that has audiences hooked, according to Limerick man Tommy Bulfin.

Tommy is a commissioning editor in BBC Drama and is an executive producer with the BBC on the new 12-part series, the first episode of which aired in Ireland and the UK this week.

“Everyone has been in love. Everyone has had first love. Everyone has been treated badly and everyone, at times, has treated someone badly. There is something in it that really connects,” Tommy told the Leader this week from his home in Shepherd’s Bush in London.

“It is so interesting that as a book and as a piece of television it does provoke such a response in people. It is a very evocative piece of writing and, hopefully, a very evocative piece of television.”

For those who didn’t read the book by acclaimed Irish author Sally Rooney, Normal People follows the complex relationship between a young Irish couple from their time in sixth year in a Sligo school to when they both move to Dublin to study at Trinity College. The first episode of the series went out on the BBC on Monday night and on RTE this Tuesday night. 

Tommy says the buzz over in London about the series has been “huge”.

“There has been such a response from producers, friends, just people in general. It’s a very Irish story and I’m very proud to be part of the team who have brought it to a mainstream UK audience. It’s so universal in its themes and that’s why it’s being picked up all over the word - it’s going to be streaming on Hulu in the States and Stan in Australia.”

Sally Rooney, he said, “definitely is the voice of a generation” while the Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson “has brought it to the screen with such elegance and magic”.

“When you're deep in the edit you can sometimes lose sight of how it will be received. We always felt we had something very special on our hands but you never know when you put it out in the world how it is going to land,” said Tommy whose CV includes Peaky Blinders as well as a host of other top shows including EastEnders and Line of Duty.

The series will run over 12 half hour episodes.“It was mostly shot in Sligo and Dublin and then there is an episode set in Sweden and an episode set in Italy,” Tommy explained. “I went over for set visits in Dublin to see Lenny and the team when they filmed in Trinity. I used to live in Dublin so it was a lovely excuse to get back to Ireland. It’s a shame because we would have planned to do quite a bit of press around it in Dublin and I was looking forward to getting back for that but that wasn’t to be.”

A native of Bruff, Tommy, 38, is a graduate of Mary Immaculate College where he completed a BA in Media and English. Tommy has always shown a flair for media work. His father Tom Bulfin is the Leader’s notes correspondent for the Bruff area while his brother Seoirse is well-known in sporting circles working as a lecturer with the sports department of LIT and he is the senior hurling coach with the Wexford hurlers. 

Tommy is married to Grainne and they have two children Gracie, 3, and baby Rafe. 

Interestingly, Tommy isn’t the only Limerick connection to the Normal People series. Former Castletroy College student Leah McNamara has an acting role while the series is produced by Element Pictures whose chief operating officer is Annette Waldron who is originally from the Greystones area of Limerick.


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