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TOP PRIZE Normal People star Paul Mescal tipped to scoop Emmy award

Irish talent is up against some of Hollywood's leading stars at virtual ceremony

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Paul Mescal is in the running for an Emmy award

Paul Mescal is in the running for an Emmy award

Jeremy Irons

Jeremy Irons

Getty Images

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman

Getty Images

Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo

Paul is up against for an award for his role in Normal People with Daisy Edgar Jones

Paul is up against for an award for his role in Normal People with Daisy Edgar Jones

BBC/Element Pictures/Hulu

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Paul Mescal is in the running for an Emmy award

US pundits are tipping Normal People actor Paul Mescal to scoop an Emmy Award in LA tonight - while director Lenny Abrahamson has told the Sunday World he is looking for "tux-style pyjamas" for the virtual ceremony.

Mescal is up against heavy hitters Hugh Jackman, Jeremy Irons, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Pope for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series. It's one of four nominations for Normal People, with Irish stars Andrew Scott and Fiona Shaw also in the running for separate TV shows.

However, a number of seasoned pundits are betting on Maynooth's Mescal to bring home the top prize tonight.

Veteran awards journalist Scott Feinberg of industry bible The Hollywood Reporter is picking Mescal, pointing out that Jackman, Irons and Ruffalo have all won before. "I think voters will gravitate towards this 24-year-old Irish breakout, whose passionate turn enchanted many," he wrote.

Influential US awards-season prediction site Gold Derby is also putting the Kildare man forward, adding that breakthrough stars have been favoured in recent years.

"Given the sheer number of actors who were on the ballot, just getting the nomination may have been the biggest challenge for an actor with less name recognition. Now that he's in, watch out," they wrote.

IndieWire, too, is nudging towards the Irish star. "Mescal has the best chance to win of all the show's nominations, and his presence on the ballot shows that enough of the TV Academy were as affected by the show as the rest of us. I'm betting on that passion to fuel Mescal past the competition," said pundit Ben Travers.

The awards will take place virtually this year, but producers are said to be using technology and inventiveness to bring some surprises to viewers and put on a big-scale awards show.

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Paul is up against for an award for his role in Normal People with Daisy Edgar Jones

Paul is up against for an award for his role in Normal People with Daisy Edgar Jones

BBC/Element Pictures/Hulu

Paul is up against for an award for his role in Normal People with Daisy Edgar Jones

There'll be no red carpet but there are plans to add glamour to one of showbiz's biggest nights by going live to the locations of top stars, including Jennifer Aniston, Jodie Comer (currently shooting The Last Duel in Ireland), Zendaya and Steve Carell. Host Jimmy Kimmel will present the show from Los Angeles' Staples Centre with no audience in attendance.

Normal People director Lenny Abrahamson has joked that he's looking for "some sort of tux-style pyjamas" as it'll be the early hours here when the event kicks off.

"It's such a lovely way of ending the Normal People story, to have had those nominations and especially for what is effectively a small Irish story," he told Sunday World.

"To have elbowed its way into the Emmy conversation is brilliant. It's recognition for everybody involved in the show. It is such a collaborative process, I think Paul's nomination is also really for Daisy, and mine is for everybody involved, who contributed so massively to it. It's just a little stamp of a recognition from your peers. That what you've done was worth something."

Emmys organisers are being more inventive and have hired crews all over America and the world so that nominees can appear on the show virtually. They are dispatching camera equipment to more than 130 locations around the world, and offering nominees the chance to bring their own take to the ceremony.

The ceremony will start at 1am Irish time and as well being aired on ABC in the States, will be streamed on YouTube.

As well as Normal People's four nominations for Paul Mescal, director Lenny Abrahamson, casting agent Louise Kiely and writers Sally Rooney and Alice Birch, Irish nominees are putting in a strong showing elsewhere.

Dubliner Andrew Scott has been nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his role in Black Mirror. Cork-born actress Fiona Shaw has got the nod for her work on Killing Eve, in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

Schitt's Creek, The Crown, Watchmen, Stranger Things and Succession are among the heavy hitters who will tussle for the top awards tonight.

Organisers are also planning a virtual red carpet, featuring interviews with the big nominees at their homes or current locations.

If nominees can't come to the Emmys, the Emmys will come to them, vowed the show's producer Reginald Hudlin.

"Wherever we need to go, we're going to be sending out these elaborate but relatively easy-to-use camera rigs so we can have the best sound, the best picture, the best lighting, given the circumstances," he told the LA Times.

"We tried to make these rigs as user-friendly as possible so they can install them in their homes. It really is a partnership between us and the nominees. It's all up to the individual and how they want to celebrate the night."

Show host Jimmy Kimmell, who will be performing to an empty house at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, admitted that it would be a weird sensation having no live audience at the normally-glitzy bash.

"I am nervous about the technical end of it, because it's not something I know much about, not something I can control," he said. "Think about just trying to Zoom with your grandparents, and now imagine that we've got 150 celebrities who haven't made themselves lunch in, like, 19 years, many of them, are now trying to connect technically to an awards show. Those are the challenges we're facing."

"My nightmare is that I'm on prime-time television, completely alone, unable to speak to anybody, and I've got a bunch of Emmys that need to be handed out and I don't have anyone to give them to," he said. "I guess I could just take them!"