Paul Mescal Is the Bloody Gladiator of My Dreams

Rodent men this, rodent men that. Whatever happened to real men? You know, the kind of man that would go to war, wear gladiator sandals, and get beat up for me?

Thank God for Paul Mescal. Years after hanging up his Connell chain necklace, the Normal People star is back and ready to make us cry again with a new lead performance in the upcoming Gladiator II. And I mean “cry” literally, as someone who gets nauseated at the sight of graphic violence onscreen. (But I will be seated in a theater on November 22 anyway.)

Mescal—who will play a sword-slinging arena fighter in the sequel to 2000 historical epic Gladiator—was recently photographed on set wearing a tunic and knee-high boots, like an extra in that 2004 Pepsi commercial with Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Pink. Anyway, I’m having very normal feelings about this photo. Feelings of wonder. Feelings of awe. Feelings that ask, “Can I find that belt on Depop?”

paul mescal in costume on set


Other photos show Mescal looking freshly tanned and battle-ready in a breastplate and leather fringe skirt, which once again reaffirms my innate belief that more men should incorporate skirts (or maybe just garb from classical antiquity in general) into their everyday wardrobes.

Luckily, we will be seeing plenty more men in those garments come fall, when Gladiator II is unleashed upon the public. Directed by Ridley Scott (who also helmed the original), the film will arrive almost a quarter century after Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix appeared, respectively, as Maximus Decimus Meridius and Emperor Commodus onscreen. While we likely won’t see those two return to reprise their roles (spoiler alert: they died), Mescal plays Commodus’s nephew Lucius, who—according to a sneak preview at CinemaCon 2024 in April—gets to do all sorts of fun things, like fight off baboons, rhinos, and sharks. Who knew the Roman Empire was such a proponent of wildlife?

Can’t get enough of Paul Mescal?

Here’s what to know.

  • He talked about dealing with fame and privacy for Bazaar’s September 2023 cover story: “If I’m going to make TV shows like Normal People, there’s going to be an appetite from the world. … Eighty percent of that is palatable. And then 20 percent of it is devastating.”
  • Speaking of Normal People, we also caught up with Mescal—plus costar Daisy Edgar-Jones—in 2020, and talked to him about breaking out from the Hulu limited series.
  • And if you’re still chasing the Normal People high, then maybe Conversations With Friends, another Sally Rooney adaptation, will satisfy that craving.
Headshot of Chelsey Sanchez

As an associate editor at, Chelsey keeps a finger on the pulse on all things celeb news. She also writes on social movements, connecting with activists leading the fight on workers’ rights, climate justice, and more. Offline, she’s probably spending too much time on TikTok, rewatching Emma (the 2020 version, of course), or buying yet another corset.