British actress and director Michaela Coel is on a meteoric rise to the top of her field by becoming the first Black woman to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing. Coel had already garnered national fame with her performance in the sitcom Chewing Gum, for which she received a BAFTA but her latest project has solidified her status as one of the most promising young artists in the world today.
Titled I May Destroy You, Coel’s latest HBO series features her as Arabella, a survivor of sexual assault who tries to pick up the fragments of her shattered psyche after being violated. Already labelled as the most critically acclaimed show of 2020, I May Destroy You is an extremely relevant addition to the corpus of the Me Too movement by tackling one of the biggest social evils plaguing us today.
In an interview with Variety, Coel explained her approach to the subject matter: “I think that this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of using fiction to really bring audiences to quite personal, challenging and dark places and asking audiences to question the world around them. The way people received the show, as we would say in London, gave me vim.”
Adding, “[Producer Roberto Troni] told me, ‘This live debut, where hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people are sitting down to watch the show, you won’t get that again. [Watching the episodes] was a very emotional process, and another form of catharsis in itself. It was exhilarating and joyous and exciting, and also difficult, because, as you watch and people begin to receive it, it is ending at the same time.”
After her historic win at the Emmy Awards, Coel dedicated her acceptance speech to the survivors of sexual assault who are often paralysed by the trauma of such a terrifying experience. She also urged writers to disconnect from the illusory nature of this digital world in order to arrive at the fundamental truths of the human condition.
In her speech, Coel said: “In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to in turn feel the need to be constantly visible, for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success — do not be afraid to disappear from it, from us, for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence.”
Listen to the entire speech by Michaela Coel below.