I May Destroy You (2020) Michaela Coel

Michaela Coel Praises “Essential” Intimacy Coordinator After Big I May Destroy You BAFTA Win

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Michaela Coel changed the game when she created I May Destroy You. A raw look at consent and trauma, the show is a blend of heart-wrenching moments and characters you just want to find some way of helping with Coel’s brand of comedy that we’ve come to know from her show Chewing Gum. And now she’s finally being recognized for her brilliance in creating and starring in I May Destroy You, something that the Golden Globes snubbed her for (and rightfully got called out on).

At the BAFTAs though, Coel took up the trophy for Leading Actress on stage at London’s Television Centre. In her speech, she pointed out that she wrote her own words and praised the other women in her category, including Letitia Wright and Billie Piper, for taking someone else’s words and breathing them to life and shared her hope that she’d one day work with them all. But one thing that really stood out in Coel’s speech was her praising of the intimacy coordinator for I May Destroy You, Ita O’Brien.

“Thank you for your existence in our industry, for making the space safe for creating physical, emotional, and professional boundaries so that we can make work about exploitation, loss of respect, about abuse of power, without being exploited or abused in the process,” Coel said in her speech.

She went on, saying: “I know what it’s like to shoot without an intimacy director — the messy, embarrassing feeling for the crew, the internal devastation for the actor. Your direction was essential to my show, and I believe essential for every production company that wants to make work exploring themes of consent.”

In the press room with Variety, Coel went on to continue to praise O’Brien even further, which, on a set like I May Destroy You, is incredibly important.

“I also think it’s a very vulnerable place for not just actors, for the crew as well, because the crew might have had experiences and it triggers things for them. So, to have her there protects everybody. And if you don’t have people like Ita on set when you’re shooting things like that, I think it’s quite thoughtless, and I think it’s really inconsiderate and it shows a lack of mindfulness.”

I May Destroy You is, at times, hard to watch. The show is about a woman named Arabella (Coel) coming to terms with being drugged and raped when out with friends one night, only to continue to explore those who are challenging her own boundaries and breaking her consent throughout her life. Working on a show like that is hard, and Coel shared how it helped her explore some of her past trauma.

“What it enabled me to do is sort of pair something quite tragic with something quite beautiful. And that was being able to make a show and create opportunities and see everybody’s talents come together to create it. It kind of helped. It kind of replaced bad memories with really nice ones.”

Intimacy coordinators are becoming more of the norm now, which is a new thing. Back in 2018, they were rarely thought of, and now, with conversations shifting and people like Michaela Coel speaking their praises, maybe we can start to see more and more sets including them.

(via HuffPost, image: HBO)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her current obsession is Glen Powell's dog, Brisket. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.