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Michaela Coel, the award-winning actor and creator/star of comedy Chewing Gum, used her own experience of sexual assault to delve into the world of TV drama for her latest project. I May Destroy You is a 12-part series that dives into and confronts the complexities of sexual assault, in all the forms it can take, and how victims ultimately navigate survival.
Coel, who wrote and executive produced the series, plays Arabella Essiuedu, a writer in her early thirties deemed the voice of a generation after receiving online acclaim for her piece 'Confessions of a Fed-Up Millennial' based on her Twitter account. On a night out in London, she has her drink spiked after being separated from friends, until suddenly she wakes up the next day back in her publisher's officer with a cracked phone and blood on her face. The series also follows friends Kwame and Terry (played by Paapa Essiedu and Weruche Opia) who are dealing with their own sexual assault experiences, including 'stealthing' (removing a condom during sex without consent) and being lied to about the nature of a threesome.
At the Edinburgh TV Festival, Coel revealed that she had been sexually assaulted, detailing that she had gone out for drinks only to wake up the next morning with flashbacks of an attack she couldn't remember.
"I was working overnight in the company’s offices; I had an episode due at 7am," she said. "I took a break and had a drink with a good friend who was nearby. I emerged into consciousness typing season two, many hours later. I was lucky. I had a flashback. It turned out I’d been sexually assaulted by strangers."
Her own experiences and the experiences friends had told her about is what motivated Coel to write the series. She told The Irish Times, "Telling my friends I was writing about my experience, and them sharing stories that made me realise how common it was...not necessarily having your drink spiked but having your consent stolen during sexual interactions, and all the different ways that can manifest."