‘I May Destroy You’ creator Michaela Coel says writing about sexual assault was “cathartic”

Coel wrote and stars in the new HBO show

I May Destroy You creator and star Michaela Coel says that writing about her sexual assault in the new HBO show was a “cathartic” experience.

The show is based on the real-life experience of Chewing Gum creator Coel being drugged and sexually abused.

“It took me two and a half years all in all to write it and I didn’t do any other job,” she told Radio 1’s Newsbeat in a new interview.

“It’s been quite hard but cathartic because I’m reflecting on a dark time rather than feeling it is happening to me right now.”

Explaining how the show mirrors her own experience, Coel added: “We respond to trauma and triggering situations in many different ways, it’s not always a pity party. Sometimes we’re in deep denial and it’s not that we’re begging people to believe us, but actually people are pleading for us to believe them about what’s happened to us.”

Chewing Gum
Michaela Coel in ‘Chewing Gum’. Credit: BBC

She added: “The whole show deals with that moment where consent was stolen from you and you lost the moment where you had agency to make a decision. Pointing to ourselves and blaming ourselves is the most unhelpful thing.

“We need to be kinder to ourselves a bit more and forgive ourselves for the times when we didn’t say no loud enough.”

In a four-star review of I May Destroy You, NME wrote: “It’s an eye-opening, game-changing new show from one of Britain’s brightest talents. Coel plays her character brilliantly, with defiant wit and nuance.

“The awful things that happen to Arabella aren’t reserved for people in fictional stories or clichéd horror movies. I May Destroy You urges us to take care of ourselves – because if we don’t, who else will?”