Michaela Coel says the concept for her new series, “I May Destroy You,” began to take shape when the actress was drugged and sexually assaulted in real life in 2016.
The HBO show — which Coel stars in, wrote and co-directed — follows a woman named Arabella who rebuilds her night after her drink was spiked while out with friends. But Coel revealed that in the beginning, she wasn’t ready to write what happened in her own life.
“I think my instinct is to write to disassociate myself from something that’s quite traumatic, to step outside and look,” the 32-year-old explained during a pre-recorded ATX TV…from the Couch panel on Saturday. “The first time I remember thinking there’s something in this, is when I was in the police investigation room and my friend, a very dear friend, was looking after me as we waited and I looked over and noticed he was playing ‘Pokémon Go’ on his phone while we waited and I remember thinking, ‘This is so bizarre’ … and I knew then.”
In fact, Coel was so unready, that when she first pitched the show to HBO, an exec could sense it. A year later, when she came back to re-pitch to the network, the same exec said, “You seem ready now.”
But she knew how important the subject matter was to get out there.
“As I began to write, I spoke to friends of friends of friends and realized how common sexually assault was and realized how common women and men would speak about this, often this gray area, where their consent was stolen and they weren’t quite aware at the time,” she said. “It was heartbreaking that it was so common, but also what better basis is there for a story, because it felt that many could identify with what I was going through.”
“I May Destroy You” premieres on HBO on June 7.
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