Michael Coel Dedicates BAFTA TV Award to ‘I May Destroy You’ Intimacy Director

Michaela Coel, who wrote and starred in hit BBC/HBO drama “I May Destroy You,” dedicated the second of her two BAFTA Television awards to the show’s intimacy director, Ita O’Brien.

Coel collected two golden masks this evening: one for mini-series and another for leading actress. While she used her first speech, for mini-series, to thank the cast and crew, the second time she ascended the stage — to pick up her leading actress award — she singled out O’Brien, saying: “I want to dedicate this award to the director of intimacy 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.

“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,” Coel added.

The writer and actor also re-iterated her belief in intimacy co-ordinators in the press room. Asked by Variety why she had specifically dedicated her award to O’Brien, Coel said: “I’ve shot without intimacy directors and I’ve shot with Ita — and team members that Ita has trained — and the confidence that it gives you to be able to really tell a story that looks harrowing, that looks inappropriate, whilst being totally appropriate, whilst being protected, means that you’re able to properly tell that story.”

“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,” she added. “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.”

After her win, Coel struggled to hold back tears as she discussed how much making “I May Destroy You,” which deals with sexual assault, meant to her.

“I’m getting a bit emotional,” she said. “It was incredible. It really helped me get past some troubling stuff. And 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.”

As for what comes next, Coel said she is “raring to go” on other projects. In what will no doubt come as a disappointment to fans, however, Coel firmly put paid to the idea that there may be another season of the hit show. “I mean, definitely there won’t be a second season,” she said in response to Variety’s query, adding with a laugh: “I think ‘I May Destroy You’ has been so huge, it’s destroyed itself.”

Naman Ramachandran contributed to this report

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