Custom Search 1

Michaela Coel reveals she was sexually assaulted

STRIKING: Michaela Coel is the first black woman to deliver the MacTaggart lecture

ACTRESS AND Chewing Gum creator Michaela Coel has spoken out about being sexually assaulted by strangers.

The star disclosed the tragic experience that took place at the time she was working on her Channel 4 series Chewing Gum during her MacTaggart lecture yesterday evening.

She said that after going out to have a drink with a friend, she woke up at the production company office and recalled being attacked.

“I had a flashback. It turned out I’d been sexually assaulted by strangers.”

Coel said the first people she called after the police, even before her own family, were the producers.

She said she felt her mind was “overcrowded by flashbacks” and that she wanted to push back the script deadline but was initially met with resistance from the production staff who she had informed of the assault.

The 30-year-old described them as “teetering back and forth between the line of knowing what normal human empathy is and not knowing what empathy is at all”.

In the end, the company paid for Coel to have therapy sessions at a private clinic.

Coel also used the lecture, an annual highlight of the Edinburgh Television Festival in which a high profile member of the industry delivers a speech, to highlight the prevalence of racism in the industry, using some of the things she witnessed during her Chewing Gum days as examples.

She told the audience how one day on set she discovered that the actors of colour on the show had been assigned one trailer to share between them when a white actor had been given a trailer all to themselves.

“It was day one of shoot. I approached the trailers to find five actors and actresses ranging in tones of brown and black, including the woman who plays my mother, bound up in one third of a trailer. The second was occupied by an actress looking like privileged piggy in the middle and the third was mine, the writer.”

Coel said she burst into the production office to raise the issue and told the production staff to apologise and buy more trailers, which they did.

“I asked the actors why they agreed to share. They just wanted it to work, their belief in the job only matched by their anxiety of losing it,” she said.

Coel added: “I’ve never accused anyone at work of racism but I’ve been urged to understand someone ‘isn’t racist’ on every job I’ve acted in since, just by pointing out possible patterns, tendencies. When I agree they aren’t racist, but suggest they may be thoughtless on the matter, it doesn’t go down very well. But if you’re not racist, or thoughtless about race, what other thing can you be?”

Coel, the first black woman to deliver the MacTaggart lecture, has recently been commissioned to write a new programme on sexual assault for the BBC.

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.

Facebook Comments