creator Michaela Coel recently opened up about being sexually assaulted during the production of her award-winning comedy, yet she still felt the pressure to complete the series.
Th 30-year-old British actress revealed the experience on Wednesday while giving the prestigious James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International TV Festival.
The screenwriter, who is set to write and star in a new series centered on sexual consent
called Jan 22nd
, described how she had been working overnight on a script for season two of her show before heading out to meet a friend for a drink.
“I had an episode due at 7 a.m. I took a break and had a drink with a good friend who was nearby,” she said, according to Deadline
Coel remembered waking up hours later at the office, and something didn’t feel right: “I emerged into consciousness typing season two, many hours later.”
“I was lucky,” she recalled. “I had a flashback. It turned out I’d been sexually assaulted by strangers. The first people I called after the police, before my own family, were the producers.”
Coel then talked about watching the production company struggle with how to handle the situation, describing them as “teetering back and forth between the line of knowing what normal human empathy is and not knowing what empathy is at all.”
Eventually, the production company agreed to pay for her therapy sessions. Coel also asked for a deadline extension — as she’s the show’s sole writer unlike many other series who utilize a room of writers — and for the channel’s head to know the reason for the extension, but he was never told.
“Like any other experience I’ve found traumatic, it’s been therapeutic to write about it, and actively twist a narrative of pain into one of hope, and even humor,” she told the audience. “And be able to share it with you, as part of a fictional drama on television, because I think transparency helps.”
It was announced back in August 2017 that Coel had no plans to write a season three
of Chewing Gum
The star’s rep told The Fader
, “Michaela is not currently writing a third series of Chewing Gum
as she is focusing on some other projects, but is not closing the door to the possibility in the future.”