After ten tough years of navigating the Hollywood system and 17 screen credits—including Top Boy and Bad Education—under her belt, Weruche Opia has finally landed her first internationally acclaimed series with I May Destroy You. But it premiered in the midst of the #BlackLivesMatter global reckoning, a fact that has made Opia’s recent success bittersweet.
“It is lonely right now, being happy about this show that centers Black women going through these life issues,” Opia confesses. “I am heartbroken for my brothers and sisters all over the world who have been mistreated. Do I get to celebrate them because I wasn’t killed by the police?”
That sense of “survivor’s guilt,” as she described it on Twitter, is also what troubles her character, Terry, a U.K.-based aspiring actress and carefree best friend of the equally jaunty Arabella (creator-writer-director Michaela Coel) on the bold new series that interrogates what it means to have sexual consent. An intoxicated Arabella is sexually assaulted by a male stranger at a bar after Terry leaves her there alone, a trauma that both women have to wrestle with in different ways throughout the series.
“It’s difficult for Terry because she has some part to play in it,” Opia explains. “But I also think that motivates her to try to make sure her friend is okay.” She pointed to the fact that Terry is by Arabella’s side when she goes to the police and encourages her to engage in self-care practices like yoga. “But it’s also to pacify her guilt. We all make decisions in life, both right and wrong. The whole thing is to move forward and try to make things better, forgive ourselves, and do the best we can.”
That’s easier said than done, both in real life and on the show, where Terry begins to question her own sexual experiences and the power she really possesses in each one—like when she eagerly participates in a threesome then sees the two men all but high-fiving each other as they saunter from her bedroom.
“I had to show her feeling completely in control having explored something but also trying to understand if she was set up,” Opia says. “It is empowering for her in one sense, but is her consent really given or is it taken from her?”
Like its characters, I May Destroy You challenges audiences to consider their own relationships with consent, complicity, and even exploitation while honestly exploring their humanity—flaws and all. It sparks much-needed conversation, but it also allows us to see ourselves and experiences on screen, which initially attracted Opia, who was able to further authenticate Terry by offering her own insight.
“I’m a Black woman living in London, so there were things I could do from my own experience,” Opia shares. “Michaela is very collaborative, so if I thought the character would do or say something in a different way, we’d speak about it.”
The British-Nigerian actress recalls meeting Coel during the audition: “When we met, there was kind of an electricity and a few months later I got the call.” She adds, “I knew that I could already connect with [Terry]. She’s a failing actor and I know very much about that [laughs]. And I can relate to her struggles. So when I got the opportunity to read the whole script, I was like, yeah, I’m sold.”
Since filming this groundbreaking series, now streaming in the U.S. and U.K. on HBO, Opia is now able to reflect on its achievement through the overwhelming responses she’s received from fans, which have given her joy in a dark time. “It’s a bit of happiness in the midst of everything going on right now,” she says. Well, that and bingeing reality shows and being able to enjoy yummy dessert though she’s lactose intolerant. “I’ve been having a lot of Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream and watching 90 Day Fiancé with my mum.”
Candice Frederick (@ReelTalker) is a New York-based film and TV critic.Share :