The True Story That Inspired Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You

I May Destroy You is one of the most-nominated comedies heading into the 2021 Emmys Awards, but there’s definitely real-life pain behind it. 

The HBO series from creator and star Michaela Coel is nominated for nine trophies at the Emmys ceremony taking place Sunday, Sept. 19, including Outstanding Limited Series. I May Destroy You centers on a TV writer named Arabella Essiedu (Michaela) who struggles with moving forward in her life after she is drugged and raped.

In 2018, Michaela delivered a lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival and shared that she is a real-life survivor of sexual assault. She described a time when she regained consciousness and realized she had been raped while finishing an assignment as a writer on her series Chewing Gum, which helped inspire her newest show’s story line. 

“I was working overnight in the company’s offices,” recalled the 33-year-old performer, who is nominated for both her acting and writing on I May Destroy You. “I had an episode due at 7 a.m. I took a break and had a drink with a good friend who was nearby. I emerged into consciousness typing season two, many hours later. I was lucky—I had a flashback. It turned out I had been sexually assaulted by strangers.”

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