British star Michaela Coel recently revealed that she was sexually assaulted while writing the popular series Chewing Gum. The actress reportedly shared her experience while giving the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Wednesday (Aug. 22), according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Coel claimed the incident occurred after a night out with a friend. “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. “I emerged into consciousness typing season two, many hours later. I was lucky. I had a flashback. It turned out I’d been sexually assaulted by strangers.”
Coel stated that she did alert both authorities and producers on the series, but the latter went “back and forth between the line of knowing what normal human empathy is and not knowing what empathy is at all.” “When there are police involved, and footage, of people carrying your sleeping writer into dangerous places, when cuts are found, when there’s blood … what is your job,” she questioned.
BAFT Award-winning star confirmed that she visited a private clinic for therapy at the expense of the production company following the alleged assault. When she requested an extension on her deadline for the series script, she discovered the British channel’s head of comedy had not been informed of the incident.
“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 said. “And be able to share it with you, as part of a fictional drama on television, because I think transparency helps.”
Chewing Gum is a British sitcom series set in London. It originally aired on British channel E4 in Oct. 2015. It later received a U.S. premiere on Netflix in Oct. 2016. In Aug. 2017, Coel announced that Chewing Gum would not be going forward with a third season. “Thank you to all of you. Chewing Gum has been amazing but it’s only the beginning, , more stories to tell, & my latter will be greater,” she wrote on Twitter at the time.
Coel is looking to explore the conversation about consent and sexual assault on screen. The actress has signed on to write and star in the upcoming BBC drama, Jan 22nd, which explores the issue of sexual consent and looks into “the distinction between liberation and exploitation.”
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