Michaela Coel

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Michaela Coel
Born
Michaela Ewuraba Boakye-Collinson

(1987-10-01) 1 October 1987 (age 32)
London, England
Alma materGuildhall School of Music and Drama
Occupation
  • Actress
  • screenwriter
  • director
  • producer
  • singer
Years active2013–present

Michaela Ewuraba Boakye-Collinson (born 1 October 1987), known professionally as Michaela Coel, is an English actress, screenwriter, director, producer, and singer.[1] She is best known for creating and starring in the E4 sitcom Chewing Gum (2015–2017), for which she won the BAFTA Award for Best Female Comedy Performance;[2][3] and the BBC One/HBO comedy-drama series I May Destroy You (2020).

She is also known for her work in other Netflix productions, including guest starring in the series Black Mirror (2016–2017), starring as Kate Ashby in the series Black Earth Rising (2018) and starring as Simone in the film Been So Long (2018). Coel appeared in British Vogue's 2020 list of influential women.[4]

Early life[edit]

Michaela Ewuraba Boakye-Collinson[5][6] was born in London on 1 October 1987. Her parents are Ghanaian. She and her older sister grew up in London, primarily Hackney and Tower Hamlets, with her mother;[7] her parents had separated before her birth. She attended Catholic schools in East London,[8] and has said that her isolation as the only Black pupil in her age cohort at primary school caused her to bully other pupils. The isolation did not continue into her secondary education at a comprehensive school.[5]

From 2007 to 2009, Coel attended the University of Birmingham, studying English Literature and Theology.[9] She took a Ché Walker masterclass at RADA after meeting Walker at open mics. In 2009, she transferred to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she was the first black woman enrolled in five years.[7] She won the Laurence Olivier Bursary award, which helped her fund her schooling.[10] During her time at Guildhall, she attended the Mark Proulx workshop at Prima del Teatro and took the Kat Francois Poetry Course at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.[9] She graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2012.[11]

Career[edit]

In 2006, Coel began performing in poetry open mics in Ealing.[12] As she continued to do open mics, she was encouraged by the actor, playwright, and director Ché Walker, who saw her perform at Hackney Empire, to apply to Guildhall.[5][7] As a poet she has performed on stages including Wembley Arena, Bush Theatre, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and Rotterdam De Doelen Concert Hall. She went by the name Michaela The Poet.[6]

In 2009, Coel joined the Talawa Theatre Company summer school program TYPT.[13][14] During her time at Talawa, Coel was in the TYPT 2009 production of Krunch, directed by Amani Naphtali.[15] That same year, Coel released an album entitled Fixing Barbie, which featured her work as a poet and musician.[16] In 2011, Coel released the record We're the Losers.[17]

In 2012, Coel's play, Chewing Gum Dreams, was her senior / graduation project at Guildhall and it was first produced at the Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick.[18] The play featured Coel in a one-woman show telling the dramatic story of a 14-year-old girl named Tracey.[7] The play then went on to be produced by the Bush Theatre (2012), Royal Theatre Holland (2012), Royal Exchange Theatre (2013), and the National Theatre (2014).[1] It received positive reviews.[19][20]

Coel appeared in the Channel 4 drama Top Boy and had leading roles at the National Theatre, including the award-nominated Home and the critically acclaimed Medea at the Olivier Theatre.[21]

In August 2014, Channel 4 announced that Coel would write and star in a new sitcom called Chewing Gum, inspired by her play Chewing Gum Dreams.[22] "C4 Comedy Blaps" were released as teasers in September 2014, and the series began on E4 in October 2015.[5] Her performance earned her the British Academy Television Award for Best Female Comedy Performance in 2016. She also won a BAFTA for Breakthrough Talent for writing the show.[23] Chewing Gum received overwhelmingly positive reviews.[24]

In 2015, Coel appeared in BBC One drama London Spy.[25] In 2016, she played Lilyhot in the E4 sci-fi comedy-drama The Aliens, which was shot in Bulgaria.[26][27][28]

Chewing Gum returned for a second series in January 2017.[8][29] She also appeared in the "Nosedive" and "USS Callister" episodes of Charlie Brooker's series Black Mirror.[29][30] She also had a small role in the 2017 film Star Wars: The Last Jedi.[31]

In 2018, Coel starred in Black Earth Rising, a co-production between BBC Two and Netflix, where she played the main character of Kate. She also starred as Simone in the musical-drama film Been So Long, which was released on Netflix to positive reviews in October 2018.

Coel created, wrote, produced, co-directed and starred in the comedy-drama series I May Destroy You, inspired by her own experience of sexual assault.[32] The show launched on BBC One in the UK and HBO in the US in June 2020 to widespread acclaim.[33][34]

Coel acknowledged refusing $1 million from Netflix after the streaming service declined to offer her intellectual property ownership of her show.[35][36]

Coel was included in Time magazine 's 100 Most Influential People of 2020.[37]

Personal life[edit]

At the 2016 BAFTA Awards, Coel wore a dress designed by her mother, made of Kente cloth.[38] She has said that, like her Chewing Gum character Tracey, she became very religious in the Pentecostal faith, and embraced celibacy.[7] Coel stopped practising Pentecostalism after attending Guildhall.[5] She identifies as aromantic.[39]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2010 Malachi Donna Locke Short film
2014 National Theatre Live: Medea Nurse
Monsters: Dark Continent Kelly
2017 Star Wars: The Last Jedi Resistance Monitor
2018 Been So Long Simone

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2013 Top Boy Kayla 2 episodes
Law & Order: UK Maid Episode: "Paternal"
2015 London Spy Journalist Episode: "Strangers"
2015–2017 Chewing Gum Tracey Gordon 12 episodes
Also creator, writer, producer, and composer
2016 The Aliens Lilyhot 6 episodes
Black Mirror Airline Stewardess Episode: "Nosedive"
2017 Shania Lowry Episode: "USS Callister"
2018 Black Earth Rising Kate Ashby 8 episodes
2019 RuPaul's Drag Race UK Herself Episode: "Family That Drags Together"
2020 I May Destroy You Arabella Essiedu 12 episodes
Also creator, writer, director, and producer

Stage[edit]

Year Title Role Venue
2013 Three Birds Tiana Bush Theatre
Home[21] Young Mum / Portugal Royal National Theatre
Chewing Gum Dreams Tracey Gordon Royal Exchange Theatre
2014 Blurred Lines[40] Michaela Royal National Theatre
Home (Revival) Young Mum / Portugal Royal National Theatre
Chewing Gum Dreams Tracey Gordon Royal National Theatre
Medea[8] Nurse Royal National Theatre

Discography[edit]

EP

LPs

  • Fixing Barbie (2009)[41]
  • We're the Losers (2011)[6]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Nominee Result Ref.
2008 Theatre Royal Stratford East Poetry Slam Herself Won
2009 Won
2010 Won
Cordless Show Poetry/Music Won
2011 Laurence Olivier Award Bursary Award Won [10]
2012 Alfred Fagon Award Best Playwright of African or Caribbean Descent Chewing Gum Dreams Won [42]
2016 British Academy Television Award Best Female Comedy Performance Chewing Gum Won [2][3]
Best Scripted Comedy Nominated [43]
Breakthrough Talent Won [44]
RTA Programme Award Breakthrough Won [45][46]
Comedy Performance Won
Writer - Comedy Nominated
South Bank Sky Arts Award Times Breakthrough Award Herself Nominated [47]
2017 Black Reel Television Award Outstanding Comedy Series Chewing Gum Nominated [48]
Outstanding Actress, Comedy Series Nominated
Outstanding Writing, Comedy Series Nominated
2018 Berlin International Film Festival Award EFP Shooting Star Herself Won [49]
British Academy Television Award Best Scripted Comedy Chewing Gum Nominated [50]
Black Reel Television Award Outstanding Supporting Actress, TV Movie/Limited Series Black Mirror Nominated [51]
British Independent Film Award Most Promising Newcomer Been So Long Nominated [52]
2019 Black Reel Television Award Outstanding Actress, TV Movie/Limited Series Black Earth Rising Nominated [53]

Works and publications[edit]

  • Coel, Michaela (2013). Chewing Gum Dreams (UK ed.). London: Oberon Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-783-19014-0. OCLC 870600609.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]