Michaela Coel Demanded Respect on the Set of ‘Chewing Gum’ — and Didn’t Get It
On Michaela Coel‘s recent TV series I May Destroy You, she was a writer, executive producer, director, and star. Getting the executive producer credit is something she fought for — in part, because she didn’t get that honor on her previous series, Chewing Gum.
Michaela Coel had several negative experiences on the set of her first TV show, ‘Chewing Gum’
In so many different ways, Coel did not receive the respect she deserved on the set of Chewing Gum — a TV series that was completely based on Coel’s creative ideas.
“Friction was inevitable,” Vulture reported. However, that tension stemmed from the conditions on the Chewing Gum set that Coel immediately noted were unjust.
Upon arriving on set, Coel noticed “that five Black cast members were confined to a single trailer, while a white actor had one to herself.” When the writer/actor brought the situation to the attention of the show’s producers, she told them it was like a “slave ship.”
“This is disgraceful,” Coel remembered feeling. “While the mess is going on outside,” the producers were sitting inside, “clueless.” The Chewing Gum producers did listen to her feelings, and ordered more trailers.
Michaela Coel got screamed at by a ‘Chewing Gum’ director
However, her issues on the set were far from over.
“Another tense moment arose between herself and the director, Tom Marshall, after she discovered he was calling the actors Cynthia Erivo and Ronke Adekoluejo ‘the twins,’ instead of using their names,” Vulture explained.
Coel found it completely unreasonable that Marshall couldn’t call Erivo and Adekoluejo their actual names.
“She asked a producer to speak to him, but the next day it happened again,” Vulture reported. “She asked to sidebar with Marshall, and he lost his temper.”
Chewing Gum cast member Kadiff Kirwan told Vulture that Marshall blew up at Coel, “like she was a naughty schoolchild, to the point where she physically got upset and left set.”
As Coel put it, the respect was never there.
“It felt as if every single day that I had spent earning the respect of the crew and the cast had just disappeared,” she said.
However, Coel’s negative experiences surrounding Chewing Gum weren’t limited to the series’ set itself.
The ‘I May Destroy You’ creator fought for an executive producer credit on ‘Chewing Gum’
Coel reflected on her experience working on Chewing Gum in her MacTaggart Lecture — the speech she gave in 2018 at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.
“Chewing Gum was offered a second season,” she recalled in the speech. “My agent and I thought my being credited an exec producer would be simple.”
However, even after the show’s successful 1st season, that credit wouldn’t be possible.
“She called to say I would not be made an executive producer,” Coel continued. “Instead I was made ‘creative co-producer.'”
That lack of respect — and when it comes to crediting work where credit is due, the lack of prestige, money, and influence — has a domino effect in the TV industry. That’s why Coel pushed back on the status quo in her MacTaggart Lecture.
“New writers aren’t often made executive producers in the U.K.,” she shared. “I understand, ’that’s the way it is’, that we’re not experienced enough to know the budgets, so when and how do we become more experienced?”