I May Destroy You cast say a “safe” environment was crucial for sex scenes

Chewing Gum star Michaela Coel made sure that she tested out sex scenes during rehearsals - even if her own character wasn't involved.

Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You

Michaela Coel, creator of new BBC series I May Destroy You, has spoken about how she worked hard to ensure actors felt “safe” during sex scenes – even acting out a gay male sex scene to check for herself that the actors would feel comfortable.

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Speaking to RadioTimes.com, the BAFTA-winning actress and writer (who stars in and co-directs the drama) said that she wanted to avoid the stereotypical scenario of directors simply “watching” their actors perform sex scenes.

While working with an on-set intimacy coordinator, Coel rehearsed the same positions that would later take place during a sex scene starring co-star Paapa Essiedu, who plays an attractive but insecure gay man. 

“When we were doing rehearsals with Ita [O’Brien, the show’s intimacy coordinator]… it became, [with] some of Paapa’s scenes, where I would also want to try it, to see if it was safe,” Coel said. “And then I would say to my co-director Sam [Miller], ‘Come on let’s try it and do what they’re doing, so that we can feel that it’s safe’, because it also then takes away this line of directors watching actors do things, it was kind of like, ‘No, no, get stuck in and try it too,’ and I think that set up a very nice, safe environment.”

Programme Name: I May Destroy You - TX: 06/07/2020 - Episode: n/a (No. 9) - Picture Shows: Kwame (PAAPA ESSIEDU) - (C) © Various Artists Ltd and FALKNA - Photographer: Natalie Seery
Paapa Essiedu plays Kwame (BBC Pictures)

In the same interview, Essiedu said that, given that I May Destroy You is “about consent”, it was only fitting that the cast felt empowered to speak up if they felt uncomfortable.

He said, “Especially a show like this which is about consent, you know, it’s about the line where consent is; as an actor, as a performer, I think you should feel empowered to say, ‘This is what I’m comfortable doing, and this is what I’m not comfortable doing,’ and that was the conversation from the jump-off.”

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I May Destroy You will begin on Monday 8th June on BBC One at 10:45pm. For more to watch, visit our TV guide.