Michaela Coel Dedicates I May Destroy You BAFTA Award (!!) to Show's Intimacy Coordinator

Illustration for article titled Michaela Coel Dedicates I May Destroy You BAFTA Award (!!) to Show's Intimacy Coordinator
Photo: Alberto Pezzali (AP)

Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You is a critical success largely because of its layered and nuanced portrayal of consent, assault, and trauma.


On Sunday, after winning a BAFTA award for best leading actress (!!), Coel praised the show’s intimacy coordinator for making it possible to shoot a series that deals with such sensitive themes. (Here is where I will also quickly mention that I May Destroy You also won best mini-series.)

“Thank you for your existence in our industry, for making the space safe, for creating physical, emotional and professional boundaries so that we can make work about exploitation, loss of respect, about abuse of power without being exploited or abused in the process,” Coel said in her acceptance speech.

HBO became the first network to commit to hiring intimacy coordinators for its programming after actor Emily Meade asked HBO to hire one in 2018, ahead of the second season of The Deuce, in which she played a sex worker. She told the New York Times she had “sort of just [begun] completely detaching” from her body during sex scenes for the show, and that she ‘‘didn’t want to have to shut down and dissociate in order to do [her] job.’’

Streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu soon followed suit, and nearly two-dozen Emmy-nominated scripted shows credited intimacy coordinators in 2020, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

As the Reporter explains, intimacy coordinators act as liaisons between the actors and directors on a show or in a film, making sure that the actors are comfortable with any scenes that feature sex or nudity. Their role often starts pre-production, when they might flag actors’ concerns (or stipulations in their contracts), or clarify what a director envisions for a scene. When the cast and crew are ready to shoot, coordinators help choreograph intimate scenes and make sure the actors have privacy on set and between takes.

“I know what it is like to shoot without an intimacy director,” Coel said Sunday. “The messy, embarrassing feeling for the crew. The internal devastation for the actor. Your direction was essential to my show and I believe essential for every production company that wants to make work exploring themes of consent.”

Night blogger at Jezebel with writing at The Baffler, The Nation, The New Republic, Vice, and more.


Janet Snakehole37

I’m trying to wrap my brain around the fact that this (intimacy coordinator) is a new concept. I always thought there was someone around the set when certain scenes are filmed to make sure everyone was comfortable. “I May Destroy You” really took me by surprise of how affectively discusses boundaries and consent in a way that’s not just virtue signaling.

Slight spoiler ahead:

When Arabella sort of locks her friend in a room with a potential suitor, and the fact he was CLEARLY uncomfortable & not up for it and dealing with his own trauma....I kept thinking to myself, “fuck...this was done to me, I’ve done this to others” in some sort of attempt to make a love connection or for fun, with ZERO malice in mind... without ONCE thinking... “hey, is this what my friend actually wants or am I just assuming they are looking to hook up or find romance.”

I re-examined myself and my own behavior multiple times while watching this show.