Michaela Coel, the sensational British television creator and actor, said during a lecture on Wednesday that she’d been sexually assaulted at the time she was writing her critically acclaimed comedy series Chewing Gum, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In the course of her James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Coel said the attack occurred while she was taking a short break from working on the second season of the show in the production company’s London offices. “I had an episode due at 7 a.m. I took a break and had a drink with a good friend who was nearby,” Coel 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 said that the production company, Channel 4, paid for her to receive therapeutic treatment at a private clinic. However, Coel added that not all of her requests were honored. “I asked to push the deadline back and for the channel to be informed as to why,” she said. “The deadline was pushed back, but the head of comedy never found out why.” According to Coel, the production company staff was “teetering back and forth between the line of knowing what normal human empathy is and not knowing what empathy is at all.”
Vulture reports that Coel said she wasn’t assaulted by a production company employee, or within the company’s offices. Coel reportedly went on to say, “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?”
Channel 4’s director of programs, Ian Katz, responded to Coel’s lecture, calling it “a powerful and important wake-up call…. She has opened an honest debate about how we ensure that writers and performers, whatever their backgrounds, feel respected and heard.”
Coel is starring in Hugo Blick’s upcoming Netflix and BBC Two TV drama Black Earth Rising. On Wednesday, The Guardian reported that Coel is slated to write and star in a BBC drama “exploring the issue of sexual consent.”