Michaela Coel is earning rave reviews for I May Destroy You, her hard-hitting BBC/HBO drama about a woman dealing with the trauma of sexual assault, which she wrote, co-directed, and stars in. As the Ghanaian British performer’s star continues to rise, here’s a guide to some of her other key roles.
1. Top Boy (2013)
Coel appears in two episodes of the cult crime drama’s second season as Kayla, a conflicted young woman who has witnessed a murder, but is unsure whether to cooperate with the police. She gives an intense and authentic performance which definitely hints at the great things to come.
2. Chewing Gum (2015-17)
Coel created, wrote, and starred in this brilliant British sitcom which ran for two highly acclaimed seasons. She plays Tracey Gordon, a 24-year-old London shopping assistant trying to reconcile her religious beliefs with the fact that she really wants to lose her virginity. Chewing Gum is funny, fearless, and pretty darn filthy, and Coel deservedly won a BAFTA TV Award for her downright hilarious performance as Tracey.
3. The Aliens (2016)
Coel stars opposite Being Human‘s Michael Socha in this underrated British sci-fi drama, which sadly only ran for a single season in 2016. She plays Lilyhot, one of a group of extraterrestrials who aren’t exactly welcomed by the U.K. when they unexpectedly land in the Irish Sea. It’s a smart, sparky drama which taps into contemporary issues surrounding race and immigration, and Coel is typically compelling in a lively role.
4. Black Mirror (2016-17)
Coel actually has two separate Black Mirror credits to her name. She took a prominent role in the 2017 episode “USS Callister” as Shania Lowry, a crew member trapped in a Star Trek-like video game created by Jesse Plemons‘s frustrated coder. And a year earlier, she made a brief but memorable appearance in “Nosedive” as an airline stewardess who tells Bryce Dallas Howard‘s social climber that she can’t board a plane because her “Rate Me” score isn’t high enough.
5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
Coel was convinced her quick cameo as a Resistance Monitor wouldn’t make the final cut, but happily it did and she can add Star Wars to her résumé. “It’s literally, I [sit] on the spaceship and I say three words,” she told Complex before the blockbuster came out. Those three words, in case you’re wondering, are: “They found us!”
6. Been So Long (2018)
Coel shows off her singing chops in this charming musical rom-com, which is based on a stage show co-written by Doctor Who alum Arthur Darvill. She stars as Simone, a buttoned-up single mother living in Camden Town, London, who falls for a reformed criminal (Arinzé Kene) that she worries she can’t trust. It’s a lovely, warmhearted Netflix movie with an awesome performance from Coel and a fine supporting cast that includes fellow rising star George Mackay.
7. Black Earth Rising (2018)
Coel stars in this clever and complex BBC/Netflix miniseries as Kate Ashby, a legal investigator who was raised in London after being adopted from Rwanda during the country’s 1994 genocide. When her adoptive mother Eve (Killing Eve‘s Dame Harriet Walter), an international barrister, takes on a case prosecuting a Rwandan militia leader (another Killing Eve alum: Danny Sapani), it opens up a Pandora’s Box of secrets relating to Eve’s past and Kate’s identity. It’s powerful stuff which explores race, morality, and the West’s developing relationship with Africa as well as some shocking personal bombshells.
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