Meet Michaela Coel - Winner of BAFTA TV Award (UK Emmy Equivalent) for Best Actress in a Comedy

April 20 2017

Michaela Coel Michaela Coel

Last October, Sergio profiled a new British TV comedy series titled "Chewing Gum", which premiered on the UK's Channel 4 network; Sergio emphasized the fact that the series is created by a black woman comedian, whose routine is generally what he described as "graphic, lowdown sexual humor," the kind that "goes there."

That black woman comedian, as well as actress, writer and performer, is Michaela Coel. And the TV series is based on her 2012 one-woman show, "Chewing Gum Dreams," in which the 26-year-old played a teenage version of herself, as she related past experiences growing up in the working class London neighborhoods of Hackney and Tower Hamlets, with her very religious mother, all while she became very acutely aware of her own sexuality, unprepared for the realities of sex and gender that she would face in the real world.

As Coel said when the TV show launched last fall, she wanted her show to reflect “the sort of life you don’t see very often on TV," adding that the "sexual naiveté" of the character she plays reflects her own celibacy between the ages of 17 and 22, as a member of what she called "a massive conversion to this very Pentecostal, demon-exorcising church."

"Psychologically, I was in a whirlwind," she said.

Seven months since the show's premiere, it's been a hit in the UK, and, last night, earned Ms. Coel the BAFTA TV award (essentially the UK's equivalent of the Primetime Emmys) for best actress in a comedy series.

I'll have to research BAFTA TV history to find out if this is some kind of history-making event (as in the first black actress to win in this category, or something to that effect). Thus far, none of the UK media websites have mentioned this, so I'm assuming that maybe it's not a history-making event. But I will still investigate for myself.

Sergio summarized "Chewing Gum's" genesis in his October post, as follows: After winning a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she was the "first black girl they’d had in five years and the only person in [her] year whose parents weren’t homeowners... 'Chewing Gum Dreams' was originally conceived as her graduation piece, but after it became a smash hit at a local theater, the play moved to the more prestigious National Theater in London. Shortly afterwards, Coel was approached about turning it into a TV series, however she was reluctant at first of her abilities to play the role on television. But after appearing on another Channel 4 TV series, "Top Boy," the positive responses she got for her work on that show convinced her that "Chewing Gum" could work as a series. However, Coel doesn't see "Chewing Gum" as simply about a young back girl trying to find her way to adulthood. She says the overarching themes in the show are about "class and community." “On my estate, everyone’s different racially but economic circumstances give people a particular culture. I know Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs in the UK, but I’d rather write about all the great stuff than the misery. I wanted to make the estate a place where people would want to live. I loved my estate!” she exclaimed.

It may only be a matter of time before we start to see her in TV and film on this side of the pond - as in American TV and film.

Watch Ms. Coel's BAFTA TV Award acceptance speech from last night, followed by her backstage interview with the hosts (the full list of winners comes after the video below):

Here is a full list of winners for the 2016 Bafta TV Awards.

Leading actor

Winner: Mark Rylance, Wolf Hall

Idris Elba, Luther

Stephen Graham, This is England '90

Ben Whishaw, London Spy

Leading actress

Winner: Suranne Jones, Doctor Foster

Claire Foy, Wolf Hall

Ruth Madeley, Don't Take My Baby

Sheridan Smith, The C-Word

Supporting actor

Winner: Tom Courtenay, Unforgotten

Anton Lesser, Wolf Hall

Ian McKellen, The Dresser

Cyril Nri, Cucumber

Supporting actress

Winner: Chanel Cresswell, This is England '90

Michelle Gomez, Doctor Who

Lesley Manville, River

Eleanor Worthington-Cox, The Enfield Haunting

Entertainment performance

Winner: Leigh Francis, Celebrity Juice

Stephen Fry, QI

Graham Norton, The Graham Norton Show

Romesh Ranganathan, Asian Provocateur

Male performance in a comedy programme

Winner: Peter Kay, Peter Kay's Car Share

Hugh Bonneville, W1A

Toby Jones, Detectorists

Javone Prince, The Javone Prince Show

Female performance in a comedy programme

Winner: Michaela Coel, Chewing Gum

Sian Gibson, Peter Kay's Car Share

Miranda Hart, Miranda

Sharon Horgan, Catastrophe

Drama series

Winner: Wolf Hall


The Last Panthers

No Offence

Single drama

Winner: Don't Take My Baby

The C-Word


The Go-Between


Winner: This is England '90

Doctor Fosterqui

The Enfield Haunting

London Spy

Soap and continuing drama

Winner: EastEnders

Coronation Street


Holby City


Winner: Transparent

The Good Wife



Entertainment programme

Winner: Strictly Come Dancing

Adele at the BBC

Britain's Got Talent

TFI Friday Anniversary Special

Comedy and comedy entertainment programme

Winner: Have I Got News For You

Charlie Brooker's Election Wipe


Would I Lie to You

Scripted comedy

Winner: Peter Kay's Car Share

Chewing Gum

Peep Show

People Just Do Nothing


Winner: The Great British Bake Off

Back in Time for Dinner

Kevin McCloud: Escape to the Wild

Travel Man

Radio Times Audience Award

Winner: Poldark

Doctor Foster

The Great British Bake Off


Making a Murderer

Peter Kay's Car Share

Current affairs

Winner: Outbreak: The Truth about Ebola

Jihad: A British Story

Children of the Gaza War

Escape from Isis (Dispatches)

Single documentary

Winner: My Son the Jihadi

Bitter Lake

Life After Suicide

Louis Theroux: Transgender Kids

Factual series

Winner: The Murder Detectives

The Detectives

Great Ormond Street

The Tribe

Reality and constructed factual

Winner: First Dates


I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!

The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds

Specialist factual

Winner: Britain's Forgotten Slave Owners

Grayson Perry's Dream House

The Hunt

Rudolf Nureyev: Dance to Freedom

News coverage

Winner: Channel 4 News: Paris Massacre

BBC News at Six: Paris Attacks Special

ITV News at Ten: Refugee Crisis

Sky News: From Turkey to Greece


Winner: The Ashes (Sky Sports)

The Grand National (Channel 4)

MOTD Live: FA Cup Final (BBC One)

Six Nations: Final Day (BBC One)

Live event

Winner: Big Blue Live (BBC One)

The Sound of Music Live! (ITV)

Stargazing Live: Brit in Space, Tim Peake Special (BBC Two)

The Vote (More4)

by Tambay Obenson on April 20 2017

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