Last Sunday, 33-year-old Michaela Coel became the first Black woman to win an Emmy award for Outstanding Writing for her work on the “I May Destroy You” series, which fictionalizes the story of her sexual assault during her British comedy.
Because of the series’ success, Coel received a $1 million deal from Netflix, which she rejected. The disagreement between Coel and Netflix’s higher-ups started after the topic turned to questions about the ownership of the series. During an interview with Vulture magazine, Coel said she requested a percentage of the copyright to the series, but was met with rejection.
The British-Ghanaian actress said the agent supposed to represent in the USA tried to persuade her to accept Netflix’s offer. However, Coel said once she discovered the agency would receive a certain portion of the money, she terminated her relationship.
Coel told Vulture that what transpired between herself and Netflix regarding the rights to the series was unusual. “There was just silence on the phone,” she told Vulture. “And she [the Netflix executive] said, ‘It’s not how we do things here. Nobody does that; it’s not a big deal.’ I said, ‘If it’s not a big deal, then I’d really like to have 5 percent of my rights.'”
Coel said she was willing to accept 0.5 percent from 5 percent. However, the executives at Netflix remained steadfast in their decision of 5 percent.
This led Coel to pitch her movie to the BBC and HBO, which proved beneficial, as both organizations gave her complete creative control and the rights to the series.
Coel and her sister Jasmine are from Ghana, and their parents separated before Coel was born. However, Coel’s mother encouraged her to pursue a career in acting. And Coel embarked on her first major TV series at age 28 with the award-winning comedy “Chewing Gum,” about a girl desperate to lose her virginity.
But in real life, there isn’t anything humorous about the movie industry, a realization Coel learned. as she “We’re climbing this ladder, maybe to prove ourselves to the mainstream world, to earn respect, to be palatable and accepted in the eyes of wider society,” she said during an interview. “But that ladder and that race is not necessarily necessary, really nonetheless, we climb it.”