Michaela Coel compares incident on set of Chewing Gum to being on a ‘slave ship’

Actor described a number of incidents on set of Channel 4 comedy

Isobel Lewis
Monday 06 July 2020 16:46
I May Destroy You trailer starring Michaela Coel

Michaela Coel has compared an incident on the set of Chewing Gum to being on a “f***in’ slave ship”.

Speaking to Vulture about the Channel 4 comedy, which ran for two seasons from 2015 to 2017 and recently returned to Netflix, the actor and writer revealed the struggles she faced behind the scenes on the show.

Coel recalled one particular moment on the first day on set in which five of the show’s black cast members were forced to share a trailer while a white actor had one to herself, comparing the scene to “a f***in’ slave ship”.

Describing herself "storming" into the office of production company Fremantle, she continued: “In that moment, I was like, ‘This is disgraceful.’ While the mess is going on outside, you sat here, clueless.”

During another incident, Coel and co-star Kadiff Kirwan describe a moment when Coel expressed her frustration at director Tom Marshall for referring to guest actors Cynthia Erivo and Ronke Adekoluejo as “the twins” rather than using their names.

“He screamed at her like she was a naughty school child, to the point where she physically got upset and left set,” Kirwan said, with Coel explaining: “It felt as if every single day that I had spent earning the respect of the crew and the cast had just disappeared.”

In a statement to The Independent, Marshall said: “It was an intensive and, sometimes, challenging shoot but I will say that we all (myself included) learnt a lot in the process. Crossed wires on set that day were resolved quickly and calmly, and I was thrilled to be re-hired by Michaela and the other producers to work again on the second series of the show a year later.”

Coel claims that she asked to be made an executive producer on the show but was refused, saying: “The production office felt like the place I have no access to: the curtain rod behind where Jesus is dwelling. You come to my trailer whenever you need something, but I can’t access you… I think it has to do with greed.”

Speaking about the decision not to make her an executive producer Kirwan said: “You’re trying to pawn her off with this little crumb. It’s like she built this house and gave the keys to someone, and they locked her out of different rooms in her own house, which is absolute bulls***.”

The Independent has approached Fremantle for comment.