“It is not how we do things here,” Michaela Coel was told by a Netflix representative when she asked for five percent of the copyright to her work, “I May Destroy You”. Coel is the lead actress, creator, writer, and director of the popular series “I May Destroy You”.
On Sunday, the 33-year-old became the first Black woman to take home the Emmy award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for her series, “I May Destroy You.” The series fictionalizes the story of her sexual assault during the writing of her British comedy “Chewing Gum”. The actress cum producer took her dramatic series to the BBC and HBO after she rejected a $1 million deal from Netflix.
Coel and Netflix disagreed over ownership of the movie in which her request for a percentage of the copyright was denied. She whispered to herself that no amount was worth her work.
When her agency in the USA, CAA, tried pushing her to accept the offer from Netflix, Coel fired the agency after learning that it would be making an undisclosed amount on the back end, according to Vulture.
The British-Ghanaian actress narrated to Vulture the phone call she had with the senior executive at Netflix, asking if she could retain at least 5 percent of her rights.
“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.’”
Her negotiation with Netflix went from 5 percent to as low as 0.5 percent, Coel recalled. She said the Netflix representative before ending the call told her: “Michaela? I just want you to know I’m really proud of you. You’re doing the right thing.”
In the fall of 2017, Coel pitched her “I May Destroy You” to the BBC and HBO, which gave her full creative control and the rights to the work.
Coel first made her mark in TV when she was 28 with the first season of her fourth-wall-busting, BAFTA-award–winning comedy “Chewing Gum”. The movie was about a girl who was desperate to lose her virginity.
Coel grew up on a boundary and lived in a public housing complex in Aldgate that was built in 1977. Her parents were Ghanaian immigrants who separated before she was born. She was raised by her single mother and her elder sister, Jasmine.
The Vulture reports that Coel’s family were one of a handful of Black families living in Aldgate, adding that it wasn’t until secondary school that she met other Black kids her age — children of the African and Caribbean diaspora, mainly from Ghana and Nigeria.