Michaela Coel dedicates ‘I May Destroy You’ BAFTA win to intimacy director: ‘Thank you for your existence in our industry’

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Michaela Coel at the BAFTA TV awards. David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
  • Michaela Coel dedicated her BAFTA TV Award to the “I May Destroy You” intimacy director.
  • She said the show’s intimacy director allowed the cast and crew to work with “confidence.”
  • “I May Destroy You” also won best mini-series on the night.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

“I May Destroy You” won big at the BAFTA TV Awards on Sunday, and the show’s creator and star, Michaela Coel, dedicated her award for leading actress to the show’s intimacy director, Ita O’Brien.

“Thank you for your existence in our industry, for making the space safe, for creating physical, emotional, and professional boundaries so that we can make work about exploitation, loss of respect, about the abuse of power without being exploited or abused in the process,” Coel said while collecting her award in-person.

“I know what it’s like to shoot without an intimacy director, the messy, embarrassing feeling for the crew, the internal devastation for the actor, your direction was essential to my show. And I believe essential for every production company that wants to make work exploring themes of consent.”

Later during a press conference, Coel told journalists that film and television sets are vulnerable spaces but having an intimacy director on the set of “I May Destroy You,” which follows the story of a sexual assault victim called Arrabella, gave the whole cast and crew the “confidence” to correctly tackle some of the show’s “harrowing” scenes.

She added that it is “thoughtless” and showed a “lack of mindfulness” not to have intimacy experts standing by on a set.

I May Destroy You stealthing
HBO’s hit show ‘I May Destroy You’ featured a scene that included stealthing in 2020. I May Destroy You/HBO

The use of intimacy directors on film and television sets has become increasingly popular. Last year, Insider’s entertainment reporter, Libby Torres, spoke with Ita O’Brien who, in addition to working on “I May Destroy You” last year also choreographed the sex scenes for BBC Three/Hulu’s breakout hit “Normal People,” the adaption of Sally Rooney’s popular novel.

O’Brien, who is also the pioneer of the industry-standard book of “Intimacy on Set” guidelines said the key to crafting successful sex scenes is establishing the power of a “positive no” where an actor can express their physical boundaries without fear of repercussions.

“It’s not as if you have dialogue and then suddenly – now they’re there, they’re making love,” O’Brien said. “All of it is just a continuation of the communication between characters, be it in the text or in physical dance.”

O’Brien also told Insider that sex scenes can be choreographed down to the most minute details such as how long a character may hold a gaze or touch.

“If we’re sculpting the scene really clearly – from looking down, a flick up, a gaze, a connection, how long do you hold that gaze, or reaching out – the idea of chemistry,” she said, “You can actually sculpt and choreograph all of that detail that brings that frisson, that brings that excitement, just by how you sculpt that journey, these two people coming together.”