Michaela Coel’s seven best shows and films, and where to watch them

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Helen Bownass
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Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You.

After being recognised by the TV Baftas for her seminal drama, I May Destroy You, here are seven of Coel’s best roles that you’ll want to watch tonight. 

I May Destroy You was, without question, one of the best things we watched on TV last year. The series, which was written, co-directed by and stars Michaela Coel, made huge waves both in the UK and the US for its nuanced and searing look at consent and modern dating. It was also threaded with Coel’s sharp humour and it had a brilliant soundtrack that helped get us through summer 2020 and into spring 2021.

That’s why we were thrilled that justice was served when the 12-part drama was nominated for eight awards in the upcoming TV Baftas. In a year heavily dominated by fresh female talent the show’s nominations include: leading actress, mini-series and writer, as well as leading actor and supporting actress nominations for her co-stars Paapa Essiedu and Weruche Opia

The nominations will also hopefully go some way to making up for the shameful snub Coel endured when she wasn’t included in the Golden Globes 2021 nominations, in February.  

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To celebrate her work, we’ve rounded up the best TV shows and films that you can watch Coel in. As well as being a writer-actor-director, Coel’s talents extend from contemporary comedies to a political thriller to a musical love story. Here are her best roles…

Michaela Coel and John Goodman in Black Earth Rising
John Goodman and Michaela Coel in Black Earth Rising

Black Earth Rising (2018)

This political thriller sees Coel takes the lead as Kate Ashby a legal investigator, who was saved from the Rwandan genocide and adopted by human rights lawyer Eve Ashby (Harriet Walter). When Eve takes on a case to prosecute a controversial military leader, it puts their relationship to the test.

Watch on Netflix 

MIchaela Coel and Arinzé Kene in Been Too Long, Netflix
MIchaela Coel and Arinzé Kene in Been Too Long

Been So Long (2018)

Set in Camden, this film is a contemporary love story and musical. Coel plays Simone, a single mum who’s staying away from love. But one night she’s dragged out for the night where she meets Raymond (Arinzé Kene) who’s just got out of prison and trying to rebuild his life. The pair fall for each other but, as is life, it’s not straightforward. Musical numbers abound as does the chemistry and passion.

Watch on Netflix

Michaela Coel in Black Mirror episode USS Callister
Michaela Coel in USS Callister

Black Mirror (2017)

Considered one of the greatest Black Mirror episodes, USS Callister (series four, episode one) centres on Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons). He’s a gifted but bitter game designer by day and the commander of a Star Trek-esque starship featuring simulations of his colleagues by night. Coel plays employee Shania Lowry, who warns a fellow colleague to be careful of Daly. This isn’t the first episode of Black Mirror Coel has starred in – she also appeared in Nosedive (series three, episode one), about a woman desperate to improve her social media ranking.

Jim Howick, Michaela Coel and Michael Socha in The Aliens
Jim Howick, Michaela Coel and Michael Socha in The Aliens

The Aliens (2016)

Created by the makers of  Misfits this comedy is set 40 years after the aliens have landed in the UK. Though they look like humans they’re forced to live in a ghetto called Troy which is separated from the ‘human side’ by a massive wall. Coel plays alien Lilyhot, who throws the life of Lewis, a border guard, into turmoil when she reveals that he’s actually half-alien.

Watch on All 4 

Michaela Coel in Chewing Gum
Michaela Coel in Chewing Gum

Chewing Gum (2015)

The show that marked Coel out as a unique, powerful and wildly funny talent. This boundary pushing and Bafta winning comedy written by and starring Coel is about 24-year-old Tracey who’s desperate to lose her virginity and embarks on a journey of sexual awakening and to discover who she really is.

Watch on All 4  

Best Autumn TV: Top Boy
Kane Robinson in Top Boy

 Top Boy (2013)

Coel played Kayla, a woman who has witnessed a murder, in series two of the hard-hitting drama. Weruche Opia, who plays Terry, Arabella’s best friend in I May Destroy You, also appeared in the same series of Top Boy, and the pair met once on set although they didn’t appear on screen together.

Watch on Netflix 

Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You
Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You.

I May Destroy You (2020)

And, of course, I May Destroy You is arguably Coel’s most brilliant creation. Inspired by Coel’s real-life experiences, it tells the story of Arabella, who wakes up after a night out with the hangover from hell and very fuzzy memories of what happened. However, as the day progresses, she begins experiencing a smattering of intrusive, frightening flashbacks – flashbacks that indicate she’s been the victim of a sexual assault.

Watch I May Destroy You on iPlayer

Images: BBC, Netflix, Channel 4