Last night (June 6), Michaela Coel scooped two awards at the 2021 BAFTAs for her compelling drama, I May Destroy You. As well as winning the award for Best Mini Series, Coel – who created and starred in the show – took the title of Leading Actress, dedicating the latter to intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien.
As she accepted her award for a show that explores consent, race, and trauma, Coel said of 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 abuse of power without being exploited or abused in the process.”
She continued: “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.”
I May Destroy You tells the story of protagonist Arabella (played by Coel) as she attempts to piece together the night she was raped. The series is based on Coel’s own experience of sexual assault.
O’Brien has worked prolifically as an intimacy director, with recent highlights including Netflix’s Sex Education and the BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People. Speaking to Dazed last year, O’Brien said of her role: “As an intimacy coordinator, we’re bringing to the industry… a skill and a structure that allows everyone to work professionally, which wasn’t there before. In that, we’re inviting clear communication from the get-go, right through the whole process, so everything’s understood, everything’s out in the open, and that the invitation is to speak openly, in a professional way, with adult language about intimate content.”
Watch Coel’s full speech below, and read O’Brien’s interview with Dazed here.