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‘I May Destroy You’ earns nine Emmy nominations after Golden Globes snub

A woman with pink hair and cardigan stands on a city street.
Michaela Coel’s “I May Destroy You” earns its first Emmy nominations.
(Laura Radford / HBO)

After a long wait, “I May Destroy You” earned nine Emmy nominations on Tuesday, including for limited series and lead actress Michaela Coel. Coel was also nominated for her direction and writing on the series.

The groundbreaking half-hour British comedic drama from writer-producer-director-star Coel earned much acclaim when it premiered in June 2020, just missing the qualifying window for that year’s awards. Based on Coel’s experience, the show about a woman dealing with the aftermath of rape went on to receive top nominations at the SAG, Critics Choice and PGA awards. It also won at the BAFTAs. Notably, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which hands out the Golden Globes, ignored the series.

Overlooked Tuesday were the series’ supporting performers Weruche Opia, who played Terry, the bestie of main character Arabella (played by Coel), and Paapa Essiedu as Kwame, whose own journey with consent echoes Arabella’s.

Television artists have frequently named “I May Destroy You” as among the best shows of 2020, an opinion shared by L.A. Times TV critic Lorraine Ali.

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Deborah Copaken, a writer on the Golden Globe-nominated “Emily in Paris” — which was also nominated for an Emmy on Tuesday — wrote an opinion piece for the Guardian expressing her outrage over the Golden Globes shutout of “I May Destroy You”: “That excitement [over ‘Emily’s’ nominations] is now unfortunately tempered by my rage over Coel’s snub. That ‘I May Destroy You’ did not get one Golden Globe nod is not only wrong, it’s what is wrong with everything.”

A woman in a patterned button-down shirt sits at a table with a plate of food in front of her.
Michaela Coel stars in “I May Destroy You.”
(Natalie Seery / HBO)

During The Times’ Envelope Drama Roundtable, both Jurnee Smollett of “Lovecraft Country” and Elisabeth Moss of “The Handmaid’s Tale” cited the show.

“I watched it twice, because after the finale ... I mean, it was just so genius to me,” said Smollett. “I’ve never seen consent and conversations around consent and sexual assault dealt with with such sensitivity and rawness and boldness and vulnerability.”

Moss agreed: “That show is just so unbelievable and everything she did on it. The fact that she had so much to do with it is so admirable and inspiring; it’s such a singular vision from that woman.”

Michaela Coel, creator, writer, star and co-director of HBO’s “I May Destroy You,” talks about channeling her personal trauma into the acclaimed HBO series.

The show collected BAFTAs in June for best miniseries and Coel’s performance. Fittingly for a work that was taken from Coel’s own experience and relied so much on depictions of sexual encounters that often raised issues of consent, Coel dedicated her acting prize to Ita O’Brien, the show’s intimacy coordinator.

“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,” Coel said in her speech.


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