Shooting Star and “Chewing Gum” creator Michaela Coel on the writing process and embracing success


Michaela Coel has become a huge star in Britain since writing and starring in her Netflix original comedy series “Chewing Gum,” which has earned two BAFTAs and two season renewals. Add to that appearances in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and the series “Black Mirror,” plus a starring role in the upcoming feature musical “Been So Long,” and it’s clear we’ll be seeing much more of Coel in the future.

Michaela Coel courtesy European Shooting Stars

We caught up with the actress and writer during the Berlinale, where she represented the UK as one of European Film Promotion’s Shooting Stars. Coel’s sympathetic (and hilarious) portrayal of the religious virgin Tracey Gordon in “Chewing Gum” established her as a fearless comedian who brings a great deal of nuance to her characters. Her ideal role? Just “a human being… three-dimensional, the soft, the hard, the strong, the weak, the sexual, the asexual… to see that all in one human being, wonderfully written, is my goal.”

But writing wonderfully, even for comedy, can be a burden: for Coel, the process is “very isolating… I don’t have a lot of happy things to say about writing.” When it’s done, though, “the happiness it can give a room is what makes the suffering of writing worthwhile.” For a change of scene, Coel wrote season two of “Chewing Gum” largely in Berlin.

Is she surprised that Chewing Gum was such a success? Not at all. Writing and starring in a show makes it almost your baby, artistically speaking: “If your child does really well, you’re never surprised… Look at her, she’s gorgeous, you know, she’s going to be a star!”

Photos courtesy European Film Promotion Shooting Stars.