Bubbly and self-confident, Weruche Opia’s Terry is the optimistic anchor of I May Destroy You. Sure, there are cracks under the surface, and part of that optimism is a facade meant to allay her guilt over the role she played in Arabella’s assault, but Terry still seems to believe in the inherent goodness of people.
The A.V. Club talked to Opia earlier this summer about some of I May Destroy You’s grayer areas, from the power dynamics and sexual agency to Terry’s acting talents. We also talked about how I May Destroy You is changing the landscape of British TV, both at home and abroad, and whether she’s ready for strangers to yell “my birth is your birth” at her from passing cars. A portion of that interview is in the video above, and a full transcription of the chat is below.
The A.V. Club: There’s some question as to Terry’s complicity in what happened to Arabella. What are your thoughts on that? Is she overcompensating?
Weruche Opia: I do think that there is an element of guilt in the extent to which Terry goes to ensure that Arabella is okay. I definitely understand that she realizes that she’s made a grave error, a terrible error. If she knew it was going to turn out how it did, she would have done things differently. But I think that ultimately Terry is a good girl with a good heart and she wants to make sure that everyone is well, especially Arabella, knowing what she’s been through. So I think there’s a balance of the guilt and the genuine wanting to help her friend who’s experienced this trauma and wanting to actually help to fix her, if that makes sense.
AVC: She’s also experienced some trauma herself, although she maybe isn’t fully comprehending that that’s what happened. It seems like there’s a part of her that the threesome wasn’t on the up and up, but she still uses it as a kind of badge of honor. “I did this crazy thing, look at me.” Where do you think that comes from, and how did you deal with that as an actor?
WO: These days, it’s a time of sexual liberation where people are trying a lot of things, and people are experimenting a lot. So I see Terry in the sense where she was going for this threesome, because we see she texts Kwame saying, “I just had this amazing threesome,” but then at the same time we also see her confusion as well when she realizes that she may not have been completely in control of that situation. So it’s interesting to see those those two aspects. That’s two ends of the spectrum played out and I think it’s also a reflection of life at the moment in the sense where people are trying new things, but there’s a lot going on.
I think it’s interesting to see the discussion that comes with it as well. Was the consent given, or was it taken from her? It’s the juxtaposition of whether she was in power or not.
AVC: A lot of people are really in love with the friendship between Terry and Arabella and specifically, I’ve seen a lot of people saying, “My birth is your birth. My death is your death” on Twitter. I’m wondering how much you know about where that comes from, and if you’re prepared to have people yell it at you from cars and in restaurants.
WO: I don’t know where it comes from, but I found it very powerful and very beautiful. When I read it, I remember thinking it was a bit of reflection of myself and my best friend, or how I feel about her.
No one has shouted it yet, but I think it’s such a powerful statement and the reflection of a beautiful friendship that I hope that people would get to experience. It’s wonderful to have nonjudgmental unconditional friendships, and it’s wonderful to see them on TV.
AVC: In the U.S., often people think of British TV as pretty much all period dramas. Sure, there’s Fleabag and Killing Eve, but those are both pretty recent. Before that, it was all Call The Midwife and Downton Abbey, and neither of those are at all representative of the immigrant experience or the Black experience in the U.K.
It’s great that different shows are trickling into the U.S., but how is that landscape is developing on U.K. TV? What’s happening in that media landscape as far as representation?
WO: Well, things are moving slowly, I will say, but they are moving. I think this show has made a significant difference in how things will be going forward. This show is aired on BBC One, which is the number one channel, and a very traditionally conservative channel. So it’s doing quite a lot right now. I believe the show definitely is different, because we’ve never seen anything like this in the U.K. on BBC One.
This show is a different aspect of Black representation, and I’m hoping that this is the beginning of more stories being told from a non-stereotypical viewpoint on what Black people are and what we experienced
AVC: Right. It’s from a diversity of experiences. I’m thinking about the moment in the show where someone calls Arabella Afro-Caribbean and she’s like, “I’m not Afro-Caribbean. I’m African.” The Black experience isn’t just one experience. It’s many experiences.
WO: Yes. I think it teaches quite a lot. There are little things in there, the microaggressions that are addressed, I don’t think anyone can watch the show and not have learned something from it. That’s really a testament to [creator] Michaela [Coel]. There’s information and learning that you get, but you don’t even realize it because it doesn’t feel like a school lesson. This is like a lecture where you’re actually learning so much while going on these journeys that these characters.
AVC: Speaking of journeys, throughout the series we go on the journey of Terry’s acting career. Do you think Terry is a good actor? Where do you think her desire to act came from, and how do you think she landed where she is?
WO: I think Terry is a good actor, but she battled with self confidence issues. Any human being who’s been told no before sees it as rejection. We fear rejection in life anyways.
We see the episodes of young Terry where—I think it’s one of the first things we see of her where she’s giving this talk and she’s like, “Oh, I should have a TV show.” So we can see that he’s had those aspirations from when she was young. And then as an adult she has a goal she wants to follow. But as anything with life, nothing is really aligning. So we see how she battles with issues apart from her talent, which is a huge part of the life of a creative. It’s not just about the talent. You could be the most amazing actor in the world and you could suffer from stage fright or self-confidence issues. And unless you’re able to get over those issues, you’re not going to get to where you need to get to.
I think she is a good actor, but we’ve seen other issues that impact her career choice and where she ends up.
WO: The craziest, my favorite couple has to be Baby Girl Lisa and Usman, and my least favorite is Rose and Big Ed. I can’t stand Big Ed. Big Ed made me very angry and disappointed.
AVC: There’s a lot going on with that show. A lot of subtext that’s just never addressed, like how did these people end up here?
WO: I sit with my mom because we’ve been quarantined together, and we just keep on asking so many questions, like, “How did they end up on the show? Why is everyone in this mad rush to get to the United States?” It is a lot of weird stuff, and that’s very entertaining to watch. I love it.