Tons of talented people were nominated for the limited series writing category at the Emmys this year, but there was one person who was an obvious frontrunner: Michaela Coel. After seeing the Emmys snub far too many people of color throughout the night, we were worried that Coel wouldn’t get the award she deserved. But in a massive sigh of relief, Coel was properly recognized for writing one of the most gripping series of 2020. With her Emmy win, Coel has become the first Black woman to win Outstanding Writing For A Limited Or Anthology Series Or Movie.
Coel, who seemed stunned by her win and had to take a few seconds to breathe before walking to the stage, gave one of the most memorable speeches of the night. “I just wrote a little something for writers, really,” she began her speech. “Write the tale that scares you. That makes you feel uncertain. That isn’t comfortable. I dare you. In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others, to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to in turn feel the need to be constantly visible—for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success. Do not be afraid to disappear. From it, from us, for a while—and see what comes to you in the silence.” She also said she dedicated I May Destroy You to “every survivor of sexual assault.”
It was succinct but said so much in just one minute; her speech was in stark contrast to The Queen’s Gambit director Scott Frank’s speech that seemingly went on forever. Coel gave a hell of a powerful speech as a first-time Emmy winner and as someone who wrote a TV series based on her own experience as a rape survivor. Her words serve as reminder that writers need to take risks and know their worth. Coel was offered a $1 million deal with Netflix, that was set to include I May Destroy You. But the multi-hyphenate Emmy winner turned it down after realizing that she wasn’t allowed to own the copyright. In a recent interview on BBC Radio 4's Woman’s Hour, she told host Emma Barnett that “there was an exploitation occurring.”
Coel is the third Black writer to win in the Outstanding Writing For A Limited Or Anthology Series Or Movie category; David Mills became the first Black person to win the award in 2000 with The Corner and Cord Jefferson won in 2020 for Watchmen. Coel also made Emmys history as the first Black woman to be nominated for best series, acting, writing, and directing.