You may not have heard of Michaela Coel just yet, but you definitely will soon. The 26-year old actress, singer, poet and playwright is the mastermind behind the hilarious new E4 comedy series that everyone will be talking about – Chewing Gum, which starts tonight on E4 [think Girls if it was set in East London]. Michaela plays Tracey – a religious, Beyonce obsessed 24-year old, desperate to lose her virginity. Funny women, awkward sex and adolescence in your twenties – move over Lena Dunham – this girl’s set to steal your crown…
Hi Michaela! Have you experienced your character’s feeling of drifting through life?
Definitely. Before I went to drama school when I was 20, I had dropped out of university twice. I thought what sounds smart? I tried to study English and Political Science, as well as Theology. But that all changed when I performed some poetry on stage and a director in the audience said to me afterwards ‘you should be an actor’ – I was like ‘alright!’
How autobiographical is Chewing Gum
Tracey’s confused relationship with god is definitely something we have in common – I was a massive Christian for five years before I went to drama school. And I did grow up in Tower Hamlets in London [where the show is set]. But I’ve never bought a Beyonce album. I love Rihanna. And I have an unhealthy obsession with Janelle Monáe.
Who are your comedy inspirations?
I love Ellie Kemper. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidtis brilliant. And I just watched her amazing TED talk called the other day called Can Men Be Funny?
Do you think that there’s a lack of comedic roles for women?
Oh yeah. That’s why we hold onto films like Bridesmaids. When you’re watching it you’re not thinking about the fact they’re women, you’re just crying with laughter. But it’s rare to see a bunch of women leading a show, so I feel very lucky to be able to do that with Chewing Gum.
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How would you describe the group of girls in your show?
They’re really strong and hilarious; it’s not just like ‘John’s Girlfriend’. We [women] are dynamic, colourful, strong and weak. We’re human.
What can we catch you in next?
I’m actually filming a new E4 comedy drama in Bulgaria right now called Aliens. It’s about this guy who is torn between two worlds when he finds out he’s actually half human/alien. My character is an alien called Lily Hot. She’s badass. Very different from Tracey.
Chewing Gum starts on E4 on 6th October at 10pm
By Emma Firth