For Essiedu, this means a deep dive into what masculinity means when its boundaries are broken, not by racist thugs or harassing police, but by demons unleashed by its own desires. “I’m into everything,” boasts Kwame on another casual date, minutes before he is reduced to pleading: “Not that.” The representation of the moment when good sex turns bad is so up-close and personal that I wonder if he had any doubts about taking on the role?
“I’ve done scenes before where we’ve had nothing to support us and it’s so stressful,” he admits. “But I didn’t have any qualms, mainly because of how sensitively it was handled – like we have an intimacy coordinator at all times. We spent a lot of time in preparation for those scenes.”
The intimacy co-ordinator was Ita O’Brien, who also worked on the BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People. For all that it is being hyped as a #MeToo drama, Essiedu rejects the idea that I May Destroy You is “pandering to a zeitgeisty type thing”. Obviously, he says, “it’s a series that confronts and challenges our current ideas around sex and consent and romance, and our responses to trauma as well. But a lot of it is inspired by things that have actually happened.” In 2018 Coel spoke out about being assaulted. “Michaela is jumping from a place of authenticity,” Essiedu continues. “She captures the reality of lives that I recognise.”
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