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BAFTA-winning actress and screenwriter Michaela Coel is set to deliver the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at this year’s Edinburgh TV Festival, becoming not only the youngest speaker, but the first non-white industry figure and only the fifth woman to be given the prestigious slot in its 43-year history.
Best known in the U.K. for writing and starring in the multi award-winning Channel 4 sitcom Chewing Gum (for which she won BAFTA TV Craft and BAFTA TV awards), Coel has also been seen in Black Mirror episodes “Nosedive” opposite Bryce Dallas Howard and the recent “USS Callister” opposite Jesse Plemons. She also had a small part in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Netflix, which also aired Chewing Gum, has pre-brought the worldwide rights to Coel’s upcoming London-set musical Been So Long, while this year she was selected as one of the European Shooting Stars at the Berlinale.
Coel has been a prominent voice addressing issues of class, gender and ethnicity and their barriers to entry into the entertainment industry. Speaking at the Women in Film and TV Awards in 2016, she said: “It’s for women who just by being darker than a paper bag or raised in low-income homes are from birth statistically less likely to even hear about the opportunities and chances, that others in the world, and in our industry, feel a natural entitlement to.”
“Michaela embodies everything we want the festival to be about this year — the future, the creative voice and, above all, optimism,” said Edinburgh TV Festival director Lisa Campbell. “As one of the U.K.’s leading young writer-performers, she speaks directly to the next generation of talent coming through the ranks and has something to teach the TV ‘establishment’ too.”
On being selected for the MacTaggard lecture, Coel said: “I am overjoyed to accept this invitation; it seems in some way a celebration of the rapidly changing world we live in. But with the constant reshaping of our technological and political world, comes a growing need to shine a light and be vigilant rather than complacent about the future of our industry. I feel honored to contribute to this debate on such a prestigious stage.”
Elisabeth Murdoch, in 2012, was the last woman to give the MacTaggart lecture.
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