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Why Michaela Coel Turned Down Netflix’s $1M For Her New HBO Series ‘I May Destroy You’

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Michaela Cole is making quite the buzz with her new show on HBO ‘I May Destroy You’ but she unveiled some interesting news regarding turning down a $1 million deal previously offered by Netflix. Here’s what happened!

Via Vulture: “When she first began pitching the concept for I May Destroy You in spring 2017, Netflix offered her $1 million upfront — $1 million! But when she learned they wouldn’t allow her to retain any percentage of the copyright, she said no. No amount was worth that. She fired CAA, her agency in the U.S., too, when it tried to push her to take the deal after she learned it would be making an undisclosed amount on the back end. Throughout the fallout with Netflix and CAA, Coel asked questions relentlessly. She is eager, almost giddy, to say she doesn’t know something (even if she may have an inkling) because of the way it forces someone else to explain it to her. She has discovered that the explanation is where people begin to falter and the fissures of conventional wisdom crack wider. It may be business as usual, but is it right? Is it good?

Coel recalls one clarifying moment when she spoke with a senior-level development executive at Netflix and asked if she could retain at least 5 percent of her rights. “There was just silence on the phone,” she says. “And she said, ‘It’s not how we do things here. Nobody does that, it’s not a big deal.’ I said, ‘If it’s not a big deal, then I’d really like to have 5 percent of my rights.’ ” Silence. She bargained down to 2 percent, one percent, and finally 0.5 percent. The woman said she’d have to run it up the chain. Then she paused and said, “Michaela? I just want you to know I’m really proud of you. You’re doing the right thing.” And she hung up.

“I remember thinking, I’ve been going down rabbit holes in my head, like people thinking I’m paranoid, I’m acting sketchy, I’m killing off all my agents,” Coel says. “And then she said those words to me, and I finally realized — I’m not crazy. This is crazy.

In fall 2017, she pitched I May Destroy You to Wenger at the BBC, and he replied with an email the next day saying she would have everything she wanted: a seat at the table on the production side, full creative control, and the rights to the work. (HBO came on as a co-producer during development.) Coel was stunned. “I’d been so untrustworthy of the industry that I looked at the email and I thought, I need a day. I wasn’t happy,” she says. She took a beat. Then she went with it. “It’s an amazing email.”

Nice to see she kept her integrity and did not settle great business move!

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