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In 2018, actor and screenwriter Michaela Koel addressed television industry bigwigs at the Edinburgh festival. she was invited to deliver 43rd McTaggart Lecture, a coveted spot that previously went to Dennis Potter, John Humphries, Greg Dyke and the three Murdochs: Rupert, James and Elizabeth. In 43 years, Coyle was only the fifth woman and the first person of color to take the podium. Not without reason Philip Edgar-Jones, Event Chair and Head of Sky Arts, commented on how his presence “makes you wonder what we’ve been up to all these years”.

The cuckoo is the centerpiece of the speech misfits, a small book with big ideas that provides a revealing picture of a career in television from an outsider’s vantage point. Before being invited to speak, she had never heard of the McTaggart lecture – “Then, then, I had never even heard of it. Depeche Mode Or Sarajevo, then no shadow of the lecture – it didn’t come on my radar.” The success of his first play chewing gum and its hit follow-up i can destroy you This means that the cuckoo has come on the radar of TV viewers everywhere. Still, as a black working woman working in an industry that is predominantly dominated by white middle-class men, she continues to look on the outside—or, as she calls herself a “misfit.” says. Is.

Cuckoo made his way into television from an early age in London’s Tower Hamlets, where strangers would push dog excrement through his letterbox, while drawing on the “resilience born of no safety net”. At age 23, after dropping out of two universities, she went to drama school, where she was the first black woman to enroll in five years, and where a teacher racially abused her during an impromptu practice.

She reveals her poor behavior at the hands of the TV industry, describing an encounter with an unknown producer, who said shortly after winning the award: “Do you know how much I want to fuck you right now?” She also recalls that there was drug abuse and sexual assault by strangers and how “the people I called in front of my family after the police were the producers”. She was met not out of sympathy but in a peculiar way. She asked to push back her writing deadline and give reasons to the channel. “The deadline was pushed back,” she explains, “but the head of comedy never figured out why.”

Elsewhere, Cuckoo talks of reminders of her “misfit” status, such as being handed a gift bag at her first awards ceremony that contained “dry shampoo, tanning lotion” and a foundation that was too dark for Kim Kardashian. (a reminder) . “The makers saw shooting for ‘That Place’ as a low-cost paradise. He did not consider the experiences of the Brown and Black cast to fulfill the ethics of his diversity compass, because he did not see things from our point of view. .

Michaela Cuckoo Tavern i can destroy you Photograph: Landmark Media/Alami

When faced with obstacles, the cuckoo was often referred to as “this is the way”, a way of thinking to justify poor decisions while maintaining the status quo. Her aim with this address, and this playful, sharply articulated book, is to question why things are as they are, both to fix the “faulty house” that is the television industry and to new perspectives, Arguing both behind and in front. Camera.

It extends to the existence of a common sense point of view and an instinctively questioning nature. misfits. Is this, He thought new York Times Last month, really constitute a book? It’s a reasonable question, not least because videos and transcripts of his original speech have long been available online. While the text has been updated and booked with additional ideas and reflections (including a long and always concrete allegory involving moths), this is not a new piece of work. Still, the problems it highlights – sexism, racism, egotistical complacency – are clearly relevant. That Cuckoo’s original speech didn’t immediately revolutionize the industry would certainly justify its transformation into a book.

Bringing about change can be a slow business, but in its 33 years, Cuckoo has already achieved the most. No one else is making that kind of taboo, paradigm-changing television, and some have worked hard, and little compromise, to make it on their own terms. Cuckoo’s speech was initially aimed at the people in charge of our television networks, but for the rest of us it provides a startling glimpse into the minds and practices of a remarkable genius.

Misfits: A Personal Manifesto is published by Abery (£9.99). Buy a copy to support the parent and supervisor GuardianBookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

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