Apart from a brief stopover a few years ago, this is Michaela Coel’s first time in Los Angeles. And it’s pouring out. Not by LA standards, either—this is an apocalyptic, raining-sideways kind of storm. 

Yet Coel hardly seems to mind: as sheets of water pummel the floor-to-ceiling windows of this nondescript conference room in Burbank, someone delivers the bread-and-olive oil snack that the outspoken—but by no means healthy, she insists—vegan requested. She abruptly loses her train of thought to it in the most charmingly on-brand manner possible: 

“Woo, great, bread! Thank you so much,” she says, pulling the plate towards her. “Oh my god, it's so warm. Thank you so much, oh, amazing. Thank you. Oh my god, this is perfect bread.” 

It’s this weird, over-the-top, yet deeply relatable enthusiasm that has made audiences fall in love with Coel, now 29, repeatedly since she entered the public eye, first as a slam poet, playwright and stage actor in the U.K., and then, in 2015, as the showrunner, writer, and star of the celebrated, semi-autobiographical, half-hour comedy Chewing Gum. She can turn almost anything she says into a good joke with a slight tweak of her facial expression, whether it’s raising her eyebrows and bugging out her eyes or turning her big grin into a pasted-on, please-kill-me grimace. This, coupled with her brand of gangly, often-taboo slapstick—which seems to come as naturally to her as walking or talking—makes it hard not to think of her as a comedy legend-in-the-making.

But for the moment, she’s on vacation from all that—Chewing Gum’s second season just finished its U.K. run, and she’s earned the break. Soulquarius, a R&B festival featuring Erykah Badu, DMX and Willow Smith, is going down this weekend. For Coel, it was the perfect excuse to visit—and to finally hang out with Issa Rae, the creator and star of the also-critically-hailed HBO series Insecure. As the only two millennial black women in Hollywood who write, run, and star in their own TV shows about eccentric, hilariously awkward protagonists navigating young adulthood, it was virtually impossible to avoid each other. (Luckily, they also organically clicked.) 

Large play button icon
Large play button icon