It’s one of the most important moments in the entire series, and a turning point episode for “I May Destroy You.” In Episode 8, Arabella (played by series creator Michaela Coel), after learning the police have hit a dead-end in identifying her rapist, feels the intense need to return to Italy — the place she found love and happiness prior to her sexual assault.
It was a key moment in the series that the star/creator had fully fleshed out with her costume designer Lynsey Moore. “In her mind, she needs to go back to who she was,” said Moore, when she was on the Filmmaker Toolkit podcast with director Sam Miller. “So she puts back on the [pink] wig from before, she puts on the same coat that we all know, and said, ‘This must be the answer, this is the thing I must do for my recovery.’”
What wasn’t fleshed out, and what is the product of Coel’s constantly evolving rewriting and collaborative creative process, was that her character would walk into the ocean during one scene. “They made the decision 10 minutes before,” recalled Moore. “And I got called to set, I was like, ‘You can’t, you can’t.’ They were like, can we find another [jacket]?’”
As Moore explains in the video below, the jacket was a key part of her collaboration with Miller in creating Arabella’s signature ‘90s look in the limited series’ early episodes. The problem was that the Italy portion of the London-based limited series came early in production; Coel, Moore, and the crew would be returning to the U.K. to shoot a good portion of those episodes that came before her walk into the sea.
To see how Moore collaborated with Coel to create Arabella’s iconic look, watch the video below:
The jacket was “a needle-in-a-haystack, one-off find,” which Moore had already unsuccessfully attempted to find back-up versions for. “It was fake fur on top of leather, so I knew after the sea water, it was never going the same, and it wasn’t,” said Moore. “We spent hours combing and conditioning it, stretch it back out again. I know my team and I can notice when we watch the series that it doesn’t quite look the same, but I don’t know if anyone else will. I think we got away with it.”
Moore also quickly realized the importance of the moment that came with the “cleansing” imagery. “It’s the rebirth, walking into the sea and emerging thinking, ‘Okay, I’m going to try something different,’” said Moore. “And that’s what I suppose all of ‘I May Destroy You’ is about, she’s on this journey of recovery through the various avenues and things she’s explored [in] the conscious efforts to heal, and that’s what we try to show through wardrobe.”
While on the podcast, Moore and Miller went into great detail about their collaboration with Coel and the creator’s process of becoming Arabella, visually adapting her scripts, the importance of capturing the energy of East London, as well as breaking down the series’ powerful and surreal final episode.
To hear the full conversation, subscribe below:
The Filmmaker Toolkit podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Stitcher. The music used in this podcast is from the “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present” score, courtesy of composer Nathan Halpern.