‘Succession’ Showrunner’s Production Company Doubles Profits After ‘I May Destroy You’ Success

Michaela Coel's acclaimed series made Jesse Armstrong's company a "very desirable production partner" for top talent, according to its year-end report.
Programme Name: I May Destroy You - TX: 08/06/2020 - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows:  Arabella (MICHAELA COEL) - (C) Val Productions - Photographer: Natalie Seery
"I May Destroy You"
BBC/Val Productions/Natalie Seery

Jesse Armstrong had a great year. The “Succession” showrunner saw the third season of his HBO show air to continued acclaim, and it was renewed for a fourth season. And after the success of “I May Destroy You,” Armstrong’s Various Artists Ltd. — which produced the Michaela Coel miniseries — doubled its profits, according to a year-end report filed by the company.

The report, filed by Various Artists earlier this month with the U.K. government, shows the company more than doubled its post-tax profit for the fiscal year ending in March. It reported a profit of £2.6 million, compared to £1.2 million the prior year. The document singles out the success of “I May Destroy You” as a key performance indicator for the company founded in 2017.

“In particular, ‘I May Destroy You’ was one of the most talked about and critically acclaimed television shows in living memory, winning awards including 5 BAFTAs, 3 RTS awards and 2 Emmys. That has positioned the company as a very desirable production partner for both broadcasters and top television talent,” it reads.

The series was created, written, co-directed, and executive produced by Coel. It stars the multi hyphenate as a Londoner grappling with her professional life as a writer and personal affairs after she is sexually assaulted. The widely acclaimed series aired on HBO and BBC One in summer 2020 and earned a host of awards this year, including Emmys for writing and music supervision.

In his “A” review, IndieWire’s Tambay Obenson praised the show’s unconventional exploration of consent, sex, and relationships.

“It’s not an easily classified series. Audiences will struggle to pin it down to a specific genre, as it avoids offering a definitive answer to the question. But that’s actually one of the more appealing aspects about it. ‘I May Destroy You’ is at once a drama, a comedy, but also a curio. However, it’s a mixture that Coel skillfully navigates,” Obenson wrote. “It should inspire plenty of conversation about very sensitive subject matter with ever-increasing complexities. It marks bold new territory for Coel, who’s operating at a level unmatched among her peers.”

After acting in theater and releasing albums of her music and poetry, Channel 4 in 2014 tapped Coel to adapt her play into the series “Chewing Gum.” She wrote and starred in the two-season, BAFTA-winning show before appearing in two “Black Mirror” episodes and several film roles.

Coel over the summer joined the cast of Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Details of her role have not been made public, though Variety reported that she was on set in Georgia in June with director Ryan Coogler.

In addition to Coel’s series, Various Artists Ltd. produced the British comedies “Dead Pixels” and “Sally4Ever.” It does not produce “Succession.” Armstrong founded the company in 2017 with his “Peep Show” collaborator Sam Bain and former Channel 4 commissioners Phil Clarke and Roberto Troni. BBC owns a minority stake, according to Variety, which first reported on the earnings report.

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