Bafta rising star Mia McKenna-Bruce on the importance of supporting young talent

Bafta rising star winner Mia McKenna-Bruce has spoken of the importance of having programmes which support young talent as they try to navigate the film industry.

The 26-year-old British actress saw off tough competition from Euphoria actor Jacob Elordi, Bridgerton actress Phoebe Dynevor, The Bear star Ayo Edebiri, and Talk To Me’s Sophie Wilde to secure the prize during Sunday’s award show.

The category is the only one at the Bafta film awards which is voted for by the public and previous winners include Bukky Bakray, John Boyega, James McAvoy, Kristen Stewart and Tom Hardy.

She told the PA news agency that winning the award felt “so surreal” and revealed the gravity of it did not hit her until the following day after she watched videos of her friends and family reacting to the news.

After the festivities on Sunday, she celebrated the win the next morning with her partner and their baby boy, who they welcomed last summer.

McKenna-Bruce said becoming a mother has made her appreciate “everything so much more”, adding: “It opens up this whole other side of who I am, I think.

“It’s really exciting having that when it comes to acting, and also when it comes to these events.”

The actress has received the rising star award off the back of her critically-acclaimed performance in Molly Manning-Walker’s coming-of-age film How To Have Sex as teenager Tara.

She also previously scooped the best lead performance prize at the British Independent Film Awards (Bifa) for the Greece-set film about a teenage holiday.

Manning-Walker is also known for Netflix’s Persuasion and BBC series The Dumping Ground and Tracy Beaker Returns, which she starred in as a teenager.

Reflecting on how young talent could be helped more, she said youth groups and workshops were “really important” at helping to guide those who do not have connections already in the industry.

“I think the support between the transition of child to adult actor is really, really difficult because it’s a very high paced, crazy world, with a lot of rejection”, she explained.

“And I think as a child, you do it as a hobby so maybe the rejection doesn’t hit quite so much, but then as you become an adult and you try to do it as a job, it feels really, really personal.

“And every actor goes through it so much but you don’t realise that.

“So I think having things in place, more workshops that are accessible where you get to meet other people that are going through the same things that you are, I think would be incredible.”

British Academy Film Awards 2024
Mia McKenna-Bruce after winning the EE Rising Star award during the Bafta Film Awards 2024 (Ian West/PA)

“It’s a hard balance working at a young age and then having to do school as well so being in amongst it with a cast, we were all going through the same thing, having that support and chaperones and people on set that were really there to look after us in those years, that was really vital when growing up”, she said.

McKenna-Bruce also advised up-and-coming actors to surround themselves with “really good people to pick you up in those moments that are really difficult” and to enjoy the wins when they come.

“Celebrate the moments that you worked really hard for. Everything is made a million times better when you get to celebrate it with good people and the people that you love around you so I think that’s really important”, she added.

Alongside her family and friends, the actress said her partner and fellow actor Tom Leach had been “absolutely brilliant” at supporting her, including writing a back-up speech for her.

She explained: “He knew that I hadn’t prepared anything because I really didn’t think I was going to win so he had a little note in his pocket in case I panicked to give to me, just who to thank and everything.

“And then at the bottom, it says ‘I knew you were going to win this’.”

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