Mia McKenna-Bruce

From Tracy Beaker to How to Have Sex: Inside the rise of Mia McKenna-Bruce

She had a huge win at the BAFTAs last night


If you haven’t seen How to Have Sex yet, honestly, what are you doing? Molly Manning Walker’s first feature is essentially an ode to your after exams girls’ trip to Malia and the lead of the film – Mia McKenna-Bruce – is about to become a huge on-screen star.

Seriously, Mia’s character Tara most be the most likeable on-screen character of all time. And now she’s beaten huge names like Jacob Elordi and Ayo Edibiri for BAFTA’s rising star award – our girl has gone global. Scream. So, after the awards show on Sunday, let’s take a look back at Mia McKenna-Bruce’s humungous rise to fame— from British TV to BAFTA winner:

She played Penny Branning in Eastenders for four months

What happened to Penny Branning in EastEnders? Who played her?

Credit: BBC

Where better for a humble beginning than a child star cameo in EastEnders. London born and raised Mia played Penny Branning from January to April in 2008 and was then replaced by Kitty Castledine. What a start.

You might also recognise her from Tracy Beaker Returns and The Dumping Ground

The Dumping Ground: I'm

Credit: BBC

As if she wasn’t enough of an icon already, Mia then appeared in Tracy Beaker returns and The Dumping Ground as Tee Taylor. Still now, even as she’s on the cusp of international stardom, life-long fans will comment on her Instagrams and TikToks going “oh my God it’s Tee!!!!”

Showing her commitment to the UK TV scene, Mia also appeared in Holby City and The Bill. Why does this make me feel patriotic?

She starred alongside Dakota Johnson in Netflix’s Persuasion

Mia McKenna-Bruce Steals The Spotlight In Netflix's

Credit: Netflix

When Netflix released a new version of Jane Austen’s Persausion they said Dakota Johnson was the leading lady. And, while this was technically true, Mia totally stole the limelight with her portrayal of Mary Musgrove. Selfish, spoilt and totally hilarious. She made Anne Elliot look like a total bore in comparison, tbh.

Her breakout leading role has been praised by critics and could win her a BAFTA this weekend

Mia McKenna Bruce

Credit: Mubi

As soon as Mia appears on the screen in How to Have Sex she radiates joy. Whether giggling in the street while eating chips with her mates or running into the sea when they’ve just touched down from the airport – you immediately want to be Tara’s friend.

“Mia McKenna-Bruce, is a revelation,” The Guardian wrote of her performance. “You have to go back to Florence Pugh’s breakout role in Lady Macbeth to find another career-making performance that so emphatically announces an actor destined for greatness.”

And so, it was more than slightly deserved when Mia was nominated for BAFTA’s Rising Star award alongside Ayo Edibiri, Jacob Elordi, Phoebe Dynevor, and Sophie Wilde.

She welcomed her first child with her partner Tom in 2023

As if career slaying wasn’t enough, Mia also became a Mum in 2023. She welcomed her son Leo with her partner Tom Leach, who’s also an actor and has been in The Rebels and Casualty. When he’s not filming for TV, Tom also loves to relentlessly prank Mia and post the videos on TikTok.

So, what’s Mia McKenna Bruce’s Instagram?

Mia has 223K followers on Instagram and regularly posts pics of her family, her films and (increasingly) her award wins. She’s definitely going to gain thousands more followers over the next few months.

You can follow her @mia_mbruce

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Featured image credit via BBC