“Me Causing Drama With The Future King”: Mia McKenna-Bruce On That Viral Prince William Interaction

Content Warning: This article mentions sexual assault.
You might not have known Mia McKenna-Bruce's name a week ago, but I guarantee that it's not a name you'll soon forget. The English actress, who was previously a child star in The Dumping Ground and Tracy Beaker Returns, has just taken out the EE BAFTA Rising Star Award for her electrifying and heart-wrenching performance in Molly Manning Walker's debut, How To Have Sex.
For those who aren't serious cinephiles (which I don't recommend — you'll never leave your couch!), you can consider the BAFTA Rising Star Award as almost a little time machine for who the biggest stars will be in the next few years, right before they launch. In previous years, the award has crowned the likes of Letitia Wright, Kristen Stewart, Daniel Kaluuya, Tom Holland, and James McAvoy right on the precipice of their careers exploding. Simply put, it's a bloody big deal.
For McKenna-Bruce, the competition was fierce. Up against the likes of Ayo Edebiri (The Bear, Bottoms), Phoebe Dynevor (Bridgerton) and Australia's own Sophie Wilde (Talk To Me) and Jacob Elordi (Saltburn), the 26-year-old didn't think she'd win the award; so much so that she didn't even prepare a speech.
"I thought there was absolutely no chance of me winning that award at all," McKenna-Bruce tells Refinery29 in a video call from her home. "It's a public vote and I was super grateful to be in amongst it… We're up against Jacob [Elordi] who has 13 million followers. Phoebe [Dynevor] has 3 million followers. I was very much like, okay, cool, this is really fun but I can sit back and relax. So when they called out my name, I was like, I'm gonna vomit."
Mia McKenna-Bruce after her BAFTA Rising Star Win (Source: Getty)
McKenna-Bruce explains that as she walked onto the stage, she told Emma Mackey, who was presenting the award, that she was going to be sick. The only way she could calm herself down was saying "calm and collected" — something she didn't even realise she was saying out loud.
"It's all still sinking in," she says. "I just keep waking up like, wait, was that a dream? You also have to give the BAFTA [statues] back so they can be engraved with your name, so it's not even in the house right now. So I'm a little bit like, did I make it up?"
For the actress, the award acts as concrete validation in moments of self-doubt. "It's a huge relief and hopefully it means that I get to continue doing this for quite some time," she says. "There's also a lot of excitement. I'm excited to see what comes from this and hopefully it means more people watch the film that didn't know it was there before."
How To Have Sex is an almost-too-real coming-of-age story that follows Tara (played by McKenna-Bruce), who goes on a girls' trip to Crete, only to leave with a deeply traumatic sexual assault incident. It's hauntingly accurate in how it depicts many women's early sexual experiences, which are often fuelled by alcohol, leaving them grappling with a muddy understanding of consent and predatory behaviour. "One of the reasons I love the name is because people who probably weren't intending to stumble upon this film, will," McKenna-Bruce says.
But even though the BAFTA-winning actress is now set for stardom, there was a moment when she considered walking away from the acting industry altogether. McKenna-Bruce explains that she took a gap year in Australia, travelling the East Coast, where she later got a job at a call centre. Despite her success as a child star, McKenna-Bruce thought her career was over and was close to giving up on acting. But it was her experience travelling that made her return to the craft. "I was 18 years old, but I felt like I was done [with acting]," she explains. "I realised how young I was and I was like, no, I can go home and give this another good go. It doesn't matter if I fail."
Mia McKenna-Bruce, Ayo Edebiri, Phoebe Dynevor and Sophie Wilde all meeting Prince William at the BAFTAs. (Credit: Getty)
While McKenna-Bruce was absolutely not expecting to win the BAFTA Rising Star Award, there was one thing she probably wasn't anticipating even more — to go viral for her wild encounter with the future King of England, Prince William. The meeting-turned-meme showed McKenna-Bruce, Edebiri, Dynevor and Wilde chatting with the Prince, with McKenna-Bruce's fellow nominees looking shocked.
McKenna-Bruce has finally clarified to Refinery29 what actually went down during the interaction. "I feel really bad because a lot of people have been pulling up on our faces at Prince William, but Ayo, Sophie and Phoebe were actually pulling the faces at me," McKenna-Bruce laughs. "Basically, Prince William had said, 'Oh, I haven't had the chance to watch your film yet', which is totally fair enough. And I said, 'I don't mean to be biased, but I really think you should watch it because it's a good film'."
"So they were laughing at me being quite brazen to a future King of England and then he laughed and said, 'Well, it looks like you've had a great time'," she continues. "I think it's fair enough to him because in every kind of interview he had seen, I've talked about how special it was and how much fun we have had. So I think that's where that comment came from, for sure."
"So I felt really bad because I was like, oh no, it was me that was making the stupid comment, not him!" she laughs. "It's just me causing drama with the future King of England."
‘HOW TO HAVE SEX’ is streaming on MUBI now.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 500 2222.

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