Mia Mckenna-Bruce

Mia McKenna-Bruce is having a year to remember with exciting roles in Persuasion and Vampire Academy, in addition to a truly emotional turn in the forthcoming film Kindling. 

Mia McKenna-Bruce has a lengthy resume. The 25-year-old actress has been embedded in the industry since her turn on EastEnders in the early 2000s. Pivoting gracefully between film and television over the years, McKenna-Bruce has made notable appearances in titles such as The Dumping Ground, The Witcher, Get Even, and Last Train to Christmas. This year, she’s celebrating the release of Netflix’s modern adaptation of Persuasion, where she stars as the delightfully self-aware Mary Musgrove. McKenna-Bruce’s performance is an absolute highlight of the film—each perfectly delivered line, pout of the lips, and arch of the eyebrow adds a sense of humor and brilliance to an altogether charming adaptation. 

In addition to her role in Persuasion, the British-born star is looking ahead to the upcoming premiere of the television series Vampire Academy. Though completely different in context, genre, and setting, both projects are based on books. McKenna-Bruce feels as though this brought a certain level of pressure to her performances, as she wanted to ensure she was doing justice to the characters that fans already know and love. If her stellar performance in Persuasion is any indication, she’ll bring the same level of dedication to the screen with Vampire Academy and will quickly become a fan favorite.

During the conversation, McKenna-Bruce also highlighted an upcoming project that she holds near and dear to her heart. The film Kindling, by writer and director Connor O’Hara, follows a group of young people who band together when one of their friends is reaching the end of his life. McKenna-Bruce, who plays Lily in the movie, said that it was a deeply moving, emotional experience for everyone involved. Kindling has already garnered praise from Teenage Cancer Trust for its accurate portrayal of teenager cancer and grief.

In conversation with 1883 Magazine, Mia McKenna-Bruce discussed her performance in Persuasion and what she learned from Dakota Johnson, the joyful bonding experience of filming Vampire Academy in Spain, and why she’s most proud of her work in Kindling. 



There are so many things I want to talk to you about, but I wanted to start with Persuasion because I absolutely loved it. I thought it was perfect—it was a really nice blend of classic and modern, and it was just beautiful to watch. Your character Mary is such a firecracker!

She’s so funny. When I first read her, I was like, “Oh my God, she’s Moira Rose in a Jane Austen novel.” 


[Both laugh]. That’s perfect! She’s judging everyone, and she doesn’t want to be there, but she wants to be involved in everything. She wants to attend all the events. She really is the Moira Rose of Jane Austen’s novels!

Yeah, exactly! She’s brilliant. 


I’m sure that made her fun to play! When you were reading the script originally, was there a specific scene that made you think, “Oh, I can’t wait to do that!”

Oh, that’s a good question! I think the one scene where Anne is playing the piano and I come over and I sit next to her and I say, “Wentworth wasn’t very gallant to you.” I was really excited to do that one because this was post-dinner, and it’s a bit of a party. Everyone is drinking and stuff, but you don’t get to see much of it. In between the lines, we had choreographed dances we were doing at the time. So, we’d be dancing around and then I’d be like, “Oh! I have to go over and talk to Dakota now!” It felt a bit like we were doing a play, actually. That was really fun. When I first read it, I was curious as to how they were going to do all the maneuvering of the dance moves at the same time.


You’re just waiting for your cue but getting distracted. [Both laugh.]

And we had to do so many rehearsals!


I can only imagine! Learning the dance moves must have been time-consuming. 

Insane! And then obviously the first time we learned the dance during rehearsals, we weren’t in costume. And as soon as we had our dresses and our corsets on, we couldn’t lift our arms up because our dresses would have ripped! So I think eventually they were like, “Yeah, we need to change that a bit.” 


“That doesn’t work at all.”

That one’s a no-go. 


The height difference between you and the actor who plays your husband in the movie, Ben Bailey Smith, is so funny because you must have had to be at an angle to even try to dance with him. 

[Laughs] Yes! Hilarious! We were both cast over Zoom, and they knew that Ben was tall and they knew that I was small, but Ben is really tall and I’m really small. [Both laugh]. So, on the first day of filming when we walked into the house, it was really funny to see both of us together. Bless the camera team because they were always like, “How do we get them both in the shot together?” 


They’re panning all the way out to try to make it look like you’re closer in height. I totally get that. I always say I’m 5’1” on a good day, and my boyfriend is 6’2”, so he jokes that when we go out it looks like he’s kidnapping me. [Both laugh].

Well, I never even made five feet! I’m just under five feet. People are always like, “oh my God, you’re so small!”


Yes! It’s really funny when you meet people in person for the first time and they’re genuinely taken aback by how short you are! And I’m like, “Should I be offended by this?”

Yes! And I always say that I don’t realize I’m so small, so when someone comments on it, I’m like, “Oh really? I’ve never had anyone say that before!” 


“This is brand new information!”

That was a Friends quote! Good job. [Both laugh].

I’m glad you said that because I tell people that all the time. I don’t feel short. I just feel like myself. We don’t really realize until we get our picture taken or something how small we are! 

My best friend— we’ve been best friends since school—and she’s really tall. So, growing up, we couldn’t have been more different. It was hilarious. Any photos of us too, she’s having to crouch down all the time. 


You have to wear really big shoes when you go out! I always have platforms on.

I used to do that so often! And then obviously, I  stopped wearing heels or anything like that during the lockdowns, and now I can’t bring myself to go back to it. It’s flip-flops or trainers and that’s as far as it goes!


When you were filming Persuasion in all these heavy costumes, were you filming during a time when it was nice to be in the costume, or were you totally overheating and sweating? 

When we had our first costume fittings, I think it was maybe around March or April, and at that point, it was quite cold. We were due to begin filming in May, and you don’t really know what you’re going to get in the U.K. in May! So, we had quite a few outdoor scenes and our costume department wanted to layer all of us with hats and gloves and coats because they were thinking it would probably be really cold. But when it came to those scenes we were doing where we’re walking along the beach, we’re all in coats—I had a hat on, I had gloves on, I had this scarf that they’d wear in the 1800s. So, we’re all in these layers and it was so hot. It ended up being the hottest day of the year! But we couldn’t take our coats off. But if they had given us costumes for the heat, it would have ended up being cold that day. [Both laugh]. You can never win!


There’s no way around it! But at least if you’re in a costume and it’s cold out, you can layer in between scenes. 

And I don’t know about the others, but I was literally sewn into my costume.


Oh my God! How do they get you out?!

Cut, cut, cut!


They’re just resewing the costume every time you’re putting something new on?

Yes! Literally!  Even my necklace was sewn to my costume. 


You must have felt robotic moving around!

Everyone was like, “Oh, that’s a really good period stance you’ve got there, very 1800s.” And I was like, No, it’s actually because I can’t move!



Do you think that helps? Or does it hinder your performance when you’re in the costume and you’re trying to figure out how to move around accordingly?

For a period piece that definitely helps! Especially when you put the costume on and you’re quite restricted because it gives you perspective on how, in the 1800s, they did have to dress like that with the corsets and all the layers, and they were probably sewn into things as well. If I had to do some action in a corset? Absolutely not helpful. [Both laugh].


Can you imagine? They’re like, “We need you to sprint for a good 30 seconds straight right now,” and you’re just like, I’m not going to make it. 

“We can try, but I won’t be there at the end.” [Both laugh]. There was a scene where we had to walk up this hill and literally all of us when we got to the top were breathing so heavily. Because you have to breathe differently when you’re wearing a corset, you can’t take a deep breath or anything—and Ben, who was playing my husband, literally had to just drag me along!


I love that scene when all of you are coming back from a walk and you’re literally thrown over his shoulder. I feel like that’s exactly what would happen, especially since Mary would be like, “I’m done walking now.”

Especially when you are small! People just pick you up all the time. 


“I’m just gonna grab you. You’re taking too long.”

Our strides are probably half of theirs as well, so it is hard work!


When you’re in the costume and you’re hot and overwhelmed, did that help when you were playing Mary? Because she seems like she’s just over it all the time.

And bothered all the time! Bothered by everything all the time. [Both laugh]. “I don’t even need to act, I’m just hot and bothered myself right now.”


I love that [laughs]. And your delivery of every line was absolutely perfect. The tone, everything about your performance, it was so brilliant and funny. 

Thank you! I didn’t even realize at first she was a comedic character. When I was first getting to know Mary, she obviously exists in this period world, but everything she’s saying, she actually believes these things are okay to say. She’s saying this because she believes it, which is so interesting. I think it was more about getting to the point of saying it without trying to be funny, or without trying to get a certain reaction out of people. It was more about finding the realness of Mary because she was living in this time where everyone was telling you what you have to do, who you have to marry, and where you have to be. And that is frustrating. So, I could definitely see how she ended up just hating everything.


I thought that was interesting! It was something I had thought about when I was watching the movie, how you can clearly tell she doesn’t want to be a mother and doesn’t want kids—she still wants to be her own independent person. I really related to that because I’ve never wanted kids, and I can’t imagine being forced to have them because that was the expectation for women at the time. 

That’s it! That’s how it was then, even more so than now, of there being an expectation of what you needed to do and what you needed to be. Mary had her way of going about it, but she didn’t want to exist as she was. She was kind of made to do those things.


I really loved how, every single time Dakota Johnson would be like, “What about your kids?” Mary was essentially like, “What about them?” I love that she wasn’t afraid to be herself no matter how people were looking at her or thinking about her. She knows everyone thinks she’s ridiculous and she totally doesn’t care.

Yes! I love that. There’s that line where Dakota says something about how Mary is shockingly self-aware. Mary knows who she is, but she is living in this ridiculous time of being told what she has to be, and she’s kind of trying to be like, “Well that isn’t me. This is me.”


I wish I was more like that.  I’m very reserved—even if something’s bothering me, I have a hard time managing the confidence of being like, “I don’t like that. And I’m going to tell you I don’t.”

Do you know what it is? She’s unapologetically herself. Which is amazing! And I think since playing her, I’ve been a bit more able to say, “No, I don’t want to do that. This is what I’m going to do instead.” Because I’m very much the same as you. So, I think playing her definitely taught me that side of things to be a bit more like, “This is just who I am.”


I was going to ask if you had learned any specific lessons from playing Mary, so that’s perfect timing. I’m trying to be more intentional about that as well. I turned 30 last month, and I’m really trying to make an effort to take up space in my own life.

That’s it! That’s exactly it. Not apologizing for taking up space in your own life. Mary definitely taught me that. 


She isn’t apologizing to anyone, and I think the thing I found most reassuring about that is they all love her anyway. It doesn’t affect what they think of her. 

Exactly! And I mean, she’s an extreme version of that, but that’s exactly who she is, and the people around her say, “Okay, this is who Mary is, and we crack on and deal with Mary because we love her no matter what she’s going to say next.” 


It proves she’s integral to everything. If Mary’s not there, everyone would be sitting around wishing she was there.

It’s never boring when Mary’s around!


That must have been fun to play and embody! One of the things I particularly enjoyed about the movie were the amusing, but heartfelt, interactions between the characters. Those moments made Persuasion really special. 

I hope one of the main things people get from watching the movie is that we all had such a great time together. It was so much fun, and we filmed it when we were just coming out of COVID restrictions. So, it was being around people again, and we weren’t really allowed to hang out because there were still quite a few restrictions on set, but it felt like we were hanging out anyway. It was wonderful to be a part of, and to film, and to get to know this incredible cast was such an amazing experience. It was a dream, honestly.


I’m really happy you feel that way because I think, as a viewer, you take that away from the movie even without knowing the background dynamics. I do feel like you can usually pick up on it when you’re watching something if the cast was genuinely close or if they’re pretending like they were. 

Absolutely, I think you can always pick up on that chemistry. It makes such a difference when you can tell there was genuine chemistry there, and for us, for me and the other Musgroves, we were staying in a hotel together while we were filming. So, we became so close and we’re still really close. That’s been amazing.


That’s so nice! It makes a huge difference. 

We were all just so silly. [Both laugh]. We had the silliest time. There were so many times when we would look around at each other and go, “This is what we do! We literally get to play dress-up and pretend to be other people for a living!” It’s crazy. 


So many people’s dream job!

So many people. And for a lot of people on set, they’ve been dreaming about these types of roles for so long. It’s surreal to look around and be like, “Oh my God, we’re here, we’re actually doing this!”


It’s good that you feel that way and that you’re leading from a place of gratitude, versus sort of being jaded by the experience. Especially since you’ve been acting for such a long time!

Every job is completely different, and I feel brand new every time. There’s always so much to learn, and also there’s always that feeling after a rejection of being like, “Am I ever going to get work again? What’s coming next?” When I was doing a series, we were guaranteed two seasons during the first series, but then there was a global pandemic and we never got to do the second season. So, it shows you that you really, really, really can’t be guaranteed anything.


That must have been a strange experience for it to almost feel open-ended in a way because you were expecting it to have more of a natural conclusion.

It was. Because it was literally written with the two seasons in mind. I think they did want to go back to do it, but it was two years after the first season had come out, so I think they kind of redid it because obviously, we were too old for the characters by that point.


Speaking of this school setting, you’re going to be in Vampire Academy, too. What an interesting project! When I was reading about your character, who’s also named Mia, I felt like she had so many similarities with Mary in Persuasion. Did you feel like that as well when you were playing them both?

Yes! 1000%. I had my first meeting for Vampire Academy on Zoom, or maybe it was my first self-tape for it, while I was still filming Persuasion. And I was like, “Is this Mary because that’s what I’m playing right now? Or is there a genuine connection here?” And then I had a moment of thinking that every role I’m going to play is going to be like Mary now, where people think I’m this overdramatic…actually, I am quite overdramatic. [Both laugh]. But no, there were definitely similarities, because Vampire Academy really comments on the class system. You’re kind of born into what you’re born into and it’s really hard to break out of that. So, for the show, I play Mia, who’s a non-royal vampire, but she really wants to be a royal vampire for her reasons. She’s really fighting against the fact that she’s been placed somewhere she doesn’t want to be, which is where a lot of what Mary stands for is coming from. So, there were definitely crossovers there. But with Mia, that was really exciting. We’re obviously doing a series, and you get to go on these journeys with your characters a lot more. And the Mia we meet at the beginning of the first series of Vampire Academy to the Mia we meet at the end of the series is a very different version of her. So, that’s really, really fun. It was kind of getting to unpack all this stuff that I’d also put into Mary at the same time. 


Was that a nice release for you to be able to let go of all these things that had been building up? 

Definitely. And I think, really, most people go through that thing of being told what they need to do next, even if it’s just happening when you’re at school and then you’re at college and then you’re at university, and maybe not everyone wants to do that. It’s figuring that out and finding yourself along the way. It’s really about that journey you go on and having that feeling of being like, “This is so relatable.”


Even if it is a fantasy setting!

Even if I have superpowers! I still relate to it.


I think that’s why people love it and are looking forward to the series coming out. Because even if it’s this fantastical setting, there’s so much you can relate to and recognize yourself in.

It’s amazing because I think they’ve got such an incredible cast.  Everyone is going to be able to see some version of themselves watching it, or a reflection of themselves watching it. But at the same time being in this incredible fantasy world that’s very similar to real life. It’s making a comment on a lot of things that people do go through in real life, and it’s making a comment on society, but without you realizing it because you’re watching these epic fights and these fancy balls, and then there are all these messages filtered through. So, it’s really cool. Because you don’t notice that you’re kind of stuck in a lesson as you watch.


That’s the best type of viewing experience though when you turn off the TV and you feel different.

I feel changed! And I didn’t even realize that was happening to me. 


I think that’s the best experience ever.

Exactly. And it’s actually ingrained in you then as well because it’s your subconscious that’s taking in this information. I’ve watched the first two episodes of the series twice now already, and each time I’ve watched it, I’ve picked up on different stuff. It’s kind of like, Oh, I didn’t realize that happened in the first episode because I was focusing on something else that was going on. There’s always so much going on that you don’t even realize what’s being fed in. It’s so cool.



I love that. I habitually rewatch the same shows and movies, but I feel like every time I watch them, I take something different out of it that I maybe hadn’t realized before. I learn something different, or a new quote stands out to me, or something different resonates with me now that I’m watching it while I’m older.

Exactly! And even with the series, as it goes on and you’re seeing each character’s journey and unpacking why they are the way they are when we first meet them, you start to realize you actually love these characters, and you really resonate with them. But when you first start, maybe you can’t stand them or maybe my character didn’t get along with their character. When you go back and watch, though, there’s more understanding. And it’s really exciting to be part of something like that. 


That’s amazing! One of the things I was most interested in when looking at these projects back-to-back is that they’re both obviously based on books, so you have these very built-in fan bases with both Persuasion and Vampire Academy. Does that add pressure on you, as an actor, to meet the expectations of what the existing fans want to see with your characters?

I think it adds a pressure of responsibility to obviously do these characters justice. We want to, in a way, take all the things people love about these characters and make them even better. It’s the characters they know and love, but with even more added on. So, yes, it does add pressure. I mean, I’ve been so lucky with both of these projects, because they have the most incredible teams surrounding them—the writing and everything are so amazing. It’s hard not to fall in love with these characters! Hopefully, especially with Vampire Academy, hopefully the fans do love the characters as much as they love them in the books. But my character [in the show] is actually a combination of two characters from the book. They streamlined two characters to merge them into one, so it’ll be interesting to see if people enjoy that.


That’s actually really funny because in The Vampire Diaries, one of the main characters, Caroline, is actually a combination of two characters. And Julie Plec has obviously worked on both! 

Yeah! And I think with some adaptations, if you are really invested in the books, it does take a minute to kind of go, “That’s not how I envisioned that character, but the base of it is all the same.”  The reason this character is the way they are is the same as what you’ve been given in the book. So, if you stick with it and you go, “Oh yeah, all the things I love about that character are still there. Even if that’s not exactly how I envisioned them to carry it out,” then after a minute, you’re right there with it.


You get ingrained in it with the person. 

Exactly! Exactly.


You combine the qualities you like about both characters in the book. With Persuasion, it’s a whole other animal though, because it’s a classic novel by Jane Austen. 

I think that with Persuasion, because there have obviously been adaptations of the novel before that are very different from the adaptation we’ve done, I think a lot of people were expecting it to be another version of what they’ve already seen. But we wanted to make something that was more playful and inclusive, and I think we did that. It was so fun. I love the film. I really think it’s a beautiful, fun family film.


That was one of the things I particularly loved about the movie—because I do love all of those Jane Austen adaptations everyone loved, like 2005’s Pride and Prejudice—but I enjoyed Persuasion because it’s for people who enjoy Jane Austen, but perhaps don’t fully understand the language or relate to some of the details in the novel. Persuasion [your film] feels like the perfect modernized version of the book because although the book is beautifully written, this screen adaptation can really appeal to anyone who loves that era.

Exactly. For someone like me, obviously, I have an understanding of how beautiful all the books are, but it’s quite intimidating. You see Jane Austen and you think, “Oh that’s literature!And I’ve always viewed it as something that I haven’t specifically studied. So, I think sometimes, “Will I understand it? Will I be able to relate to it in any way?” Creating these modern adaptations, it takes away that initial fear almost. It opens you up into that world in a way where you feel on board with it and see what they’re doing more clearly. Then, it’s almost a gateway into the rest of Austen. I think it’s amazing. Because her books were already way ahead of their time, so it’s great to be able to really dive into them after having that initial understanding of what they’re about through Persuasion.


Absolutely. I understand people having certain expectations of it being a strict period drama and not necessarily knowing in advance that it was going to be more of a modern retelling. But I feel like it opens up Jane Austen to a whole new generation of people who will be able to watch Persuasion and say, “They speak the way I speak, but the setting is beautiful, the scenery is beautiful, the costumes are beautiful.” In my opinion, it’s the perfect comfort movie. 

And it’s so nice as well because it’s really something you can sit and watch with family or friends and there’s something for everyone. Some people like comedy, some people like romance, and it gives you all those little different bits. So it’s really, as you said, a great comfort movie.


It really is the perfect blend of everything, of humor and romance. You almost feel like you’re conspiring with Dakota the whole time because it genuinely feels like she’s talking to you and only you. 

You find yourself leaning in! I found myself when I was watching it and she does those faces to the camera, I’d be doing the face back.


Yes! What was that like when you’re filming those scenes with her and she’s kind of looking off and talking to the camera? That must have been interesting to try and prevent yourself from automatically responding how you, Mia, would respond to her doing that in the moment. 

It took some getting used to when we were filming! They filmed a few different versions of it because they didn’t know how it was going to work and how it was going to play out with the rest of the film. With the looks to camera, they filmed a few different ways that Dakota would look or say things, and we did notice at times because we’d be like, “What’s she doing?” [Both laugh.] It took some getting used to in order to not be like, “Uhhh, are you okay?”


And you’re responding and reacting in real-time! 

I think it was a little bit easier for me, though, because with Mary, she goes off into her own world. There was a scene where Dakota is speaking Italian to Mary, and when we first did it, I was like, “How do I do this without clocking that she’s speaking another language?” It was so hard! But Mary’s so wrapped up in her own thoughts and in her own mind, that she’s already decided what someone else is going to say in response to her, so she doesn’t really need to hear it. So, realizing that allowed me to go off on that tangent.


I can’t even imagine just being like, “I already know what to expect in this conversation so it’s fine.” I have to figure out how to be more like Mary!

Everyone needs to be a little bit more Mary!


I had read an interview you did with Grazia where you were talking about how you felt like you learned a lot by watching Dakota on set. Was there a specific lesson you learned from watching her? Or something that was most important to you that you took away from those observations? 

I think watching her be able to not take herself too seriously. She had so much dialogue and was playing this iconic role, but she was still able to have a laugh and joke around with us and we’d work on everything collaboratively, as a team. So, it was nice to see her involve everyone in her work as well, as opposed to just going, “This is my character and this is what I’m doing.” I don’t really know how to explain it, but it was really refreshing.


It’s nice to hear that she has an awareness of everyone and everything going on. I’m sure it can be easy for all of you to get wrapped up in your own characters and your acting, and then have to pull yourself out of that for a second to just be yourself between takes. 

That’s exactly it.  She could switch into Dakota so quickly, and we’d have a great laugh. So, that was really nice!


I’m glad you felt like it was a positive experience for everyone. And it seems like it was the same way on the set of Vampire Academy as well, where you had another really gratifying experience where you got along well with everyone. 

With Vampire Academy, the core cast was so much bigger than Persuasion. And we lived in this little old town in Spain for almost eight months. So, it was one of those moments of just being grateful that we all got on because otherwise, it would have been chaos. [Both laugh]. It was great. Everyone had the best time, and hopefully, we’ll be able to go back and get to do it all again and make something even bigger and better. We’d go out places and we’d all be screaming at each other across the street or whatever, and all the townspeople would be like, “Vampiro! Vampiro!” because they knew we were shooting locally. [Both laugh]. So, they’d call us vampires! 


And you’re all like, “Well, yes, technically we are!”

They’re like, “What’s with the vampires in this town?”


Both of these projects—Persuasion and Vampire Academy—are completely different genres. I was intrigued by your preparation process in relation to them. Does your process vary depending on the genre you’re working in? Because you’ve done quite a bit of fantasy work in the past.

It definitely does vary, because different genres require different things from you. For Persuasion, part of the prep was learning about that era, and how there were different ways to stand, different ways to hold your cup and your cutlery, things like that. That was a whole different ball game! And of course, when you stand a certain way, you have to slightly change your breathing pattern. So, all that preparation is very different. And then it’s also different when you’re prepping for film versus when you’re doing television prep. Everyone’s process is different, but for me, I found that with a film, you’re going into it knowing where you start and where you end. Through that, I create this timeline and understand exactly where we start to exactly where we finish. But with a TV show, especially something like Vampire Academy where there are twists and turns all the way through, you do have to do it almost episode-by-episode. Otherwise, you have to remember what you did and said in the last episode. So, it’s more of a broken-up process, for me personally.


Interesting! And do you feel like regardless of the world you’re in, you maintain that same process depending solely on if it’s a film versus if it’s a show? 

I think so. One of the most important things—it sounds so obvious—is knowing where you’ve been and where you’re going for each scene you’re doing. You don’t want to turn up for a scene laughing and joking when in the last scene you’ve actually just been told some really awful news. Especially since, with films, things are shot out of sequence, which can get a bit confusing. For me, the most important thing to do as soon as I get a script, whether it’s an episode of television or a film, is to break down that timeline to know exactly where I’ve been to get me to the scene we’re doing that day.


I feel like that makes so much sense! Is that helpful when you know you’re doing multiple takes and you have to drop back into specific emotions? 

Yeah, definitely. Because you might be doing a scene where there is humor in it, but your last scene was a heavy one. You need to know at the back of your mind where you would’ve just been emotionally, I think. Otherwise, you’re watching it and you’re like, “Wait a minute, just a second she was told that this had happened, and now she’s chuffed!” 


You’ve had such an interesting career and you’ve done so many projects over the years, but what do you think has been the most rewarding professional experience you’ve had thus far? 

That’s a really good question! Each job I do, I learn something new. You always take away something new, which is amazing. But I did a film last year that hasn’t come out yet called Kindling, and the story is really close to my heart. We shot it in 25 days, and I’ve watched it in screenings about three times now, and every time I watch it…I don’t know if I’m biased, but it just blows me away. I think the move is absolutely beautiful. So, it’s probably the most rewarding thing I’ve been a part of. Everything comes with its own lessons and rewards in itself, but I’m really excited for people to see Kindling. I hope they love it as much as we do.



I was reading a synopsis of Kindling and it seems very emotional. But it also seems like something that people really need as well. There’s a representation there of something that many people have felt and experienced, and seeing that reflected on screen is going to make a huge difference. 

The film is about teenage cancer and dealing with grief, and Teenage Cancer Trust, which is a charity in the U.K., I don’t know if you have it in the States, but they did a screening because they watched it and said, “We haven’t seen something depicted to where it shows what people really go through with teenage cancer.” So, they did a screening of it and said it really helped a lot of people, and it’s so important to show this movie and share this story. I think that, in and of itself, is incredible. I hope people watch it and can really take something from it.


What an incredible compliment. That must be powerful to hear that and to know you did justice to something that important.

If it can help one person then it’s done its job.


Absolutely. And it seems like you guys are on the right track for that, especially if you’re all passionate about it and everyone involved in the film feels the same way about getting it out into the world. 

Everyone who was part of the cast and crew cared about the project so much and really loved it and was passionate about it. And I think that really comes through as well. For the writer and director, Connor O’Hara, it’s a personal story for him as well. It was really important when we were playing these roles, to really go all-in because they were real people. It was a really, really special project and I’m so excited for people to see it. We’ve been trusted with these stories and it makes them even more meaningful.


I’m really looking forward to seeing it and experiencing that. 

It’s very emotional. I do feel the need to warn you!


I cry constantly, so I’m ready for it. 

So, after the past couple of screenings, we’ve had question and answer panels, and I have been crying so much that I actually haven’t been able to speak.


Oh, my goddess! I would be right there with you though. Any heightened sense of emotion, I  just cry. Especially if I’m overwhelmed.

Yes! It’s overwhelming! It’s not a sad cry, it’s overwhelmingly beautiful. Again, my opinion might be biased, but I don’t think so. It’s not even that feeling of being upset. It’s just like every emotion you’ve ever felt is coming out of you at once.


It’s a release. Whenever I’m overwhelmed or stressed or anxious, I always cry. Even if it’s just for five minutes and then you feel better. 

I will specifically find a sad song and be like, “I just need to let all this out.”


Yes! I always want to listen to the song that totally guts me. I actually didn’t plan on our conversation conveniently leading this way, [both laugh], but I wanted to know: If you could choose one song to best represent your character in Persuasion and then one song to best represent your character in Vampire Academy, which would you choose and why?

Oh my God! That’s such a hard question! What do I even like? [Both laugh]. Okay, for Mary, all I’m hearing is Good 4 U by Olivia Rodrigo. I don’t really know why! I don’t even know the lyrics of that song very well and I don’t know why I’m getting that. But I’m just seeing, Mary, Good 4 U.


Mary’s speaking through you! 

That’s what it is! I guess that’s what she wants me to say. And then for Mia in Vampire Academy, a song….oh my God! This is the hardest question I’ve ever been asked in my life. [Both laugh.] 


Maybe I need to retire that question after this interview. I’m just not going to do this to someone else again.

No, it’s great! Maybe start with that question instead to give people more time to think! [Laughs]. For Mia, I’m thinking of Older Than I Am by Lennon Stella.


A fantastic song!

A beautiful song! I’m getting it because Mia is trying to be someone that she’s not for a good chunk of the series. Older Than I Am fits because she doesn’t want to go back to just being who she was, and having the pressures of society on her. I’m just such a huge Lennon Stella fan, I love her.


I’ll put that in the article: Mia McKenna-Bruce: Huge Lennon Stella fan.

Just that and nothing else! Just “Lennon Stella.”  I’ll take it! I’ll take it. [Both laugh].


Vampire Academy is on Peacock this September. Follow Mia Mckenna-Bruce @mia_mbruce


Interview Sam Cohen

Photography David Reiss

Hair: Ben Talbott

Makeup Sarah Hill

Styling Tilly Wheating


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