Remember EastEnders’ Penny Branning? Here’s what child star Mia McKenna-Bruce is up to now
HAVE you ever wondered what EastEnders' Penny Branning is up to now?
Actress Mia McKenna-Bruce, 24, played the youngster on the BBC soap in 2008 when she was just 11-years-old.
Thirteen years ago Mia shot to fame on Small Dark Places, followed by a part in BBC medical Drama Holby City.
The same year she landed the role of Jack and Selina Branning's daughter Penny in EastEnders.
At the time of when her character was introduced into the square, Jack was in a relationship with Ronnie Mitchell (Samantha Womack).
When she first met his daughter she was shocked that he hadn't mentioned to her that she is paralysed from the waist down because of his of dodgy dealings while in the police force.
After failing to tip off a baron, the drug dealer got his own back by hurting his loved-ones.
Penny and Selina's trip to Walford didn't last long as Selina decided that they were going to move to France.
The former copper did move to Europe to try and be with his daughter, but he later returned to the Square.
The youngster, who is now 23, is still mentioned in the soap every now and again.
Last year Jack's brother Max brought her up in an argument, and she also called Jack to say that she couldn't go his wedding in 2016.
Since Mia's stint on EastEnders, she's managed to rack up a huge list of TV shows that she's been a part of.
In 2009 she played Keira Curtis in one episode of The Bill, which was followed by playing Pearl Snow in three episodes of BBC medical drama Doctors.
A year later she bagged herself a role in Tracy Beaker Returns as Tee Taylor for all three series.
She continued her role for the spin-off The Dumping Ground from 2013 to 2018.
During her time on the much-loved CBBC show, she returned to Holby City as a character called Asia Lucas, and played the role of a babysitter in BBC Three's Josh.
Most recently she starred in BBC's Get Even as the main role Bree Deringer, which is based on Gretchen McNeil's novel Don't Get Mad.
This year she starred in ITV's Vera as Maya Draper and Zoe in a short film called Smudged Smile.
The star is also due to star in American drama Persuasian, which will air on Netflix.
When she's not busy on set of her latest TV stint, Mia regularly up dates fans with what she gets up to on Instagram.
She boasts an impressive 207k followers on Instagram and loves to share loved-up snaps with her boyfriend Tom.
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'Get Even' star Mia McKenna-Bruce showing up bullies on and off the screen
Mia McKenna-Brucetalks to us about launching her career as a child actor, growing up in the industry playing Tee Taylor in the Tracy Beaker series, advice for young actors and their parents, plus recent experiences starring in Get Even and The Witcher.
Hello Mia, thank you for talking to us. After starting your career at a young age, it very much took off playing Tee Taylor in the Tracy Beaker children's TV series. What was your experience making the shows?
Playing Tee were some of the best years of my life. We filmed in Newcastle so all stayed in a big house together while we were filming for six months of the year each year. I started at 11 and left when I was 18 so I literally grew up playing her.
She was very similar to me, so everything Tee was learning/going through, it felt as though I was too. We were one big family there. Don't get me wrong, we had our moments and we were certainly expected to act like adults as we were doing a job, but above everything else we had so much fun and I made friends for life.
Being in Tracy Beaker Returns taught me everything I needed to know about being on a set. It was a safe environment to ask questions and make mistakes, and then pass that onto any of the new, younger characters that would join. I missed out on a lot of schooling and never went to drama school so being on that set was my school for everything in life.
How have you found growing up in the industry? I feel insanely lucky to have grown up in the industry, I learnt so much so early on from technical things about being on a set to everyday life skills because being in work from so young meant I had to grow up very quickly.
I have lived away from home since the age of around ten (we had chaperones to take care of us until the age of 16), so one of the biggest things I've learnt is independence which has really helped when we are in an industry that is so unpredictable! I have also been able to meet so many incredible people as I've grown up and continue to do so, so am always learning and I love it!
It definitely had its downsides too, school was hard - I was away from school around 6 months of the year every year so I never really settled, I also moved schools half way through secondary school and before I had even joined the new school there were some not very nice rumours already going around about what I was like.
Maintaining friendships has also been difficult - its hard to be reliable when you work in this industry because you never know where you're going to be and I think that's hard for a lot of people to understand. But when you surround yourself with supportive people these things really start to pay off and you realise the world is so much bigger than your school!
What advice would you give to young actors - or indeed their parents - who are thinking of starting an acting career?
I know this is kind of cringe but my advice to anyone, always, is to just never give up on whatever it is you love.
With acting there is so much rejection. It's painful, never gets easier and every rejection hurts just as much as the last, but every 'no' is one step closer to that 'yes'. You never know what is around the corner so just keep pushing.
It's okay to be upset when you don't get that job you wanted but don't dwell on it. It wasn't meant to be so brush yourself off and come back stronger. With every 'yes' you do get you always think ‘Oh, okay so that's why I didn't get the last one’. It’ll all make sense at some point - there's always a reason.
For parents, firstly I'd say never push your child into this. A lot of it is really tough to handle and the love for acting pushes you through all the really hard parts, but if their heart is not fully in it, it can be really damaging.
If they are serious, and looking for that initial start, then Instagram and Twitter are a fantastic way of finding out about any open castings. If you follow some casting directors on these platforms you'll find they often post casting calls.
Then there’s getting an agent. There's so many fab ones out there but never pay for an agent or for an audition - these are fake! Agents just take commission on the work that you do, not any up front costs.
How are things different for you now compared to when you first started?
Things are very different from when I first started out. The biggest difference is being a child actor and being an adult actor, for me, are two totally different things. I was so young when I started out, and it all just kind of happened that there was no pressure to get this job or that job, I did the best I could and had fun and that's all there was to it really.
Then as I reached my teens the pressure really started to build and I became super self conscious of what people thought of me. I felt everyone had a certain expectation of me to be something spectacular because I had worked for a long time - but I just felt I had been lucky, I didn't have anything special to offer! From this I really struggled when it came to auditions and, as a lot of people do, suffered from anxiety which lead to panic attacks. I was so petrified of what anyone thought of me and I couldn't see how I could carry on acting now that I wasn't a child.
So, I took a break for a while, I travelled and then started attending a drama course once a week which made me fall in love with acting all over again. Doing a bit of training, I realised that acting as an adult is completely different to acting as a child. I wasn't just there to say my lines, I was there to actually be a character.
This is what has helped me to be less self conscious, or at least be able to put it to the side. I realised people aren't watching Mia. If I do my job well enough they're watching whatever character I’m playing. I’m still constantly learning and I hope I always will be. I feel so lucky to get to do something I love so much and call it my job.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as an actor so far?
I really enjoy playing a lot of different roles, it's fun to be 14 year old in a world of magic one day, then a week later be a 17 year old rebel school girl. So I am really grateful for all the roles I'm getting to play at the moment!
As for the biggest lessons I've learnt...
First of all, and it seems obvious but you'd be surprised, genuinely know and understand what your character is saying. If you don't understand what it is you're saying, how will the audience?
Another hugely important thing I've learned is how much goes into the creation of every project. The whole team work so hard so make sure you do too. It's more than just saying something and hoping it sounds good, there's a whole lot of work that you can put in to everything you do, so do it, because there's also a whole lot of people who would kill to be in your place.
Finally, breathe. May sound silly, but I have a habit of being really nervous and speaking really, really fast. Nerves are the same as excitement just with a lack of breath, so remember to breathe your way through it as it can really help.
You recently starred in The Witcher alongside Henry Cavill as the titular monster hunter. What was the process for getting involved with the project and what was your experience filming?
For The Witcher, I actually recorded a self tape while I was travelling Canada in a campervan. I really didn't think the tape was great and thought there was no hope of me getting it. That's the funny thing, its usually the auditions you think you've done worst in that you end up booking!
It was an incredible experience. I was super nervous but it was such a welcoming set. Getting to work with Henry was amazing, he's obviously a phenomenal actor, but I was literally blown away by him on set. He was Geralt through and through which is the kind of actor I aspire to be. He’s also incredibly lovely and down to earth.
I found Marilka such a fun character to play. She was like this bubble of fearlessness, weirdness, kind of annoying but super lovable, fun and inspiring all at the same time. The sets and everything were so incredible that it was easy to immerse yourself completely in that world. I honestly loved every minute of that project, I only wish I was there longer!
You can currently be seen as Bree in Get Even on BBC iPlayer, what do you enjoy most about the character and working on the show?
I love Bree so much. She's constantly putting on this facade that she doesn't care about anything - but it's the complete opposite. On the surface she's this witty, sarcastic girl that doesn't need anyone but actually her biggest fear is not being loved. I love playing someone that has so many layers and finding out the reasons behind all those layers.
The show itself is based on four girls coming together to fight injustice (with a few murders thrown in). We hoped that everyone could find a little bit of themselves in the four girls. It means a lot to me to be a part of something that is hopefully relatable to a lot of different people.
On the subject of giving bullies a taste of their own medicine, have you ever had to deal with them yourself?
As I mentioned earlier, school wasn't very easy. Being away for half the year made it difficult to just try to slot in. And everyone assumed that because I ‘had been on the telly’ (cringing while I write that) that I was horrible/a diva/loved myself.
At school there were times that people would ping elastic bands and shout stuff at me while I walked down the corridors. At one point my whole class got under the tables as I walked into a classroom and would start shushing. There were a lot of rumours that went round the school about me and I also had a lot of ‘trolling’ on social media - most of the time about my weight which I found really hard to deal with. There were a number of accounts on Instagram that were created literally to just write horrible stuff in my comments. They even started doing the same to my family and friends too which is what I hated the most.
I've always known that choosing to do this as a career would mean a lot of people didn't like it - that's fine, that's my choice - but abusing my friends and family was when I found it tough. In general people assume that they know you and your background or think you must be a terrible person to be an actor which is kind of just bizarre really, you're just a person.
Do you have any advice for actors who might be going through a similar situation at school?
My advice would be, there's a whole entire world beyond school.
While you're there it feels like its everything but I left school 6 years ago now and do not think twice about it - honestly. This is easier said than done while you're still there though, so I’d also say look for the good people. I promise they are there. Surround yourself with supportive friends and they are the ones that matter.
Also talk to the friends that do support you, don't hold all the negativity in. When you speak it out loud you realise how silly the bullies are, they're the ones who have nothing better to do than try to bring someone else down, so speak it out and crack on doing what you love because that will be worth more to you than a group of people who you won’t know in a few years time.
I also liked to make a little mental list and say ‘okay, another person I get to prove wrong one day’. Having some not so nice people in your life is actually a blessing in disguise because it really makes you appreciate the good ones.
With all that said, what’s next for you and what are the kind of projects you’d like to be involved with?
This is a bit difficult to answer at the moment with all that's going on, but I am currently working with Fully Focused on creating a mini web series whilst in lockdown which is really exciting.
Beyond that I’m not too sure right now as I don't know when the industry will be up and running again - fingers crossed in time for filming season 2 of Get Even.
I’d love to do something involving stunts, etc. I’ve done a few bits that involve a small amount but watching the stunt team and Henry on The Witcher really made me want to stunt/action work!
All in all I just want to continue learning and hopefully keep on doing what I love most! Thanks Mia, we wish you all the best with it and look forward to seeing what you do next.
Keep up to date with Mia's next film projects by following her on [email protected]
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Mia Sasha McKenna-Bruce
Place of Birth
Sidcup, Bexley, Greater London
Mia Sasha was raised in Sidcup in the London Borough of Bexley and lived there with her mother, Angela McKenna Bruce, father and two younger sisters, Ellis and Anya, who is also an actress.
Mia attended Sapphire Dance Academy in Bexleyheath, and attended Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School until she moved away to the historic market town of West Malling in Kent in 2010. Once she had moved, she then attended Maidstone Grammar School for Girls for the remainder of her educational life.
Mia's first role was a ballet girl in the West End production of Billy Elliot. Her first TV role was the minor role of Ester in the TV short, Small Dark Places. She then starred in Holby City as Abi Taylor for one episode. Mia then appeared in BBC's soap opera drama, EastEnders as Penny Branning, Jack Branning's wheelchair-bounded daughter. She had a two episode guest appearance in January 2008, and then another three episode guest appearance stint in April 2008. Mia next starred in The Bill in 2009 as Keira Curtis for one episode. She then moved on to Doctors for three episodes.
Later in 2009, McKenna-Bruce starred in her first film role, The Fourth Kind, playing Ashley Tyler. Her next role was as main character Tee Taylor in Tracy Beaker Returns for three years from 2010 to 2012. She auditioned for the role in 2009 at 11 years old. In 2011, Mia appeared in the TV series Spy for 1 episode and in 5 episodes of The Tracy Beaker Survival Files. Mia reprised the role of Tee Taylor in The Dumping Ground for 4 series from 2013-16. She made two guest appearances in the fifth series' two-part finale in 2017. Mia, again, reprised her role as Tee Taylor in The Dumping Ground Survival Files in 2014, and The Dumping Ground: I'm... (a webisode series) in 2016.
In 2016, Mia was then cast in the upcoming show The Marshlands. Mia guest starred in another episode of Holby City as Asia Lucas, as well as guest starring in BBC Three's Josh. Mia was then cast as the lead in a feature film, The Rebels.
Mia is currently dating Tom Leach, a fellow young actor. Mia previously dated actor Ceallach Spellman for a number of years, though the two remain close friends.
To view the Mia McKenna-Bruce gallery, click here.
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Mia McKenna-Bruce at the Internet Movie Database
Mia Sasha McKenna-Bruce
(1997-07-03) 3 July 1997 (age 24)
Mia Sasha McKenna-Bruce (born 3 July 1997) is an English actress, known for her portraying the role of Tee Taylor in both Tracy Beaker Returns and The Dumping Ground. In 2020, she was cast in the role of Bree Deringer in the iPlayer series Get Even and is set to star in the upcoming Netflix film Persuasion.
McKenna-Bruce was born on 3 July 1997 in London and was raised in Chislehurst, Bromley. McKenna-Bruce took dance classes at Liz Burville Performing Arts Centre in Bexley and was a student at Belcanto London Academy. McKenna-Bruce also attended the Sapphire Dance Academy in Bexleyheath, as well as the Maidstone Grammar School for Girls. McKenna-Bruce has two sisters, Anya and Ellis.
McKenna-Bruce's first role was a ballet girl in the West End production of Billy Elliot. Her first TV role was the minor role of Ester in the TV short, Small Dark Places. She then starred in Holby City as Abi Taylor for one episode. McKenna-Bruce then appeared in EastEnders as Penny Branning. She had a two episode guest in January 2008 and then another three episode guest stint in April 2008. McKenna-Bruce next starred in The Bill in 2009 as Keira Curtis for one episode. She then moved on to Doctors for three episodes.
Later in 2009, McKenna-Bruce starred in her first film role, The Fourth Kind, playing Ashley Tyler. Her next role was as main character Tee Taylor in Tracy Beaker Returns from 2010 to 2012. In 2011, McKenna-Bruce appeared in the TV series Spy for 1 episode and in 5 episodes of The Tracy Beaker Survival Guide. McKenna-Bruce reprised the role of Tee Taylor from 2013 until 2016 (and again as a guest in 2017 and 2018) in the spin-off series The Dumping Ground. McKenna-Bruce played Tee Taylor in a The Dumping Ground spin-off, The Dumping Ground: I'm..., a webisode series. She guest starred in another episode of Holby City as Asia Lucas, as well as guest starring in BBC Three's Josh. McKenna-Bruce was cast as the lead in a feature film, The Rebels. In 2020, she began portraying the role of Bree Deringer on the iPlayer teen thriller series Get Even. In 2021, she appeared in an episode of Vera, later being cast in the upcoming Netflix film Persuasion.
|2011||Tracy Beaker Returns: You Choose||Tee Taylor|
|2013–2014||The Dumping Ground Game||Tee Taylor|
|2015||The Dumping Ground: You're the Boss||Tee Taylor|
- ^ abcFrench, Matthew (29 December 2006). "Vying for the top". News Shopper. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
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- ^French, Matthew (29 December 2006). "Vying for the top". News Shopper. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
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- ^ abMuppala, Vaman (2 November 2009). "Close encounters of The Fourth Kind". The Diamondback. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- ^ abNelson, Rob (4 November 2009). "Review: 'The Fourth Kind'". Variety. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- ^ abMurray, Joel (16 November 2009). "Film review: The Fourth Kind". The Linc. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- ^ abFUCHS, CYNTHIA (6 November 2009). "The Fourth Kind". PopMatters. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- ^ ab"Going Home, Series 3, Credits". BBC. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- ^ ab"Spy Episode 1.5 – Codename: Blood". British Comedy Guide. 11 November 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
- ^ ab"The Dumping Ground: S4-E1 Lost and Found". RadioTimes. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- ^"The Dumping Ground I'm...Tee". Radio Times. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
- ^ ab"Holby City – Growing Pains". BBC. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- ^ ab"Mia McKenna-Bruce on Twitter: @anthonyy7890 im filming an episode for Holby City next week and in the new year working on @TheMarshlandsTV 🤗 Vvvv excited!!". 3 December 2016. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- ^ ab"Josh - Series 3, Bicycles & Babies, Credirs". BBC. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- ^ ab"Tornado Studios on Twitter: Very excited to have Mia McKenna Bruce on board in our upcoming feature film 'The Rebels'. #TheRebels @MiaMBruce". 18 January 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- ^"TV teen drama filmed in town coming to BBC iPlayer this week". The Bolton News. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
- ^ abcdefghRodrigues, Charlotte (9 April 2021). "EastEnders: Penny Branning actress Mia McKenna-Bruce looks unrecognisable 13 years after leaving soap". Entertainment Daily. Digitalbox. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
- ^ abWiseman, Andreas (17 May 2021). "'Persuasion': Cosmo Jarvis To Star Opposite Dakota Johnson In Netflix & MRC Jane Austen Movie; Richard E. Grant, Suki Waterhouse, Nikki Amuka-Bird & More Join". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
- ^"The Dumping Ground Survival Files, S2-E2 Challenges". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- ^"The Dumping Ground: I'm...- Series 1, Tee Credits". BBC. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- ^"Our latest new short 'Watch What I Do' stars up and coming talent Isidora Fairhurst, @MiaMBruce (The Dumping Ground), Rita Bernard (Shiro's Story) and @Dani_MasDyer (winner of ITV's Love Island 2018). With the world premiere just 9 days away, the trailer drops tomorrow on #MYM!!". Twitter. Fully Focused. 15 May 2019. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
- ^"Mia McKenna-Bruce on Instagram: Day 1 of rehearsals taking on the role of ENICA in this amazing feature for the next month IM TOO EXCITED #therebelsfilm". 8 February 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- ^"New BBC Thriller 'Get Even' Looks Seriously Chilling". Tyla. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
- ^"'Get Even' Star Mia McKenna-Bruce Leads Cast of 'Smudged Smile,' First Film in Mental Health Anthology (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. 17 February 2021.
- ^Del Rosario, Alexandra (30 August 2021). "'Vampire Academy': Sisi Stringer, Daniela Nieves & Kieron Moore Among 10 Cast In Peacock YA Drama Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
- ^Stearman, Nicki (28 January 2015). "You're the Boss: new game for CBBC's The Dumping Ground". BBC. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
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