Naomi Ackie, who plays Whitney Houston in a new feature film about the late singer’s life, and Emma Mackey, star of Emily and Netflix’s hit show Sex Education, have been announced as nominees for this year’s Bafta rising star award.
The actors have been shortlisted alongside Sheila Atim, Aimee Lou Wood, and Daryl McCormack for the only Bafta voted for by the British public. All five are from the UK and Ireland, while three are actors of colour.
Ackie has received critical acclaim for her role as global superstar Houston in Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody. The 31-year-old has previously won a Bafta TV award for her role as Bonnie on the dark comedy-drama series The End of the F***ing World, and is recognisable for further roles as Jannah in the film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and in the third series of Master of None.
The Londoner’s upcoming projects include a leading role in Zoë Kravitz’s directorial debut Pussy Island and a role in Parasite director Bong Joon-Ho’s new film Mickey 17. In recent years she has been selected by the Hollywood Reporter for its Next Generation feature, People Magazine for its Ones to Watch and Elle magazine for its Hollywood Rising section.
Ackie said to “be recognised for my work in the country that I’ve grown up in” was a “nod of encouragement to continue to create stories that speak to people. What a beautiful experience to be a part of.”
Mackey played writer Emily Brontë in Emily, which premiered at Toronto International film festival and was released in cinemas in the UK late last year, before hitting US screens this spring. The 27-year-old French-British actor has previously been nominated for a Bafta TV award for her role as Maeve Wiley in Sex Education.
She also starred in the César-nominated Eiffel and in Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile. “Being able to tell stories and make films is such a blessing,” she said. “To be nominated alongside these wonderful actors and for us all to be noticed by such a respected and inspiring institution is very humbling indeed.”
Mackey’s Sex Education co-star Aimee Lou Wood has won a Bafta TV award for her role as Aimee Gibbs in three series of the show. Most recently, the 28-year-old appeared in Oliver Hermanus’s latest feature Living, which premiered at Sundance film festival and is currently in cinemas. She said being nominated was a “pinch-me moment”.
Atim recently starred in the historical epic feature film The Woman King alongside Oscar-winner Viola Davis. Last year, she made her debut in the Marvel cinematic universe, appearing as Sara in Doctor Strange & The Multiverse of Madness.
The 32-year-old has made a name for herself on the London theatre scene as an actor, singer, playwright and composer – winning an Olivier award in 2018 for her breakout performance in Girl from the North Country and another in 2022 for a revival of Constellations. She was also awarded an MBE for services to drama in 2019.
Daryl McCormack, 29, is well known for his lead role in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, which was released in UK cinemas last year to critical acclaim. He has also appeared in Sharon Horgan’s TV series Bad Sisters, and his upcoming projects include the thriller feature The Tutor and TV series The Woman in the Wall.
The nominees were announced during a press conference at the Savoy Hotel in London by film broadcaster Edith Bowman. New Bafta CEO Jane Millichip gave a short introduction at the event, which was also attended by Bafta chair Krishnendu Majumdar.
This year’s selecting jury was chaired by Bafta film committee chair Anna Higgs and featured actors Hayley Atwell, Joe Cole and Jason Flemyng, as well as a host of celebrated casting directors, producers and industry experts.
The winner will be announced on 19 February at the EE Baftas ceremony.