How Emma Mackey is the new star of the period drama

The new queen of the period drama! How ‘bookish’ headmaster’s daughter Emma Mackey, 26, who worked as a French translator before her Sex Education breakout role, is set for stardom with Emily Brontë biopic

  • Emma Mackey is poised for super stardom with her first leading film role
  • She burst onto screens as wild child Maeve in Netflix hit series Sex Education 
  • Before being cast, the French-born star was working as a translator in London 
  • Now she is tipped for superstardom with roles in Eiffel and star-studded Barbie 

She burst onto screens as wild child Maeve in Sex Education. Now actress Emma Mackey is poised for super stardom with her first leading film role. 

Emma, 26, who was born and raised in France, will star as Emily Brontë in a hotly-anticipated biopic scheduled for release later this year. 

The film is already generating buzz after its first trailer was released this week and is set to mark yet another exciting chapter in Emma’s meteoric rise. 

The headmaster’s daughter, who had a ‘sheltered’ upbringing as a ‘bookish’ Catholic schoolgirl, was working as a translator before landing her breakthrough as bad girl Maeve in Netflix‘s Sex Education. 

The series has led to high-profile parts in Eiffel, a film released today about the man who built the Eiffel Tower, and the upcoming Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.

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Red carpet glamour: She burst onto screens as wild child Maeve in Sex Education. Now actress Emma Mackey, pictured, is poised for super stardom with her first leading film role

Red carpet glamour: She burst onto screens as wild child Maeve in Sex Education. Now actress Emma Mackey, pictured, is poised for super stardom with her first leading film role

Breakout: The headmaster's daughter, who had a 'sheltered' upbringing as a 'bookish' Catholic schoolgirl, was working as a translator before landing her breakthrough as bad girl Maeve in Netflix's Sex Education. Pictured, in the hit series with co-star Asa Butterfield as Otis

Breakout: The headmaster’s daughter, who had a ‘sheltered’ upbringing as a ‘bookish’ Catholic schoolgirl, was working as a translator before landing her breakthrough as bad girl Maeve in Netflix’s Sex Education. Pictured, in the hit series with co-star Asa Butterfield as Otis 

Big screen: Emma, 26, who was born and raised in France, will star as Emily Brontë in a hotly-anticipated biopic scheduled for release later this year

Big screen: Emma, 26, who was born and raised in France, will star as Emily Brontë in a hotly-anticipated biopic scheduled for release later this year

Emma was born in northwest France to a French father, a headmaster, and an English mother, a charity volunteer. 

Her character in Sex Education might run a sex clinic at school, but Emma’s upbringing in Sablé-sur-Sarthe was far more innocent. 

‘It was really … nice. I went to a Catholic school and did loads of sport and I was really happy. I loved studying and was very bookish. It was quite a sheltered existence,’ she told the Evening Standard. 

Emma moved France to the UK aged 17 to study English Literature at Leeds University and took part in amateur theatre productions. 

Sweeping romance: Sex Education led to a high-profile part in Eiffel, a film released today about the man who built the Eiffel Tower (pictured with co-star Romain Duris)

Sweeping romance: Sex Education led to a high-profile part in Eiffel, a film released today about the man who built the Eiffel Tower (pictured with co-star Romain Duris)

Front row fashionista: Emma with Nicole Richie at a Miu Miu event in Paris in June 2019

Front row fashionista: Emma with Nicole Richie at a Miu Miu event in Paris in June 2019

‘I had to toughen up a bit,’ she said. ‘People made me realise I was quite innocent and oblivious to certain things. I wanted to make people like me.’ 

The day before graduating, Emma made the decision to apply for drama schools in London and landed an agent a year later. Six months after that she was cast in Sex Education after five rounds of auditions. 

At the time Emma was working as a translator and living with friends and family to save money. 

‘When I got off the phone I burst into tears and did a clichéd squeal,’ she continued. ‘I called my mum and pretended to be very, very cool. Like, “Yeah, got this role, it’s no big thing”.’

Hollywood blockbuster: Emma also appeared in Death on the Nile, directed by Kenneth Branagh

Hollywood blockbuster: Emma also appeared in Death on the Nile, directed by Kenneth Branagh

Love life: Emma prefers to keep her personal life under wraps but was at one point dating Dan Whitlam, pictured together at Cannes in 2019. It is not known if the couple are still together

Love life: Emma prefers to keep her personal life under wraps but was at one point dating Dan Whitlam, pictured together at Cannes in 2019. It is not known if the couple are still together

Despite winning critical acclaim for her portrayal of Maeve – and becoming a fan favourite thanks in part to her will-they-won’t-they relationship with Otis (Asa Butterfield) – Emma won’t be returning for the fourth series of the Netflix show. 

Her character has taken up an opportunity to study abroad in the US and Emma has spoken of it being the right time to move on to other projects. 

‘Sex Education is so momentous as a concept, as a show, and the cast are phenomenal,’ she said in an interview with Hunger. 

‘I genuinely care about them all a lot and I made lifelong friends. But the bittersweet nature of it is that I also can’t be 17 my whole life.’ 

Emma’s latest film, Eiffel, arrives in UK cinemas today. It tells the story of engineer Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris) and his journey to construct what would become one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks.

Stylish: Emma cuts a cool figure at Wimbledon 2019

Emma is elegant in Cannes that year

Stylish: Emma cuts a cool figure at Wimbledon 2019 (left) and is elegant in Cannes that year

As in real life, the film depicts Eiffel as initially reluctant to build the 324m tower, originally intended as a temporary structure for the entrance to the 1889 Universal Exhibition. Yet, in a decision that baffles historians, he ultimately agreed.

The film’s explanation for this change of heart is a woman named Adrienne Bourgès (Mackey), whom Eiffel had loved as a young man but was refused permission to marry.

The film has received mixed reviews but Mackey’s performance has won praise.

Fans will next be able to watch her in a second period drama when she takes on the role of Emily Brontë. 

Forbidden affair: New biopic Emily features a romance between Brontë and her curate father's assistant. Emma plays the role of the author (pictured)

Forbidden affair: New biopic Emily features a romance between Brontë and her curate father’s assistant. Emma plays the role of the author (pictured)

Star turn: Emily, played by Mackey, next to her father Patrick Bronte, played by Line of Duty's Adrian Dunbar

Star turn: Emily, played by Mackey, next to her father Patrick Bronte, played by Line of Duty’s Adrian Dunbar

Debut director Frances O’Connor, famous for being a leading lady in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and The Importance of Being Earnest opposite Colin Firth, has said the steamy film is bound to wind up historians.

In a revised history of the famously introverted author’s life, ‘Emily’ portrays its central character as caught up in a forbidden affair with an assistant curate – a real and reportedly handsome man.

‘I know there’ll be some people that are p—-d off about it,’ O’Connor told Total Film. ‘People like Brontë historians will probably say, ‘Well, that didn’t happen’.’

Mackey, a Brontë superfan, will star opposite Oliver Jackson-Cohen, scheduled for release in October. 

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