Three years ago, Bukky Bakray was just another student trying to get by, before Rocks changed her life forever. Today, the 18-year-old actor is a BAFTA winner – she took home the award for Rising Star and was nominated Best Actress in a Leading Role for her astonishing turn as the titular teen in Sarah Gavron’s coming-of-age film. But, Bakray says, she truly didn’t see any of it coming.

“I strongly believed that I wasn’t gonna get the award,” Bakray, one of the four cover stars of Empire’s British New Wave issue, recalls in the magazine. “Everyone said to write a speech and I refused to do that because I didn’t want to get myself ready only to be disappointed. I was very grateful to be a part of it, and I felt like I had gotten so much from the process already.”

Bukky Bakray

©Empire / Rosaline Shahnavaz

The moment it happened felt like something of a fever dream, the young star says. “When James [McAvoy] said my name, I didn’t hear ‘Bukky’ because I was so ready to hear one of the other nominees named. And when I heard the screaming in my room from my mum, my friends and my team, I was thinking, ‘Wait, what has happened?’ Even though I was in the Corinthia hotel in Central London, I felt like I was back home and Bukky from the streets came out, because I didn’t believe what was happening. I’m still in disbelief and shock right now.”

This month’s issue of Empire is a massive celebration of The British New Wave, showcasing 26 incredible directors, writers and actors driving cinema into a new era. As well as Bukky Bakray, you’ll find covers featuring Kingsley Ben-Adir, Emerald Fennell and Riz Ahmed – and the issue also features major new interviews and exclusive new photo shoots with stars including Henry Golding, Weruche Opia, Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù, Olly Alexander, Jessica Yu Li Henwick Morfydd Clark, and Olivia Cooke, and writers and directors including Kate Herron, Francis Lee, Rob Savage, Remi Weekes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns and Prano Bailey-Bond.

Empire – July 2021 cover – Bukky Bakray

Find a copy on newsstands from Thursday 10 June, or pre-order the Bukky Bakray cover edition online here.

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