Okonedo at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival
11 August 1968 |
London, United Kingdom
|Years active||1991 – present|
Okonedo began her film career in 1991 in the British coming-of-age drama Young Soul Rebels before appearing in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995) and Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things (2002). She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Tatiana Rusesabagina in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda. She received a Golden Globe nomination for the miniseries Tsunami: The Aftermath (2006) and BAFTA TV Award nominations for the drama series Criminal Justice (2009) and the TV film Mrs. Mandela (2010). Her other film roles include Æon Flux (2005), Skin (2008) and The Secret Life of Bees (2008).
On stage, she starred as Cressida in the 1999 National Theatre production of Troilus and Cressida. She made her Broadway debut in the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun and received a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play and won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her portrayal of Ruth Younger.
Okonedo was born in London, the daughter of Joan (née Allman), a pilates teacher, and Henry Okonedo (1939–2009), who worked for the government. Her father was Nigerian, and her mother, an Ashkenazi Jew, was born in the East End. Okonedo's maternal grandparents, who spoke Yiddish, were from families that emigrated from Poland and Russia. Okonedo was brought up in her mother's Jewish faith. When she was five years old, her father left the family, and she was brought up in relative poverty by her single mother ("but we always had books", she has said).
Okonedo trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She has worked in a variety of media including film, television, theatre and audio drama. She performed in Scream of the Shalka, a webcast based on the BBC television series Doctor Who as Alison Cheney, a companion of the Doctor. As well as providing the character's voice, Okonedo's likeness was used for the animation of the character. In 2010, Okonedo portrayed Liz Ten (Queen Elizabeth X) in the BBC TV Series Doctor Who episodes "The Beast Below" and again briefly in "The Pandorica Opens".
Okonedo played the role of Jenny in Danny Brocklehurst's BAFTA nominated episode of Paul Abbott's series Clocking Off. She also played the part of Tulip Jones in the film Stormbreaker (2006) and Nancy in the 2007 television adaptation of Oliver Twist. She is also known for playing the part of the Wachati Princess in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.
She was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Supporting Actress in 2004 for her role as Tatiana Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda and nominated for a Golden Globe for a Lead Actress in a Miniseries for her work in Tsunami: The Aftermath.
She played alongside Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Dakota Fanning as May Boatwright, a woman who struggles with depression, in the film The Secret Life of Bees (2008); opposite Sam Neill and Alice Krige as Sandra Laing in Skin (2009), and portrayed Winnie Mandela in the BBC drama Mrs Mandela broadcast in January 2010.
She appears on Broadway in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun as Ruth Younger. The play opened in April 2014. She won the Tony Award, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for this role, beating out co-star and fellow nominee Anika Noni Rose.
Okonedo has one child named Aoife, from a previous relationship. They live in Muswell Hill, London. On her heritage, Sophie says, "I feel as proud to be Jewish as I feel to be black" and calls her daughter an "Irish, Nigerian Jew".
Awards and nominations
- Academy Awards
- 2004, Best Supporting Actress (Hotel Rwanda) [nominated]
- BAFTA TV Awards
- 2010, Best Leading Actress (Mrs Mandela) [nominated]
- 2010, Best Supporting Actress (Criminal Justice) [nominated]
- Black Reel Awards
- 2005, Best Actress-Drama (Hotel Rwanda) [winner]
- 2008, Best Ensemble (The Secret Life of Bees) [nominated]
- 2008, Best Supporting Actress (The Secret Life of Bees) [nominated]
- 2010, Best Actress (Skin) [nominated]
- British Independent Film Awards
- 2003, Best Supporting Actress (Dirty Pretty Things) [nominated]
- 2009, Best Actress (Skin) [nominated]
- Golden Globes
- 2007, Best Actress in a Mini-Series/Television Movie (Tsunami: The Aftermath) [nominated]
- Hollywood Film Festival
- 2008, Ensemble Acting of the Year (The Secret Life of Bees) [winner]
- Image Awards
- 2005, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Hotel Rwanda) [nominated]
- 2007, Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie/Mini-Series (Tsunami: the Aftermath) [winner]
- 2009, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (The Secret Life of Bees) [nominated]
- 2010, Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture (Skin) [nominated]
- Screen Actors Guild Awards
- 2005, Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role (Hotel Rwanda) [nominated]
- 2005, Outstanding Ensemble in a Motion Picture (Hotel Rwanda) [nominated]
- Tony Award
- 2014, Best Featured Actress in a Play (A Raisin in the Sun) [winner]
- "FreeBMD Entry Info". www2.freebmd.org.uk. 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
- BFI profile
- Daily Mail report on Okonedo
- Franks, Alan (8 December 2007). "Sophie Okonedo does the twist". The Times (UK). Retrieved 8 December 2007.
- 'Sophie Okonedo: "Fame, here I come"'
- Hoggard, Liz (20 February 2005). "'I guess I'm up for grabs now'". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 16 July 2009.
- Interfaith Celebrities The Jewish Mermaid – InterfaithFamily.com
- RADA website
- Ben Dowell (11 March 2009). "BBC commissions Winnie Mandela drama". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 March 2009.
- Staff. "Just the Winners, Please: Who Won the 68th Annual Tony Awards" playbill.com, 8 June 2014
- Gioia, Michael."The "American Dream": Tony-Winning Revival of 'A Raisin in the Sun' Recoups" playbill.com, 10 June 2014
- The London Gazette: . 12 June 2010.
- "New Jews" channel4.com
- Sophie Okonedo at the Internet Movie Database
- Sophie Okonedo at the British Film Institute's Screenonline