Okonedo at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival
London, England, UK
|Years active||1991 – present|
Sophie Okonedo, OBE (born 1968) is a British actress, who has starred in UK and US productions. In 1991, she made her acting debut in the British coming-of-age drama, Young Soul Rebels. She has received an Academy Award nomination for her critically acclaimed role in Hotel Rwanda, a Golden Globe nomination for Tsunami: The Aftermath, and BAFTA nominations for Criminal Justice and Mrs. Mandela. Her other film roles included Aeon Flux, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Dirty Pretty Things, Skin and The Secret Life of Bees.
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, to Yiddish-speaking immigrants 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.
Okonedo has three children, 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
- 2005, 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]
- 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.
- The London Gazette: . 12 June 2010.
- Sophie Okonedo at the Internet Movie Database
- Sophie Okonedo at the British Film Institute's Screenonline