|Born||11 August 1968|
|Alma mater||Royal Academy of Dramatic Art|
|Occupation||Actress and narrator|
Okonedo's breakthrough performance came in 2004, when she co-starred in the film Hotel Rwanda as Tatiana Rusesabagina, the wife of Rwandan hotel manager and humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed by American actor Don Cheadle. For this role, she became the second Black female Briton to receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress at the 77th Academy Awards in 2005. She later received a Golden Globe Award nomination for the miniseries Tsunami: The Aftermath (2006) and BAFTA TV Award nominations for the drama series Criminal Justice (2009) and the television film Mrs. Mandela (2010). Her other film roles include Æon Flux (2005), Skin (2008), The Secret Life of Bees (2008), and Christopher Robin (2018).
On stage, Okonedo starred as Cressida in the 1999 Royal 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 on 11 August 1968 in London, the daughter of Joan (née Allman), a Jewish pilates teacher who was born in the East End of London, and Henry Okonedo (1939–2009), a British Nigerian who worked for the government. Okonedo's maternal grandparents, who spoke Yiddish, were from families that had emigrated from Poland and Russia. Okonedo was raised 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 TV Award nominated episode of Paul Abbott's series Clocking Off. She also played the role of Tulip Jones in the film Stormbreaker (2006) and Nancy in the television adaptation of Oliver Twist (2007). She is also known for playing the role of the Wachati Princess in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995).
She was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Supporting Actress for her role as Tatiana Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda (2004) and nominated for a Golden Globe Award for a Lead Actress in a Miniseries for her work in Tsunami: The Aftermath (2006).
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.
In May 2013, Okonedo played the role of Hunter in a BBC radio production of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, adapted by Dirk Maggs.
She appeared in 2014 on Broadway in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun as Ruth Younger. 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. In 2016, Okonedo returned to Broadway in Ivo van Hove's production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible at the Walter Kerr Theatre as Elizabeth Proctor opposite Bill Camp, Tavi Gevinson, Jason Butler Harner, Ciarán Hinds, Jim Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Thomas Jay Ryan and Ben Whishaw. Also in 2016, Okonedo appeared as Queen Margaret in the second season of the BBC's The Hollow Crown, an adaptation of the Shakespearean plays Henry VI, Part I, II, III and Richard III.
She recently performed in the role of Stevie in the 2017 West End revival of the existentialist play The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, by Edward Albee. Directed by Ian Rickson and also starring Damian Lewis as Martin, the production's first preview was on 24 March 2017, opening night on 5 April 2017, and final performance on 24 June 2017, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
In October 2017, Michael Caton-Jones stated that, in 1998, he had chosen Okonedo to star in B. Monkey. However, the film's producer, Harvey Weinstein, banned this because the actress did not meet his personal sexual preference.
Okonedo was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours, both for services to drama.
Okonedo has one daughter, from a previous relationship with Irish film editor Eoin Martin, and lives in Muswell Hill, London. On her heritage, Okonedo has said, "I feel as proud to be Jewish as I feel to be black" and calls her daughter an "Irish, Nigerian Jew".
Awards and nominations
|Award||Year[A]||Recipient or nominee||Category||Result||Ref.|
|Academy Awards||2005||Hotel Rwanda||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|||
|BAFTA TV Awards||2010||Mrs. Mandela||Best Leading Actress||Nominated|
|Criminal Justice||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Black Reel Awards||2005||Hotel Rwanda||Best Actress-Drama||Won|
|2008||The Secret Life of Bees||Best Ensemble||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|British Independent Film Awards||2003||Dirty Pretty Things||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||2007||Tsunami: The Aftermath||Best Actress in a Mini-Series/Television Movie||Nominated|
|Hollywood Film Festival||2008||The Secret Life of Bees||Ensemble Acting of the Year||Won|
|Primetime Emmy Awards||2020||Ratched (TV series)||Guest Actress in a Drama Series||Nominated|
Film and Television
- Hollywood Film Festival
- 2008, Ensemble Acting of the Year (The Secret Life of Bees ), winner
- NAACP 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
|2014||Tony Award||Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play||A Raisin in the Sun||Won|||
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play||Nominated|||
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play||Nominated|||
|2016||Tony Award||Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play||The Crucible||Nominated|||
|2018||Evening Standard Theatre Award||Best Actress||Antony and Cleopatra||Won|||
|Critics’ Circle Theatre Award||Best Shakespearean Performance||Won|||
|2019||Laurence Olivier Award||Best Actress||Nominated|||
|1993||Age of Treason||Niobe||TV film|
|1995||The Governor||Moira Levitt||6 episodes|
|1996||Staying Alive||Kelly Booth||12 episodes|
|1996||Murder Most Horrid||Rachel||Episode: "Dead on Time"|
|1996||Deep Secrets||Honey||TV film|
|2000||In Defence||Bernie Kramer||4 episodes|
|2000||Never Never||Jo Weller||TV film|
Nominated – Royal Television Society Award for Best Actor – Female
|2001||Sweet Revenge||Ellen||TV film|
|2002||Clocking Off||Jenny Wood||5 episodes|
|2002||Dead Casual||Donna||TV film|
|2003||The Inspector Lynley Mysteries||Eve Bowen||Episode: "In the Presence of the Enemy"|
|2003||Spooks||Amanda Roke||Episode: "Blood & Money"|
|2003||Alibi||Marcey Burgess||TV film|
|2003||Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka||Alison Cheney (voice)||Animated story|
|2004||Whose Baby?||Karen Jenkins||TV film|
|2005||Born with Two Mothers||Lucretia Bridges||TV film|
|2006||Tsunami: The Aftermath||Susie Carter||TV miniseries|
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
|2007||Oliver Twist||Nancy||TV miniseries|
|2007||Racism: A History||Narrator||TV miniseries|
|2009||Father & Son||Connie Turner||TV miniseries|
|2009||Criminal Justice||Jackie 'Jack' Wolf||TV miniseries|
Nominated – British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actress
|2010||Mrs. Mandela||Winnie Mandela||TV film|
Nominated – British Academy Television Award for Best Actress
|2010||Doctor Who||Liz Ten||2 episodes: "The Beast Below" and "The Pandorica Opens"|
|2011||The Slap||Aisha||TV miniseries|
|2012||Sinbad||Razia||Episode: "Queen of the Water-Thieves"|
|2013||The Escape Artist||Margaret 'Maggie' Gardner||TV miniseries|
|2015||The Stranger on the Bridge||Narrator||TV movie|
|2016||Undercover||Maya Cobbina||TV miniseries|
|2016||The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses||Margaret, the Queen Consort of England||TV miniseries|
|2017||Thailand: Earth’s Tropical Paradise||Narrator||TV documentary series|
|2017||Concorde: A Supersonic Story||Narrator||TV documentary|
|2018||Wanderlust||Angela Bowden||4 episodes|
|2019||Chimerica||Tessa Kendrick||4 episodes|
|2020||Criminal: UK||Julia Bryce||Episode: Julia|
Pending – British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actress
|2020||Ratched||Charlotte Wells||3 episodes|
Nominated– Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
|2020||His Dark Materials||Xaphania (voice)||Recurring role|
|2020||Alien Worlds||Narrator||Netflix documentary|
|The Wheel of Time||Siuan Sanche||Upcoming series|
|2021||Modern Love||Liz||Episode: A Second Embrace, With Hearts and Eyes Open|
|2021||Britannia||Hemple||Recurring character, Series 3|
|2014||A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry||Ruth||Ethel Barrymore Theater, (New York City)|
|2011||Haunted Child by Joe Penhall||Julie||Royal Court (London, UK)|
|2016||The Crucible by Arthur Miller||Elizabeth Proctor||Walter Kerr Theater (New York City)|
|2017||The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? by Edward Albee||Stevie Gray||Theatre Royal Haymarket (London, UK)|
|2018||Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare||Cleopatra||Royal National Theatre (London, UK)|
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