Sophie Okonedo

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Sophie Okonedo

Born (1968-08-11) 11 August 1968 (age 54)
London, England
Alma materRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art
Occupation(s)Actress and narrator
Years active1991–present

Sophie Okonedo CBE (born 11 August 1968) is an English actress and narrator. The recipient of a Tony Award, she has been nominated for an Academy Award, three BAFTA Television Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and a Primetime Emmy Award. She began her film career in the British coming-of-age drama Young Soul Rebels (1991) before appearing in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), and Stephen Frears's Dirty Pretty Things (2002).

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.

Early life[edit]

Okonedo was born on 11 August 1968[1][2][3] 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[4] who worked for the government.[5][6][7] 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.[8][9][10][11][12]

Okonedo was raised in the Chalkhill Estate, part of the Wembley Park district in the London Borough of Brent.[4]


Okonedo trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.[13] 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). 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.[14]

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.[15]

In 2014 she appeared on Broadway as Ruth Younger in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun. 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.[16][17] 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.[18] 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 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 May 2013, Okonedo played the role of Hunter in a BBC radio production of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, adapted by Dirk Maggs. She portrayed Siuan Sanche in the 2021 television series The Wheel of Time.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Okonedo has one daughter, from a relationship she had with Irish film editor Eoin Martin,[20] 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".[21]


Okonedo was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours[22] and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours, both for services to drama.[23]



Year Title Role Notes
1991 Young Soul Rebels Tracy
1995 Go Now Paula
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls The Wachati Princess
1997 The Jackal Jamaican Girl
1999 This Year's Love Denise
Mad Cows Rosy
2000 Peaches Pippa
2002 Dirty Pretty Things Juliette
2003 Cross My Heart Marsee
2004 Hotel Rwanda Tatiana Rusesabagina
2005 Æon Flux Sithandra
2006 Stormbreaker Mrs. Jones
Scenes of a Sexual Nature Anna
2007 Martian Child Sophie
2008 The Secret Life of Bees May Boatwright
Skin Sandra Laing
2013 After Earth Faia Raige
2014 War Book Philippa
2018 Christopher Robin Kanga (voice)
Wild Rose Susannah
2019 Hellboy Lady Hatton
2022 Death on the Nile Salome Otterbourne
Catherine Called Birdy Ethelfritha Rose Splinter of Devon
Raymond & Ray Kiera
2023 Heart of Stone Films that have not yet been released Filming
Denotes productions that have not yet been released Denotes productions that have not yet been released


Year Title Role Notes
1993 Age of Treason Niobe Television film
1995 The Governor Moira Levitt 6 episodes
1996 Staying Alive Kelly Booth 12 episodes
1996 Murder Most Horrid Rachel 1 episode
1996 Deep Secrets Honey Television film
2000 In Defence Bernie Kramer 4 episodes
2000 Never Never Jo Weller Television film
2001 Sweet Revenge Ellen Television film
2002 Clocking Off Jenny Wood 5 episodes
2002 Dead Casual Donna Television film
2003 The Inspector Lynley Mysteries Eve Bowen 1 episode
2003 Spooks Amanda Roke 1 episode; uncredited
2003 Alibi Marcey Burgess Television film
2003 Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka Alison Cheney (voice) 6 episodes
2004 Whose Baby? Karen Jenkins Television film
2005 Born with Two Mothers Lucretia Bridges Television film
2006 Celebration Sonia Television film
2006 Tsunami: The Aftermath Susie Carter Miniseries
2007 Oliver Twist Nancy Miniseries
2007 Racism: A History Narrator Miniseries
2009 Father & Son Connie Turner Miniseries, 4 episodes
2009 Criminal Justice Jackie 'Jack' Wolf Miniseries, 5 episodes
2010 Mrs. Mandela Winnie Mandela Television film
2010 Doctor Who Liz Ten 2 episodes: "The Beast Below" and "The Pandorica Opens"
2011 The Slap Aisha Miniseries
2012 Sinbad Razia 1 episode
2013 Mayday Fiona Miniseries
2013 The Escape Artist Margaret 'Maggie' Gardner Miniseries
2015 The Stranger on the Bridge Narrator Television film
2016 Undercover[24] Maya Cobbina Miniseries
2016 The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses Margaret, the Queen Consort of England Miniseries, 3 episodes
2017 Thailand: Earth’s Tropical Paradise Narrator Documentary
2017 Concorde: A Supersonic Story Narrator Documentary
2018 Wanderlust Angela Bowden 4 episodes
2019–2020 Flack Caroline 12 episodes
2019 Chimerica Tessa Kendrick 4 episodes
2020 Criminal: UK Julia Bryce 1 episode
2020 Ratched Charlotte Wells 3 episodes
2020 His Dark Materials Xaphania (voice) 4 episodes
2020 Alien Worlds Narrator Documentary
2021 Modern Love Liz 1 episode
2021 Britannia[25] Hemple 1 episode
2021 The Wheel of Time Siuan Sanche “The Amyrlin Seat” 1 episode
2022 Slow Horses Ingrid Tearney 1 episode
2022 Inside No. 9 Katrina Episode: "Nine Lives Kat"


Year Title Role Venue
2014 A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry Ruth Ethel Barrymore Theater, (New York City)[26]
2011 Haunted Child by Joe Penhall Julie Royal Court (London, UK)[27]
2016 The Crucible by Arthur Miller Elizabeth Proctor Walter Kerr Theater (New York City)[28]
2017 The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? by Edward Albee Stevie Gray Theatre Royal Haymarket (London, UK)[29]
2018 Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare Cleopatra Royal National Theatre (London, UK)
2023 Medea by Euripides Medea @sohoplace (London, UK)[30]
Denotes productions that have not yet been released Denotes productions that have not yet been released

Awards and nominations[edit]

Film and Television[edit]

Award Year[A] Recipient or nominee Category Result Ref.
Academy Awards 2005 Hotel Rwanda Best Supporting Actress Nominated [citation needed]
BAFTA TV Awards 2010 Mrs. Mandela Best Leading Actress Nominated
Criminal Justice Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2021 Criminal: UK Nominated
Black Reel Awards 2005 Hotel Rwanda Best Actress-Drama Won
2008 The Secret Life of Bees Best Ensemble Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2010 Skin Best Actress Nominated
British Independent Film Awards 2003 Dirty Pretty Things Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2009 Skin Best 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
  • 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


Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
2014 Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play A Raisin in the Sun Won [16]
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Nominated [31]
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Nominated [32]
2016 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play The Crucible Nominated [33]
2018 Evening Standard Theatre Award Best Actress Antony and Cleopatra Won [34]
Critics’ Circle Theatre Award Best Shakespearean Performance Won [35]
2019 Laurence Olivier Award Best Actress Nominated [36]


  1. ^ Indicates the year of ceremony. Each year is linked to the article about the awards held that year, wherever possible.


  1. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  2. ^ "David Bowie promises new music 'soon'". 16 July 2014. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Sophie Okonedo". BFI. Archived from the original on 25 March 2008.
  4. ^ a b Soloski, Alexis (10 April 2014). "Sophie Okonedo on Broadway: 'We try out different things every night'". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  5. ^ Pool, Hannah Azieb (15 July 2009). "Question Time: Sophie Okonedo, star of Skin and Mrs Mandela". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  6. ^ Nathan, John (7 October 2016). "Sophie Okonedo: On her way from Wembley". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  7. ^ Husband, Stuart (23 November 2008). "Sophie Okonedo: the resting actress". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 11 January 2022. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  8. ^ Franks, Alan (8 December 2007). "Sophie Okonedo does the twist". The Times. UK. Retrieved 8 December 2007.
  9. ^ "Sophie Okonedo: Fame, here I come". The Independent. 4 March 2005. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022.
  10. ^ Hoggard, Liz (20 February 2005). "'I guess I'm up for grabs now'". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
  11. ^ Lumenick, Lou (21 February 2005). "SOPHIE'S CHOICE – SOME BET 'HOTEL RWANDA' ACTRESS WILL GRAB OSCAR; 'RWANDA' ACTRESS MAY BE AN OSCAR UPSET". New York Post. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Interfaith Celebrities The Jewish Mermaid – InterfaithFamily". 16 January 2007.
  13. ^ RADA website entry Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Director Says Harvey Weinstein Recast the Lead in His Film Because the Actress Wasn't 'F*ckable', Jackson McHenry,, 17 October 2017
  15. ^ Ben Dowell (11 March 2009). "BBC commissions Winnie Mandela drama". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 March 2009.
  16. ^ a b Staff. "Just the Winners, Please: Who Won the 68th Annual Tony Awards" Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine, 8 June 2014
  17. ^ Gioia, Michael."The "American Dream": Tony-Winning Revival of 'A Raisin in the Sun' Recoups" Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine, 10 June 2014
  18. ^ Brantley, Ben (31 March 2016). "Review: In Arthur Miller's Crucible, First They Came for the Witches". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  19. ^ Ratcliffe, Amy (10 December 2021). "THE WHEEL OF TIME'S SHOWRUNNER ON MOIRAINE AND SIUAN". Nerdist. Retrieved 11 December 2021.
  20. ^ "I guess I'm up for grabs now" The Guardian
  21. ^ "New Jews"
  22. ^ "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 12.
  23. ^ "2019 New Year Honours List". The London Gazette. 29 December 2018. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  24. ^ "Undercover: Episode 1: Credits". BBC Online. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  25. ^ Danaher, Caitlin (24 September 2020). "Sophie Okonedo joins cast of Britannia for upcoming third series". Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  26. ^ Brantley, Ben (15 June 2014). "No Rest for the Weary". The New York Times.
  27. ^ Billington, Michael (9 December 2011). "Haunted Child – review by Michael Billington". The Guardian.
  28. ^ Brantley, Ben (17 July 2016). "Review: In Arthur Miller's 'Crucible,' First They Came for the Witches". The New York Times.
  29. ^ Wolf, Matt (24 April 2017). "Adultery with a Difference on the London Stage". The New York Times.
  30. ^ Cooke, Dominic (2022). [h "Medea performed at @Sohoplace Feb-April 2023"]. @sohoplace.
  31. ^ "The 59th Annual Drama Desk Awards". New York Theater Guide. 19 October 2017. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  32. ^ Gans, Andrew (12 May 2014). "64th Annual Outer Critics Circle Award Winners Announced; Gentleman's Guide Wins Four Awards". Playbill. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  33. ^ Variety Staff; Staff, Variety (12 June 2016). "Tony Awards Winners: Complete List". Variety. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  34. ^ Thompson, Jessie (19 November 2018). "Find out the winners of this year's Evening Standard Theatre Awards". Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  35. ^ "2018 Results | Critics' Circle Theatre Awards". 29 January 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  36. ^ "Winners list for the Olivier Awards 2019 with Mastercard | Official Website". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 6 December 2020.

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