Jump to content

Sophie Okonedo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sophie Okonedo
Okonedo in 2015
Born (1968-08-11) 11 August 1968 (age 55)
London, England
Alma materRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art
Occupation(s)Actress and narrator
Years active1991–present
SpouseJamie Chalmers

Sophie Okonedo CBE (born 11 August 1968) is a British actress. The recipient of a Tony Award, she has been nominated for an Academy Award, three BAFTA TV Awards, an Emmy Award, two Laurence Olivier Awards, and a Golden Globe Award. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2019, both for services to drama.[1][2]

Having trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art she starred as Cressida in the 1999 Royal National Theatre production of Troilus and Cressida. She made her Broadway debut portraying Ruth Younger in the 2014 revival of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun for which she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. She returned to Broadway as Elizabeth Proctor in the 2016 revival of Arthur Miller's The Crucible for which she was nominated for her second Tony Award. She returned to the stage portraying Cleopatra from 2018 to 2019 in the National Theatre production of Antony and Cleopatra for which she was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress.

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). Her breakthrough role was as Tatiana Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda (2004) for which she received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination. She continued acting in films such as Æon Flux (2005), Martian Child (2007), The Secret Life of Bees (2008), Skin (2008), Christopher Robin (2018), Wild Rose (2018), and Death on the Nile (2022).

For her television work she earned Golden Globe Award nomination for the miniseries Tsunami: The Aftermath (2006), three BAFTA TV Award nominations for Mrs. Mandela (2010), Criminal Justice (2010) and Criminal: UK (2021). She was also nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for her guest role in Ratched (2020). She is also known for Father & Son (2009), The Hollow Crown (2016), Wanderlust (2018), and Flack (2019–2020).

Early life and education


Okonedo was born on 11 August 1968[3][4][5] 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[6] who worked for the government.[7][8][9] 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.[10][11][12][13]

Okonedo was raised in the Chalkhill Estate, part of the Wembley Park district in the London Borough of Brent.[6] She then trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.[14]



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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17][18] 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.[19] 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.[20] In 2024 she was nominated for the Best Actress for playing the title role in Medea at the @sohoplace.[21]

Personal life


Okonedo has one daughter, from a relationship she had with Irish film editor Eoin Martin,[22] 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".[23] As of 2023, Okonedo is married to Jamie Chalmers, a builder, and is the stepmother of his two children.[24]



Okonedo was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours[25] and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours, both for services to drama.[26]




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 role
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 Nomad
Janet Planet Regina
Denotes productions that have not yet been released


Year Title Role Notes
1993 Age of Treason Niobe TV movie
1995 The Governor Moira Levitt 6 episodes
1996 Staying Alive Kelly Booth 12 episodes
Murder Most Horrid Rachel Episode: "Dead on Time"
Deep Secrets Honey TV movie
2000 In Defence Bernie Kramer 4 episodes
Never Never Jo Weller TV movie
2001 Sweet Revenge Ellen
2002 Clocking Off Jenny Wood 5 episodes
Dead Casual Donna TV movie
2003 The Inspector Lynley Mysteries Eve Bowen Episode: “In the Presence of the Enemy”
Spooks Amanda Roke 1 episode; uncredited
Alibi Marcey Burgess TV movie
Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka Alison Cheney Voice role;
6 episodes
2004 Whose Baby? Karen Jenkins TV movie
2005 Born with Two Mothers Lucretia Bridges
2006 Celebration Sonia
Tsunami: The Aftermath Susie Carter Miniseries
2007 Oliver Twist Nancy
Racism: A History Narrator
2009 Father & Son Connie Turner Miniseries; 4 episodes
Criminal Justice Jackie Wolf Miniseries; 5 episodes
2010 Mrs. Mandela Winnie Mandela TV movie
Doctor Who Liz Ten 2 episodes: "The Beast Below" and "The Pandorica Opens"
2011 The Slap Aisha Miniseries
2012 Sinbad Razia Episode: “Queen of the Water-Thieves”
2013 Mayday Fiona Miniseries
The Escape Artist Margaret 'Maggie' Gardner
2015 The Stranger on the Bridge Narrator TV movie
2016 Undercover[27] Maya Cobbina Miniseries
The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses Margaret, Queen Consort of England Miniseries; 3 episodes
2017 Thailand: Earth’s Tropical Paradise Narrator Documentary
Concorde: A Supersonic Story
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
Ratched Charlotte Wells 3 episodes
His Dark Materials Xaphania Voice role; 4 episodes
Alien Worlds Narrator Documentary
2021–present The Wheel of Time Siuan Sanche "The Amyrlin Seat" 3 episodes
2021 Modern Love Liz Episode: “Second Embrace, With Hearts And Eyes Open”
Britannia[28] Hemple Season 3
2022 Inside No. 9 Katrina Episode: "Nine Lives Kat"
2022–2023 Slow Horses Ingrid Tearney 7 episodes


Year Title Playwright Role Venue
2011 Haunted Child Joe Penhall Julie Royal Court (London, UK)[29]
2014 A Raisin in the Sun Lorraine Hansberry Ruth Ethel Barrymore Theater, (New York City)[30]
2016 The Crucible Arthur Miller Elizabeth Proctor Walter Kerr Theater (New York City)[31]
2017 The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? Edward Albee Stevie Gray Theatre Royal Haymarket (London, UK)[32]
2018 Antony and Cleopatra William Shakespeare Cleopatra Royal National Theatre (London, UK)
2023 Medea Euripides Medea @sohoplace (London, UK)[33]

Awards and nominations

Film and Television Awards
Award Year Category Project Result Ref.
Academy Awards 2004 Best Supporting Actress Hotel Rwanda Nominated
BAFTA TV Awards 2010 Best Leading Actress Mrs. Mandela Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Criminal Justice Nominated
2021 Criminal: UK Nominated
Black Reel Awards 2005 Best Actress-Drama Hotel Rwanda Won
2008 Best Ensemble The Secret Life of Bees Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2010 Best Actress Skin Nominated
British Independent Film Awards 2003 Best Supporting Actress Dirty Pretty Things Nominated
2009 Skin Best Actress Nominated
Golden Globe Awards 2007 Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie Tsunami: The Aftermath Nominated
Hollywood Film Festival 2008 Ensemble Acting of the Year The Secret Life of Bees Won
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 Won
2009 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture The Secret Life of Bees Nominated
2010 Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Skin Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards 2020 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Ratched Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards 2004 Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role Hotel Rwanda Nominated
Outstanding Ensemble in a Motion Picture Nominated

Theatre Awards

Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
2014 Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play A Raisin in the Sun Won [17]
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Nominated [34]
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Nominated [35]
2016 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play The Crucible Nominated [36]
2018 Evening Standard Theatre Award Best Actress Antony and Cleopatra Won [37]
Critics’ Circle Theatre Award Best Shakespearean Performance Won [38]
2019 Laurence Olivier Award Best Actress Nominated [39]
2023 Evening Standard Theatre Award Best Actress Medea Nominated [40]
2024 Laurence Olivier Award Best Actress Nominated [41]


Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
2010 Audie Awards Audiobook of the Year Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales Won [42][43]
Multi-Voiced Performance




  1. ^ "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 12.
  2. ^ "2019 New Year Honours List". The London Gazette. 29 December 2018. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  3. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". www2.freebmd.org.uk. 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  4. ^ "David Bowie promises new music 'soon'". Independent.co.uk. 16 July 2014. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Sophie Okonedo". BFI. Archived from the original on 25 March 2008.
  6. ^ a b Soloski, Alexis (10 April 2014). "Sophie Okonedo on Broadway: 'We try out different things every night'". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  7. ^ Pool, Hannah Azieb (15 July 2009). "Question Time: Sophie Okonedo, star of Skin and Mrs Mandela". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  8. ^ Nathan, John (7 October 2016). "Sophie Okonedo: On her way from Wembley". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  9. ^ Husband, Stuart (23 November 2008). "Sophie Okonedo: the resting actress". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 11 January 2022. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  10. ^ Franks, Alan (8 December 2007). "Sophie Okonedo does the twist". The Times. UK. Retrieved 8 December 2007.
  11. ^ "Sophie Okonedo: Fame, here I come". The Independent. 4 March 2005. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022.
  12. ^ Hoggard, Liz (20 February 2005). "'I guess I'm up for grabs now'". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
  13. ^ "Interfaith Celebrities The Jewish Mermaid – InterfaithFamily". 16 January 2007.
  14. ^ RADA website entry Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Director Says Harvey Weinstein Recast the Lead in His Film Because the Actress Wasn't 'F*ckable', Jackson McHenry, Vulture.com, 17 October 2017
  16. ^ Ben Dowell (11 March 2009). "BBC commissions Winnie Mandela drama". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 March 2009.
  17. ^ a b Staff. "Just the Winners, Please: Who Won the 68th Annual Tony Awards" Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, 8 June 2014
  18. ^ Gioia, Michael."The "American Dream": Tony-Winning Revival of 'A Raisin in the Sun' Recoups" Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine playbill.com, 10 June 2014
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Ratcliffe, Amy (10 December 2021). "THE WHEEL OF TIME'S SHOWRUNNER ON MOIRAINE AND SIUAN". Nerdist. Retrieved 11 December 2021.
  21. ^ "Sarah Jessica Parker, Sarah Snook, David Tennant Score Olivier Awards Nominations — Full List". Variety. 12 March 2024. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  22. ^ "I guess I'm up for grabs now" The Guardian
  23. ^ "New Jews" channel4.com
  24. ^ "Sophie Okonedo: ‘I’m a really emotional person – I sometimes feel like all my skin is off" theguardian.com
  25. ^ "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 12.
  26. ^ "2019 New Year Honours List". The London Gazette. 29 December 2018. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  27. ^ "Undercover: Episode 1: Credits". BBC Online. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  28. ^ Danaher, Caitlin (24 September 2020). "Sophie Okonedo joins cast of Britannia for upcoming third series". Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  29. ^ Billington, Michael (9 December 2011). "Haunted Child – review by Michael Billington". The Guardian.
  30. ^ Brantley, Ben (15 June 2014). "No Rest for the Weary". The New York Times.
  31. ^ Brantley, Ben (17 July 2016). "Review: In Arthur Miller's 'Crucible,' First They Came for the Witches". The New York Times.
  32. ^ Wolf, Matt (24 April 2017). "Adultery with a Difference on the London Stage". The New York Times.
  33. ^ Cooke, Dominic (2022). "Medea performed at @Sohoplace Feb-April 2023". @sohoplace.
  34. ^ "The 59th Annual Drama Desk Awards". New York Theater Guide. 19 October 2017. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  35. ^ Gans, Andrew (12 May 2014). "64th Annual Outer Critics Circle Award Winners Announced; Gentleman's Guide Wins Four Awards". Playbill. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  36. ^ Variety Staff; Staff, Variety (12 June 2016). "Tony Awards Winners: Complete List". Variety. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  37. ^ Thompson, Jessie (19 November 2018). "Find out the winners of this year's Evening Standard Theatre Awards". www.standard.co.uk. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  38. ^ "2018 Results | Critics' Circle Theatre Awards". 29 January 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  39. ^ "Winners list for the Olivier Awards 2019 with Mastercard | Official Website". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  40. ^ "Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2023 Winners announced | West End Theatre". www.westendtheatre.com. 19 November 2023. Retrieved 3 December 2023.
  41. ^ "Olivier Awards 2024 complete nominees | The Guardian". www.theguardian.com. 12 March 2024. Retrieved 12 March 2024.
  42. ^ "2010 audie-awards".
  43. ^ "Mandelas Favorite Folktales – Performers". 3 August 2020.