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Sophie Okonedo CBE (born 11 August 1968) is an English film, theatre and television 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).

Sophie Okonedo

Born (1968-08-11) 11 August 1968 (age 50)
London, England
Alma materRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1991–present

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 appointed an 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.


Early lifeEdit

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][8] 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.[9][10][11] When she was five years old, her father left the family,[12] and she was brought up in relative poverty by her single mother ("but we always had books", she has said).[13]


Okonedo 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).

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 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.[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 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 revealed that, in 1998, he had chosen Okonedo to star in B. Monkey. However, the producer, Harvey Weinstein, blocked this because the actress did not meet his personal sexual preference. [19]


Personal lifeEdit

Okonedo has one daughter named Aoife, from a previous relationship with Irish film editor Eoin Martin.[22] They live in Muswell Hill, London. On her heritage, Okonedo says, "I feel as proud to be Jewish as I feel to be black" and calls her daughter an "Irish, Nigerian Jew".[23]

Awards and nominationsEdit



Year Title Role Notes
1991 Young Soul Rebels Tracy
1993 Age of Treason Niobe (TV film)
1995 The Governor Moira Levitt (TV series)
1995 Go Now Paula
1995 Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls The Wachati Princess
1996 Staying Alive Kelly Booth (TV series)
1996 Deep Secrets Honey (TV film)
1997 The Jackal Jamaican Girl
1999 This Year's Love Denise
1999 Mad Cows Rosy
2000 In Defence Bernie Kramer (TV series)
2000 Peaches Pippa
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 (TV series; 1 episode)
2002 Dead Casual Donna (TV film)
2002 Dirty Pretty Things Juliette
2003 Cross My Heart Marsee
2003 The Inspector Lynley Mysteries Eve Bowen (TV series; Series 2, Episode 2 "In the Presence of the Enemy")
2003 Spooks Amanda Roke (TV series; 1 episode)
2003 Alibi Marcey Burgess (TV film)
2003 Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka Alison Cheney (Animated story; 6 episodes)
2004 Hotel Rwanda Tatiana Rusesabagina Black Reel Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated – London Critics Circle Film Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2004 Whose Baby? Karen Jenkins (TV film)
2005 Born with Two Mothers Lucretia Bridges (TV film)
2005 Æon Flux Sithandra
2006 Celebration Sonia (TV film)
2006 Stormbreaker Mrs. Jones
2006 Scenes of a Sexual Nature Anna
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 Martian Child Sophie
2007 Oliver Twist Nancy (TV miniseries)
2007 Racism: A History Narrator (TV miniseries)
2008 The Secret Life of Bees May Boatwright Nominated – Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated – Black Reel Award for Best Acting by an Ensemble
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
2008 Skin Sandra Laing Nominated – Black Reel Award for Best Actress
Nominated – British Independent Film Award for Best Actress
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
2009 Father & Son Connie Turner (TV miniseries; 4 episodes)
2009 Criminal Justice Jackie 'Jack' Wolf (TV miniseries; 5 episodes)
Nominated – BAFTA Television Award for Best Supporting Actress
2010 Mrs. Mandela Winnie Mandela (TV film)
Nominated – BAFTA Television Award for Best Actress
2010 Doctor Who Liz Ten (TV series; 2 episodes)
2011 The Slap Aisha (TV series)
2012 Sinbad Razia (TV series)
2013 Mayday Fiona (TV series)
2013 After Earth Faia Raige
2013 The Escape Artist Margaret 'Maggie' Gardner (TV series)
2014 War Book Philippa
2015 The Stranger on the Bridge[28] Narrator (TV movie)
2016 Undercover[29] Maya Cobbina (TV series)
2016 The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses[30] Margaret, the Queen Consort of England (TV miniseries; 3 episodes)
2017 Thailand: Earth’s Tropical Paradise Narrator (TV documentary series)
2018 Christopher Robin Kanga
2019 Wild Rose Susannah
Hellboy Lady Hatton


  1. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  2. ^ "David Bowie promises new music 'soon'". 16 July 2014.
  3. ^ "Sophie Okonedo". BFI.
  4. ^ Soloski, Alexis (10 April 2014). "Sophie Okonedo on Broadway: 'We try out different things every night'". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  5. ^ "The star who rose from the mean streets". Mail Online.
  6. ^ Pool, Hannah Azieb (15 July 2009). "Question Time: Sophie Okonedo, star of Skin and Mrs Mandela". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  7. ^ Nathan, John (7 October 2016). "Sophie Okonedo: On her way from Wembley". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  8. ^ Husband, Stuart (23 November 2008). "Sophie Okonedo: the resting actress". The Telegraph. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  9. ^ Franks, Alan (8 December 2007). "Sophie Okonedo does the twist". The Times. UK. Retrieved 8 December 2007.
  10. ^ "Sophie Okonedo: Fame, here I come". The Independent. 4 March 2005.
  11. ^ Hoggard, Liz (20 February 2005). "'I guess I'm up for grabs now'". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "Interfaith Celebrities The Jewish Mermaid – InterfaithFamily".
  14. ^ RADA website entry Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Ben Dowell (11 March 2009). "BBC commissions Winnie Mandela drama". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 March 2009.
  16. ^ 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. ^ Director Says Harvey Weinstein Recast the Lead in His Film Because the Actress Wasn't 'F*ckable', Jackson McHenry,, 17 October 2017
  20. ^ "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 12.
  21. ^ "2019 New Year Honours List". The London Gazette. 29 December 2018. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  22. ^ "I guess I'm up for grabs now" The Guardian
  23. ^ "New Jews"
  24. ^ Brantley, Ben (15 June 2014). "No Rest for the Weary". The New York Times.
  25. ^ Billington, Michael (9 December 2011). "Haunted Child – review by Michael Billington". The Guardian.
  26. ^ Brantley, Ben (17 July 2016). "Review: In Arthur Miller's 'Crucible,' First They Came for the Witches". The New York Times.
  27. ^ Wolf, Matt (24 April 2017). "Adultery with a Difference on the London Stage". The New York Times.
  28. ^ "Young Soul Rebels (1991)", IMDb.
  29. ^ "Undercover: Episode 1: Credits". BBC Online. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  30. ^ "The Hollow Crown (TV Mini-Series 2012) - IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 21 May 2016.

External linksEdit