Sophie Okonedo, OBE

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Sophie Okonedo

Sophie Okonedo

Sophie Okonedo is a British actress and singer, who has starred in both successful British and American productions. In 1991, she made her acting debut in the British critically-acclaimed coming-of-age drama, Young Soul Rebels. In 2004, she gained critical acclaim for her role as Tatiana Rusesbagina, the wife of Rwandan hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina in the genocide drama film Hotel Rwanda (2004). Her role earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, making her the second Black British actress to be nominated for an Oscar, and the third black Briton to be nominated for an Oscar.

Okonedo was born in London, England, the daughter of Joan (nee Allman), a Pilates teacher, and Henry Okonedo, who worked for the government. Her father is a Nigerian and her mother, an Ashkenazi Jew. Okonedo trained at 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 Queen Elizabeth the Tenth in the Doctor Who episodes, The Beast Below and The Pandorica Opens.

Okonedo played the role of Jenny in Danny Brocklehurst’s BAFTA nominated episode of Paul Abbott series, Clocking Off. Okonedo also played the part of Ms. Tulip Jones in the movie 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 was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Queen’s Birthday Honours. Okonedo has a daughter, Aoife (born 1997). 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]


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]

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