“I feel as proud to be Jewish as I feel to be black”.–Sophie Okonedo
Okonedo was born in London, England, the daughter of Joan Allman, a pilates teacher, and Henry Okonedo, who worked for the government. Her father is Nigerian and her mother, an Ashkenazi Jew, was born in the East End to Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Poland and Russia; Okonedo was raised attending synagogue.
Okonedo trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and 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.
Okonedo played the role of Jenny in the Paul Abbot 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 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). This year Okonedo is set to portray Winnie Mandela in the BBC drama Mrs Mandela.