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Sophie Okonedo (born 1968) is an English actress. In 2004, her role as Tatiana, the wife of Rwandanmarker hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina in the genocide drama film Hotel Rwanda, earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

Early life

Okonedo was born in Londonmarker, Englandmarker, the daughter of Joan (née Allman), a pilates teacher, and Henry Okonedo, who worked for the government. Her father is Nigeria and her mother, an Ashkenazi Jew, was born in the East Endmarker to Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Polandmarker and Russiamarker; Okonedo was raised attending synagogue. Her father left the family when Okonedo was five, and she was subsequently raised in relative poverty by her single mother ("but we always had books," she says).


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.

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).

In 2009, Okonedo is set to portray Winnie Mandela in the BBC drama Mrs Mandela.

Personal life

Okonedo has a daughter, Aoife (born 1997). from her previous relationship with Irishmarker film editor Eoin Martin. They live in Muswell Hillmarker, 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".


  • Academy Awards
    • 2005, Best Supporting Actress (Hotel Rwanda) [nominated]

  • Black Reel Awards
    • 2008, Best Ensemble (The Secret Life of Bees) [nominated]
    • 2008, Best Supporting Actress (The Secret Life of Bees) [nominated]
    • 2005, Best Actress-Drama (Hotel Rwanda) [winner]

  • British Independent Film Awards
    • 2009, Best Actress (Skin) [nominated]
    • 2003, Best Supporting Actress (Dirty Pretty Things) [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
    • 2009, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (The Secret Life of Bees) [nominated]
    • 2007, Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie/Mini-Series (Tsunami: the Aftermath) [winner]
    • 2005, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Hotel Rwanda) [nominated]


TV Series


  1. Profile
  2. BFI profile
  3. Daily Mail report on Okonedo
  4. 'Sophie Okonedo: "Fame, here I come"'
  5. Interfaith Celebrities The Jewish Mermaid -
  6. RADA website

External links

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