Sophie Okonedo, OBE (born 1968) is a British actress, 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. She has received an Academy Award nomination for her critically acclaimed role in Hotel Rwanda, a Golden Globe nomination for Tsunami: The Aftermath, and BAFTA nominations for Criminal Justice and Mrs. Mandela. Her other film roles included Aeon Flux, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Dirty Pretty Things, and Skin.Okonedo was born in London, England, the daughter of Joan (née Allman; born 1938), a pilates teacher, and Henry Okonedo (1939–2009), who worked for the government. Her father was Nigerian, and her mother, an Ashkenazi Jew, was born in the East End to Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Poland and Russia; Okonedo was brought up attending synagogue. When Okonedo was five years old, her father left the family, and she was subsequently brought up in relative poverty by her single mother ("but we always had books," she has said).Okonedo trained at the 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 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 nominated episode of Paul Abbott series, Clocking Off. She 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), from her previous relationship with Irish film editor Eoin Martin. 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". Her father Henry died on 22 July 2009 in Orlando, Florida.
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