Okonedo was born on the 11th of August 1968 in London, of a Jewish Mum and a Nigerian Dad. Her maternal grandparents, spoke Yiddish, were from families that emigrated from Poland and Russia. Sophie was raised in her mother's Jewish faith. When she was five years old, her father left the family, and she was brought up in relative poverty by her single mother.
Sophie is an English Actress. She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She has worked in a variety of media, including film, television, theatre and audio drama. On stage, she starred as Cressida in the 1999 National Theatre production of Troilus and Cressida.
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. In 2010, Okonedo portrayed Liz Ten in the BBC TV Series Doctor Who episodes "The Beast Below" and again briefly in "The Pandorica Opens".
Okonedo received an OBE in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honour and 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 began her film career in 1991 in the British coming-of-age drama Young Soul Rebels before appearing in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls in 1995 and Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things in 2002. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Tatiana Rusesabagina in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda. She received a Golden Globe nomination for the miniseries Tsunami: The Aftermath in 2006 and BAFTA TV Award nominations for the drama series Criminal Justice in 2009 and the TV film Mrs. Mandela (2010). Her other film roles include Æon Flux in 2005, Skin (2008), and The Secret Life of Bees in 2008.
She played the role of Jenny in Danny Brocklehurst's BAFTA nominated episode of Paul Abbott's series Clocking Off. She also played the part of Tulip Jones in the film 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.
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. 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, Ben Whishaw. Also in 2016, Okonedo appeared as Queen Margaret in the second season of the BBC's The Hollow Crown, an adaptation of the Shakespeare plays Henry VI, Part I, II, III, and Richard III.
Okonedo has one daughter named Aoife, from a previous relationship. 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".
She won the Black Reel Awards 2005, for the Best Actress-Drama Hotel Rwanda, Hollywood Film Festival 2008 as Ensemble Acting of the Year in The Secret Life of Bees, Image Awards 2007, as Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie/Mini-Series Tsunami: the Aftermath, Tony Award 2014 as Best Featured Actress in the Play A Raisin in the Sun.
"I just think of myself as a storyteller. That's how I started, and I've spent many, many years in the theatre doing that. I'm interested in what it is to be human, in the human condition, the human spirit," says Sophie Okonedo.