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 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.
Okonedo was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honour.
Okonedo has three children, from her 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".
Her father Henry died on 22 July 2009 in Orlando, Florida, USA.
Awards and nominations
Academy Awards 2005, Best Supporting Actress (Hotel Rwanda) [nominated]
BAFTA TV Awards 2010, Best Leading Actress (Mrs Mandela) [nominated]
2010, Best Supporting Actress (Criminal Justice) [nominated]
Black Reel Awards2005, 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 Festival2008, Ensemble Acting of the Year (The Secret Life of Bees) [winner]
Image Awards2005, 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]