Sophie Okonedo is an incredibly talented British actress who also happens to be stunningly beautiful. She broke out with her role in (modern set) Hotel Rwanda, and she’s gone on to be nominated for numerous awards. Let’s run down her work in historical films!
Age of Treason (1993)
“Marcus Didius Falco must solve a murder set in Ancient Rome.” Okonedo plays “Niobe.” This looks HIGH-LARIOUS.
The Secret Life of Bees (2006)
Set in 1964 North Carolina. Okonedo was nominated for a number of awards for this, so why is this the only image I can find where she MIGHT be in costume?
Oliver Twist (2007-08)
This was genius: Tom Hardy as Bill Sykes and Okonedo as Nancy. This is the perfect kind of “colorblind” casting in the sense that were, of course, Black people living in Britain at the time, and while Dickens might not have WRITTEN Nancy as Black, the character/story works perfectly with a Black actress in the role.
A FASCINATING based-on-a-true-story about Sandra Laing, who was born to two “white” parents in 1955 South Africa. Her parents went on a legal fight to have her declared white, arguing her darker skin tone and hair texture were due to her mother’s African ancestry. It’s a sad, interesting story and no matter what Laing’s ancestral background is, it points out the arbitrary-ness of race.
Mrs. Mandela (2010)
A TV movie biopic about Winnie Mandela, famed South African civil rights activist.
A British “action-adventure fantasy family saga” TV series, based on the fictional tale of Sinbad the Sailor. Okonedo guest stars in one episode as “Razia.”
The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses (2016)
A big budget British adaptation of a number of Shakespeare plays. Okonedo plays Queen Margaret of Anjou (1430-82) in Henry VI pt. 1, Henry VI pt. 2, and Richard III (which, thank you Monty Python, I can only read as “Richard eye-eye-eye”).
National Theatre Live: Antony & Cleopatra (2018)
We’ve written before about how hard it can be for non-white actors to be cast in historical productions, so I’m including this adaptation of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra that was aired on TV.
Coming September 18 to Netflix, this is based on Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and set in the 1960s. Okonedo plays “Charlotte Wells.”
Death on the Nile (2020)
Kenneth Branagh‘s adaptation of the Agatha Christie story, following up on his Murder on the Orient Express. The trailer was just released, and there’s been a lot of opinions expressed! Okonedo plays Salome Otterbourne, who in the original Christie story is a romance novelist.
What’s your favorite of Sophie Okonedo’s historical roles?
The costumes in Antony and Cleopatra are definitely not historical, but they ARE fabulous.
Those printed scarabs looked like embroidery. They were gorgeous!
She was absolutely perfect in Skin and Oliver Twist .She beautifully balances the theatrical and natural nuances of the character she portrays.The costumes in Antony and Cleopatra are amazing,in case you haven’t seen them(though I hate the play,I enjoyed her portrayal with Fiennes).
The costumes inThe Hollow Crown were passable,but I felt the gowns were inaccurate with the overly structured shoulders,while sloping voluminous shoulders and wide necklines were prevalent.They looked like a mishmash of the last decades of 15th century rather than a cohesive look(besides not being very flattering).Weird with such a budget.
The Marcus Didius Falco novels are very funny. I haven’t seen any screen adaptations. Blonde Fabio?
I was going to say, someone made film/TV versions of Marcus Didius Falco and no one told me?!
My 7th grade Latin teacher loaned me the first three books, hoping to keep me interested in Latin. Falco, yes, Ancient Rome, yes, Latin, no.
Perhaps it’s just as well they never told you. Age of Treason (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106227/) was (very loosely) based on The Silver Pigs, and was so winceable that clearly Lindsay Davis has not yet got over the experience: http://www.lindseydavis.co.uk/media/film/.
As with Ursula Le Guin, when an author is prepared to state openly on her website ‘The film they made allegedly of my book is (a) nothing like what I wrote and (b) complete sh*te’, you know you should believe her.
He’s a German-born bodybuilder/martial/artist/actor called Matthias Hues. Random fact; he’s a great-nephew of Engelbert Humperdinck (the 19th-century composer of the opera Hansel & Gretel, not the English pop singer).
She is a FABULOUS actress… and from what I’ve heard a really gorgeous person! I adored her as Nancy and I thought her Margaret of Anjou was perfection – although I have to agree that her waging war in full armour was a tad odd, to say the least. lol. I missed seeing her as Cleopatra at the National – I was ill but I am still kicking myself over it – but she was absolutely superb from what I’ve gathered from my friends who saw it. She truly lives in the moment, when performing, each line is delivered as immediate and spoken for the first time and she is beautifully expressive. A real mainstay of theatre and screen!!!
Okonedo owned her role as Marguerite d’Anjou so well, that for weeks afterwards, I could not see the Queen in my mind without envisioning the actress!
Oh, Sophie–good that you’re getting love from the Frocksters. I want to see her as Nancy.
Another gifted Nigerian-Anglo actress, Nina Sosanya, has had a fair number of costume roles on the big and small screens, but is probably best known here as Sarah Lancashire’s girlfriend, then wife, in “Last Tango in Halifax,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nina_Sosanya
I’ve seen her in more modern stuff, but I did catch some of The Hollow Crown–she was great.
Sophie Okonedo is soo beautiful that whenever I see her, I stop breathing. And…she’s extremely talented too. She was amazing as Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra. The costumes were not historical, though. I must’ve seen her in contemporary roles because many of these films are new to me. I highly recommend her contemporary 2002 film Dirty Pretty Things also starring Audrey Tautou and Chiwetel Ejiofor. It is excellent. Now, I’ve got to commit to watching The Hollow Crown. (I’ve only seen it in bits and pieces by happenstance.) Should anyone decide to make another movie about her life and/or remake Lady Sings the Blues, Sophie would make an awesome Billie Holiday.
I don’t know if I’d call her beautiful but breathtaking? Damn right! The woman has tremendous presence and authority.
Love her work, and LOVE her Nancy in Oliver Twist, it was a solid production and she was a very credible Nancy.
I know Sophie best from Doctor Who, as Liz Ten of Starship Britain. Best line: “I’m the bloody Queen. Basically I rule!’
I have absolutely no problem with colorblind casting with actors of her quality. Especially in Shakespeare which isn’t strictly historical anyway. And when the character is dressed appropriately to the period and place NOT given a faux ‘Chinese’ hairstyle like ‘Bess of Hardwick in Mary Queen of Scots. As our moderates have said The Asian Bess was the least of MQS problems. And personally I had a lot more problems with the hairstyle than the actress. Put her in a decent 16th c.costume and I’d happily suspend disbelief.