For an actress whose late-blooming career began its slow but steady ascent around the age of 18, acclaimed stage and screen beauty Sophie Okonedo has more than made up for any lost time. As comfortable onscreen as she is on-stage, Okonedo first gained critical acclaim for her role as Cressida in Trevor Nunn's production of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida at London's National Theater. Though Okonedo would soon expand her repertoire to include roles in film and television, it was her unwavering dedication to the stage that would be the defining aspect of her early career until breakout roles in such films as Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things and the devastating Hotel Rwanda brought her both international acclaim and an Oscar nomination.
Born in London to a Nigerian father and a British mother, Okonedo was 18 years old when she came across an advertisement for a writer's workshop in Time Out magazine. It didn't take long for Okonedo to realize that she was more proficient in offering dramatically rendered readings of her fellow classmate's stories than penning her own, and with the encouragement of writing coach Hanif Kureishi, the aspiring actress was soon honing her skills at the Royal Court Theater. A scholarship to the Royal Academy was quick to follow, and in the succeeding years, Okonedo would earn glowing reviews thanks to, among many other roles, her stunning performance in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. A brief appearance as a tribal princess in the Jim Carrey vehicle Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls found Okonedo becoming increasingly at ease in front of the camera, and upon returning to the U.K., the rising starlet began to carve out an impressive niche for herself on such television productions as The Governor, Deep Secrets, and In Defence.