Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, England.
Her father, Henry E.B. Okonedo, was Nigerian. Her mother, Joan Allman, is from a Jewish family (they immigrated from Poland and Russia to England).
Gave birth to her only child -- a daughter, Aoife Okonedo Martin -- in June 1997, at age 28. Child's father is her former boyfriend, Eoin Martin.
Attended and graduated from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England.
Invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) in 2005.
In 2005, Okonedo became the first black actress since Angela Bassett in 1994 to receive an NAACP Image Award nomination for the same role in which she was nominated for an Oscar. Previous Oscar nominees Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Halle Berry and Queen Latifah were not nominated by the NAACP for the same roles.
She was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours List for her services to drama.
She won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play, appearing on Broadway opposite Denzel Washington in "A Raisin in the Sun". She later said that one of the best things about her Broadway debut was that she got to say she was "Denzel Washington's wife".
As of 2018, has never appeared in a film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
She was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2019 Queen's New Years Honours List for her services to Drama. She is an actress in East Sussex, England.
Personal Quotes (10)
I don't like going for more than a year without doing theatre. I don't mind falling flat on my face so long as I feel I'm open to the possibility of something extraordinary happening.
But I'm pretty secure about who I am. Anything that's truthful I'm not ashamed of.
When I do things that aren't very good, I'm worse as an actor. I don't know what I pick up - but it's something not very nice.
I'd hate to lose the character actress part of me, because, by God, the parts are much more interesting. As a black actress, all I was offered in British film was the best friend role, whereas in television, I was offered a whole spectrum of parts. I'd love to be able to follow that through into my newly-formed film career which I didn't expect to get at 36!
I'm drawn to stories about ordinary people who get tangled up in an extraordinary event or idea or emotion. I'm not saying I don't love films about super-people or super-doctors, but my preference is for stories about how we get through this life, what it is to be human, because I'm always struggling with it myself.
Without hammering you over the head with it, the movie gets you to ask questions. That's what good movies do.
I'm just going where the stories are. I'll quite happily work in a tiny theater in the middle of nowhere if it's the right story. It always leaves a bit of a nasty taste in my mouth when I do something purely for money. I always end up being absolute shit in it. I'm not really an actor who can make rubbish writing good. Some people are very good at it. It's a real skill.
[on being awarded the OBE in June 2010] The cherry on the cake and way beyond anything I would have imagined for myself.
Being a character actor, I can go on until I'm 70 or 80; I'm not bound to the way I look.
The repetition of the theatre means you've got the time to get deeply inside the person you're playing.