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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 09:14 GMT
Talking Shop: Sophie Okonedo
Sophie Okonedo
Okonedo was born in London and trained at RADA
British actress Sophie Okonedo, 38, caught the eye of Hollywood when she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in 2004's harrowing Hotel Rwanda.

Since then, though, she has largely worked on low-budget independent films and television productions like the BBC's Tsunami, The Aftermath.

This week sees her back on our screens as Nancy, the London thief who dreams of a better life, in the BBC's new adaptation of Oliver Twist.

Had you read Charles Dickens' novel before landing the role?

No, but I read it when I knew I got the part. It's impossible not to be familiar with it though, and I'd certainly seen the musical and Roman Polanski's film version. I actually read half of it, then listened to the rest on a tape. I can't remember the name of the actor who read it but it was fantastic - I listened to it with my daughter, Aoife.

How did you approach the character of Nancy?

Sophie Okonedo in Oliver Twist
Her co-stars in Oliver Twist include Timothy Spall and Tom Hardy
She's had an incredibly tough life, growing up in extreme poverty in a world where life is cheap. Yet she's somehow managed to retain a great sense of humanity, warmth and heart. She's also completely and utterly in love with Bill Sikes, played by Tom Hardy; it's quite a dysfunctional relationship but it works. He looks after her and she looks after him; he slaps her around a bit but that was all part of the times.

How did you find working with Oliver himself, 11-year-old William Miller?

I've worked with children in almost everything I've done and it's always been an enriching experience. William is such a mature young lad; he makes my job very easy. He's a complete natural and a lovely young boy with his head very much on his shoulders. Kids say their lines so simply and truthfully - I love working with them.

Hotel Rwanda saw you nominated for an Oscar alongside co-star Don Cheadle. What are your memories of that experience?

Sophie Okonedo with Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda
She played Don Cheadle's wife in genocide drama Hotel Rwanda
It was interesting; it is a circus though, so you had to keep quite centred. I was incredibly grateful to be honoured in that way, but the real meaning for me comes in the work I do. My mum greatly enjoyed it, as did my stepdad and my daughter. But I wouldn't be interested in that being my entire life!

Were you inundated with Hollywood scripts afterwards?

I certainly had lots of offers but nothing very interesting - I tend to look for scripts that have a bit of meaning to them. And I never had any intention of moving out of England; my life is here.

How does working on big US films compare to smaller-budget ones in the UK?

I haven't really experienced much big-budget film-making; everything I do tends to be extremely low-budget, on both sides of the Atlantic. It tends to have an urgency that I love; it's very raw, you never know if you're going to get the film finished and you're running around doing loads of scenes. But I would take that any day over a film that lasts months and months and has all the money in the world where you're just doing a tiny bit each day. That for me would be quite boring.

Sophie Okonedo was talking to the BBC's Neil Smith. Oliver Twist starts on BBC One on 18 December.

Talking Shop: Sir Ridley Scott
23 Nov 07 |  Entertainment
Polanski takes on Oliver Twist
30 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
Making a drama out of a tragedy
28 Nov 06 |  Entertainment
Hotel Rwanda star scoops honour
10 Nov 05 |  Entertainment


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