The Oscar nominated British actress took home the award for her Broadway debut in the new revival of Lorraine Hansberry ‘s “A Raisin in the Sun”.
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Acclaimed British actress Sophie Okonedo has won the Tony award for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Play” at the 68th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall last night, for her performance as Ruth Younger in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun”. The play, about a Chicago family seeking to become wealthy, also stars Denzel Washington.
In a gracious, heartfelt speech, the London-born actress thanked producer Scott Rudin, who “somehow had the vision that a Jewish Nigerian Brit could come over the pond and play one of America’s most iconic parts.”
The mention of her Jewish roots prompted “Jewish Nigerian Brit” to trend on Twitter under the hashtag #TonyAwards, The Jewish Week reports.
Okonedo is best-known for her starring role in the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda”, for which she was nominated for an Oscar, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award. She has also received honours for her television work, including a Golden Globe nomination for her role in the 2006 mini-series “Tsunami: The Aftermath” and BAFTA nominations for her role in the legal thriller series “Criminal Justice”, and her portrayal of Winnie Mandela in the 2010 TV movie “Mrs. Mandela”.
The actress, who was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2010, was born to an Ashkenazi Jewish mother and a Nigerian father, who abandoned the family when she was 5. She was brought up in her mother’s faith and attended a Reform synagogue in London with her grandparents, who were immigrants from Poland and Russia.
In 2009, she spoke passionately about her Jewish heritage to the Jewish Journal. “It’s all in my blood, ” she said, recalling her grandparents’ Jewish home. ”They celebrated all the holidays, and they spoke Yiddish when they didn’t want me to understand the conversation. I feel sad I didn’t learn Yiddish as a child. It’s such a fantastic language, so expressive. And now my grandparents are too old to teach me.”
“A Raisin in the Sun”, first performed in New York in 1959, is based upon a black family’s experiences in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago, which was the centre of racial segregation and violence in the 1920’s. The play also won a Tony for best revival and its director Kenny Leon grabbed the prize for best direction.