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Sophie Okonedo, Jewish Nigerian Brit, Wins Tony For Best Performance by an Actress in a Play

The actress made her Broadway debut as Ruth Younger in “A Raisin in the Sun” Read More

By / June 9, 2014

Acclaimed British thespian Sophie Okonedo won the Tony award for best actress in a play last night, for her performance as Ruth Younger in the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun. In a gracious, emotional speech, she 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.”

Okonedo, who is a graduate of London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, was born to a Jewish mother and a Nigerian father. She attended a Reform synagogue in London with her Yiddish-speaking grandparents, who were immigrants from Eastern Europe. In 2005, she told the UK’s Daily Mail, “I came across as much racism in the Jewish community as I did outside the Jewish community. No more, no less.”

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.”

Her acceptance speech sparked a flurry of interest on Twitter and blogosphere—we learned the news from @JewishTweets, who tweeted “#MazalTov” to Okonedo. And @Dramaturgs wrote, “I don’t know about you, but Sophie Okonedo is my favorite Jewish Nigerian-English Tony winner.”

Watch her acceptance speech here:

http://youtu.be/1Ko46Bf-qls

Image: Entertainment Press / Shutterstock.com