Home Entertainment Sophie Okonedo: ‘I’m a really emotional person – I sometimes feel like all my skin is off’

Sophie Okonedo: ‘I’m a really emotional person – I sometimes feel like all my skin is off’

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Sophie Okonedo: ‘I’m a really emotional person – I sometimes feel like all my skin is off’

Sophie Okonedo, 54, is certainly one of our most extraordinary actors, now starring as Medea at @sohoplace theatre in London and giving a heart-flaying tour de pressure of a efficiency as Euripides’s tragic child-slayer. Her profession on stage, display and tv reached new ranges of conspicuous achievement in 2014 after successful a Tony for her efficiency in A Raisin in the Sun and she or he has been a lot feted ever since. She has performed Cleopatra on the Nationwide, Winnie Mandela on tv and can star within the third season of Apple TV+’s critically acclaimed Sluggish Horses later this yr.

How a lot do you see Medea as a legendary determine – or do you’re feeling she possesses a contemporary psyche?
I attempt to place myself proper within the centre – I don’t know some other technique to act. Except I’m related to the particular person I’m taking part in, I simply wouldn’t know learn how to do it. I don’t suppose from the surface. I really feel that myths are at all times present.

To what extent is the method of studying strains your manner into figuring out how you’ll say them?
That’s query, one folks don’t actually ask. For me, the thorough investigation of strains is learn how to entry what I’m doing. I discover it fairly troublesome with tv work as a result of screenwriters typically rewrite the night time earlier than, which might make me really feel I’m shedding my company as an actor.

That’s “earlier than” – and what about “after”? Performing Medea should be so draining?
Once I’m doing a present, I discover it onerous to do anything. Folks would possibly come to say good day after the present however I don’t need to exit for dinner. Assembly folks takes my vitality so I keep away from that. With my husband and youngsters it’s completely different, however I are inclined to maintain quiet a lot of the day. And but with this present, I’m not drained afterwards. I’ve been in reveals with smaller elements and been extra exhausted. It’s as a result of Dominic Cooke directed it so effectively. He’d say: “I need to hear your argument.” I’m not counting on feelings in Medea, I’m counting on language.

Okonedo in Medea at @sohoplace.
Okonedo in Medea at @sohoplace. {Photograph}: Manuel Harlan

Have you ever seen Alice Diop’s Oscar-nominated movie Saint Omer, which explores the Medea story?
My agent in America stated: “You should watch this movie” and I cherished it – it was sensible. These performances have been unimaginable.

What do you make of the brand new @sohoplace theatre?
I’m completely loving this theatre. I went to take a look at it when it was being constructed. I stated: “I actually need to work right here” – and so they’ve held me to that. What stands out is its intimacy. The viewers is correct in with the actors and you may be very refined together with your voice and expressions. There are not any dangerous seats!

You’re the daughter of a Jewish mom and a father of Nigerian heritage – how do you consider your self and which background is extra pertinent?
I take into consideration myself as a combination and it’s all pertinent. I used to be introduced up by my mom, so know extra about her household. My mom labored as a pilates trainer – she’s simply retired, truly.

Citing your personal daughter, is there something you resolved to do otherwise from the best way your mom raised you?
I’ve a daughter and two stepchildren. Bringing her up feels so way back now – my daughter is 26. I’m at all times feeling I ought to do the whole lot otherwise. Being a guardian is a type of issues consistently full of that feeling – which makes it onerous to make a sentence out of it.

What do you love to do most that has nothing to do with performing?
Biking. I dwell in Sussex and cycle with my husband [she is married to Jamie Chalmers, a builder]. He’s a lot fitter than I’m however the wonderful thing about biking is that you would be able to go slowly. Final yr, we adopted a little bit of the Tour de France and that was sensible. Straight after this present, we’re going to Italy to look at the Giro d’Italia.

What makes you angriest in life?
The same old issues – injustice – however I’m a extremely emotional particular person. I’m barely pushed by my feelings [laughs], which is admittedly good for performing however will not be so sensible for actual life. I typically really feel like all my pores and skin is off. I discover being on stage very holding. It’s what I’m meant to do. Everybody has their factor they’re good at – I’m not good at numerous issues however that is the one factor I can do.

What initially made you need to grow to be an actor?
I felt most snug when performing. I didn’t act in school however joined the Royal Court docket’s youth theatre after I was a youngster and had a tiny function in Caryl Churchill’s Critical Cash.

What makes you chortle?
Ben Daniels [who stars alongside her in Medea]. He makes me chortle a lot. Ben and Dominic [Cooke] are my greatest pals. Dominic, I’ve recognized since I used to be 15. He’s godfather of my oldest daughter and gave me away at my wedding ceremony. We first met in Swiss Cottage library.

Do you like working in theatre to filming?
By the top of this, I’ll be pondering: “It’ll be good to do a movie” – however I can not think about being an actor who didn’t do theatre. Theatre is such a problem – there’s nowhere to cover. And I really like that reference to an viewers, particularly with this play. Any such storytelling has been happening for 1000’s of years and I discover that extremely transferring each night time. Once I come on, my coronary heart swells.

You might be in Sluggish Horses with Gary Oldman and Kristen Scott Thomas, which has had plenty of vital acclaim.
I’ve solely finished one scene in that up to now! I’ve simply filmed for the third collection, although. I had needed a extra substantial half within the collection, which is why I agreed to try this scene for the primary season. I at all times knew I used to be going to have an enormous half finally.

What are you doing as soon as Medea is finished – one thing evenly consoling, I hope? And who would your dream collaborator be?
I’d love to do one thing humorous and was speaking to Dominic about it the opposite day. I had a good time with Annie Baker [the American playwright] final yr. I did a movie along with her – her first – which she wrote and directed, and she or he’s completely wonderful. I actually related along with her. The movie known as Janet Planet. It’s not out but – there’ll be rather more about it when the time comes.

  • Medea is at @sohoplace theatre, London, till 22 April

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