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Sophie Okonedo To Star in SKIN + Her New Mrs. Mandela Film Role

October 26, 2009

SOPHIE-OKONEDO-SKIN-POSTERBased on the true story of Sandra Laing a black South African girl born to white Afrikaners in the 1950s, Academy Award-nominee Sophie Okonedo can be seen as the lead actress in the upcoming inspirational film called SKIN. Okonedo (best known for her critically-acclaimed roles in The Secret Life Of Bees and Hotel Rwanda) portrayed Laing during the apartheid era which at that time classified Laing as coloured. The film showcase how Laing communicate between being born black to white Afrikaners while on the road from rejection to acceptance.
SKIN is one of the most moving stories to emerge from apartheid South Africa: Sandra Laing is a black child born in the 1950s to white Afrikaners, unaware of their black ancestry. Her parents are rural shopkeepers serving the local black community, who lovingly bring her up as their white little girl. But at the age of ten, Sandra is driven out of white society. The film follows Sandras thirty-year journey from rejection to acceptance, betrayal to reconciliation, as she struggles to define her place in a changing world – and triumphs against all odds. IMDB

Online African-American lifestyle & culture magazine, Clutch recently caught up with the English-Nigerian mother Okonedo to discuss her SKIN role and the challenges she faced. (FYI: Skin was filmed primarily around Johannesburg from September to November 2007 to give the storyline its authenicity.)

Clutch: The life of Sandra Laing was full of so much pain and confusion. Was it challenging portraying her?
Sophie: Yeah, I think that’s hard to find such the nuances because so many bad things happened to her kind of relentlessly. It was also difficult because I was trying to imagine what her life was like because she was so isolated. There was no one to really talk to her about it because her story isn’t typical.
Clutch: Had you heard of Sandra’s story prior to taking on the role?
Sophie: I hadn’t heard. I know some South Africans who remembered her story when I mentioned her name to them. It was something that was well- known in South Africa. CLUTCH

Throughout her interview with Clutch, Sophie spoke about her bi-racial heritage, meeting Sandra Laing (see her photo below), and her life philosophy. The true story won over critics and it helped to earn the film 9 wins including praise from the Toronto International Film Festival. Okonedo already heated up her promotional campaign as evident by her recent GMTV interview on the film.


Next up for Sophie is the much-buzzed about role as the first African first lady Winnie Mandela in the upcoming biopic for BBC Four drama project, Mrs. Mandela. Anyone else pleased to know that an African actress was cast to portray South Africa’s former first lady??? Okonedo had the following to say about portraying Mrs. Mandela to The Guardian….

Later this year you’re playing Winnie Mandela in the BBC drama Mrs Mandela. Did you meet Winnie?

No. I wasn’t trying to do an impersonation of her. I just went by the script. I did read a lot about South African history. It was great to play a real strong woman. She’s got balls. I had no idea what an incredibly tough life she’d had; it’s extraordinary she survived at all. I don’t know how she got through a day in that kind of life. I couldn’t have borne it. I would have gone crackers. They hounded her. GUARDIAN


Mrs. Mandela, shot around Soweto, centered on the Winnie’s childhood, her brief courtship with Nelson Mandela and the aftermath of Nelson’s release from prison in 1990, reports BBC. The 90-minute drama (written and produced by Michael Samuels and Jolyn Symonds) also co-stars David Harewood as Nelson and David Morrissey as notorious police interrogator Theunis Swanepoel.

This film definitely is a must-see for all curious about Winnie Nelson and her rise to becoming African’s first lady.

photo credits: ITPWORLD//IMDB//Daily Mail UK


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