Alison Jones talks to versatile actress Sophie Okonedo
Considering how notoriously precarious the acting profession is Sophie Okonedo has a remarkably laid-back attitude to employment.
"I have always been really relaxed and felt that somehow the work would just happen. There is no point in getting stressed out otherwise you shouldn't be an actor because you are always going to feel you are not getting the right parts," she says.
"I have always been like that, even when I was working in the theatre for £200 a week."
Equally comfortable in the stage or in TV dramas, Sophie found more opportunities falling into her lap following her best supporting actress Oscar nomination for Hotel Rwanda.
"I didn't have a film career before, now I do," she says cheerily.
A familiar face from dramas such as Clocking Off, Spooks and Inspector Lynley Mysteries, she had small parts in British films, including Stephen Frears' acclaimed Dirty Pretty Things and the utterly awful Mad Cows. But her nomination alongside such A-list company as Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman and Laura Linney was akin to the cast of Casualty being put up for the Golden Globes.
Suddenly she was flitting between TV work and big-budget action films co-starring Charlize Theron (Aeon Flux).
A less confident actor might have been tempted to abandon the small screen and ride the Hollywood gravy train.
However, Sophie, 37, has always been choosy and isn't about to stop now.
"You can always say 'no' and stay at home, which I do a lot of the time because I have a child (a daughter Aoife, from a relationship with Irish film editor Eoin Martin)," she says.
"No one is forcing me to go from job to job to job. You should do what you feel is right and go with your instincts.
"You don't need so much in your life, you just need a bit to get by and when that runs out you get another job."
Often faced, as even the most confident and capable of actors are, with rejection, she takes the optimistic view that the parts she didn't get were simply not meant to be and that "usually something amazing happens instead".
"I remember one job I went up for that I was very close to getting. I was flown out to America and I really thought after the last interview that I had got it. I was in New York and, even though I hadn't got any money at all, I walked straight into the Gucci store and bought myself a pair of Gucci shades with the money I hadn't earnt yet from the film I was going to do.
"I strolled to the airport and as soon as I touched down in London I got the phone call saying 'you didn't get it'.
"I was looking at my Gucci spectacles thinking I had f****d up badly," she laughs.
"But the thing is, if I had got it I would never have been able to do Hotel Rwanda because that came up at the same time."
Her sensible attitude probably stems from a childhood "raised in poverty by her single mother", as Sophie's Wikipedia entry rather starkly puts it.
A bright girl, she graduated from Cambridge before going on to study at RADA.
Though she has done her time, like most other British actors, on The Bill and Casualty, she has avoided regular pay cheques - and potential stereotyping - of soaps because "once the money is offered it would be difficult to turn it down".
"I have always been quite strong at turning things down, even when I was broke and I think you should always have a good reason for doing things, whether it is to pay the mortgage or because you fancy filming in the Bahamas for two months," she says.
Her latest role, in Stormbreaker, based on best-selling Alex Rider novels by Anthony Horowitz, she took because "I wanted to work with Bill Nighy and I thought it would be great to be part of a British blockbuster".
Stormbreaker is positively dripping with talent from both sides of the pond. The adventures of a teen-age secret agent - newcomer Alex Pettyfer - it stars Ewan McGregor as the boy's uncle, Stephen Fry as his gadget maker, Bill and Sophie as his bosses at MI6 (M and M if you will), Alicia Silverstone as the youngster's housekeeper and Mickey Rourke, Andy Serkis and Damian Lewis as evil tycoon/henchman/assassin respectively.
"I thought it would be nice to play someone really posh and it is not the usual part in which they would cast someone black," says Sophie.
The success of her television and stage career has left Sophie fairly confident that she has never been the victim of discrimination.
"Maybe I have, behind closed doors and not realised it. But I have played all sorts of parts - though I have still to do a costume drama. No one has quite gone that far yet."
The world of adolescent espionage is left far behind for Sophie's next project, a joint BBC/HBO production called The Aftermath, which takes place in the three days following the Tsunami.
Written by Abi Morgan, who also wrote Sex Traffic, it is a fictionalised account of the tragedy seen through the eyes of holidaymakers and locals.
"It is such a wonderful piece of writing that I was thinking 'maybe I should do some more films' and then this came along and I thought I don't care, this is a good script.
"It has a really great cast; Toni Collette, Tim Roth. Geena McKee, Hugh Bonneville, Chiwetel Ejiofor, who was also in Dirty Pretty Things. There are also two Thai actors because it deals with how the Westerners were treated and how the Thais were treated."
It was filmed on location and Sophie met survivors of the Tsunami on a daily basis, though she tried not to get too bogged down in research, preferring to use her imagination to fire her emotions.
"A massive wave hits the holiday place where I am at and rips my family apart, I don't need to research that, I just feel it. There was so much confusion straight after because nothing like this had ever happened before so I thought 'well I am confused about it so that is the right place to be for the character'."
* Stormbreaker opens on Friday