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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Sophie Okonedo to star in BBC Four Mandela drama

Sophie Okonedo as Winnie Mandela

Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo is to star in a one-off fact-based drama, Mrs Mandela, which brings one of the most extraordinary, if controversial, figures in recent history to the screen for the first time.

Premiering on BBC Four and airing on BBC Two in the same week, it's a love story, a triumph and a tragedy, charting Winnie Mandela's progression from innocent country girl to politicised fighter against apartheid, from adoring wife to revolutionary firebrand.

Shot on location in and around Soweto, the film focuses on the development of the relationship between Winnie and her husband from their brief courtship in the Fifties to the aftermath of Nelson's release from prison in 1990.

It is a subtle exploration of an extraordinary relationship set against the backdrop of one of the greatest political struggles of the 20th century.

Opposite Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda), David Harewood (Blood Diamond) is to star as Nelson and David Morrissey (State Of Play, The Deal, Blackpool, Red Riding) will play the role of notorious police interrogator Theunis Swanepoel.

Richard Klein, Controller, BBC Four, says: "Winnie Mandela is one of the most controversial figures to emerge in South African politics over the past 50 years, yet for many people in Britain she remains a shadowy figure. The time is ripe for a thoughtful exploration of this larger-than-life character and with its strong track record in producing high quality biopics, BBC Four is the perfect home for the film."

He continues: "I am also delighted that in the spirit of greater collaboration between BBC Two and BBC Four, the drama will get a second airing on Two directly after its premiere on Four."

Mrs Mandela is a Diverse production for the BBC. It is written and directed by Michael Samuels (The Curse Of Steptoe, Our Hidden Lives, The Slavery Business) and produced by Jolyon Symonds (Above Suspicion, The Last Yellow). Executive Producer for the BBC is Maxine Watson.

Roy Ackerman, Executive Producer for Diverse, says: "I'm delighted that we have been able to attract such a talented team to the project: Sophie Okonedo plays the role with extraordinary and subtle intensity; David reveals a vulnerability in Nelson Mandela that has rarely been seen before; and David Morrissey is just terrifying. Michael Samuels has written a powerful script that does justice to the complexity of Mrs Mandela's character."

Mrs Mandela is a single 90-minute drama and will be shown later this year on BBC Four and BBC Two.

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